A small but talented group of flying fifteen sailors made the journey east to the small former fishing and oyster farming town of Burnham on Crouch. Here the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club was, as usual, extending a warm welcome to the travelling sailor, this year with free bacon butties a plenty on arrival. The club, highly experienced in organising keel boat events as well as the world famous Endeavour Trophy, was surely going to provide an excellent weekend of testing sailing with a combination of traditional river courses and more familiar championship style courses; the dedicated bunch of travellers were not disappointed.
The arranged launching into the Burnham Yacht harbour was a reasonably relaxed affair on a falling tide, with plenty of space to sail out into the river. The PRO briefed us on a quick blast down the river for race one to get to the main race area at the confluence of the Roach and the Crouch.
The fleet, keen to test the race area, being the venue for next year’s southern areas was forgiven the one false start by the race officer. After a short beat up river, ostensibly to spread the fleet out, but with all boats reaching the turning mark within seconds of each other, the three sail blast in the building breeze down river ensued. The grins on the faces of all competitors when the leeward turning mark was reached were visible in all boats, and a short hitch to the finish saw Hogben/Morgan take the gun from Hudson/Turner and Wright/Sawyer.
Race two was a more usual beat run, reach run, beat, though this was up the Crouch, down to the Roach, up and down the Roach, into the Crouch and back up through the start finish gate for two laps. With the Hogben/Morgan pairing suffering gear failure on the first beat, the race was on between the other crews.
Waples/Jamieson took the lead at the windward mark only to see them loose this downwind (due to spinnaker problems) before the turn to fetch up the Roach, to Wright/Sawyer. The lead changing hands again by the time the boats emerged back out of the Roach, with Hudson/Turner, Waples/Jamieson (the ff sec currently crewing rather than helming having worked out how to fly the spinnaker) from Wright/Sawyer.
The lead swapped again by the leeward turning mark with Waples/Jamieson having used guile and a wee bit of local knowledge to edge in front. This order remained though Hudson/Turner, and Wright/Sawyer had closed the distance considerably having brought up their own breeze from behind the leaders.
The fleet, following their return to a safe berth in the marina was treated to an excellent evening of dinner, with wine, in a dining room with one of the best views in on the east coast.
On Sunday the wind gods had clearly not read the script from Saturday and were not offering us much to play with. After valiant efforts to set a course at the Roach/Crouch confluence, a one leg race back to the marina was welcomed by the fleet, though this would mean cheating the ebb in little breeze.
A short tacking contest ensued up the north bank with at least two competitors finding the putty in best effort to cheat the tide (not fast). The beat eased to a fetch just slightly too shy for spinnakers, though some tried, and the order at the finish was Hudson/Turner, Hill/Tavinor and Waples/Jamieson; this gave Pip Hudson the series win after three years of coming close.
The fleet thanked their marvellous hosts for a great weekend of sailing and entertainment, those not travelling due to the poor forecast had surely missed out on a real opportunity for a really enjoyable weekend.