A total of 125 teams in 14 classes ranging from IRC Class 1 boats, to multihulls, keelboats and dinghies, enjoyed sparkling conditions for the opening weekend of Burnham Week 2014.
Although the winds were particularly light on Sunday with challenging conditions testing local knowledge and tactical skills to the limit, the breeze shifted round to the east and piped up today to provide exciting, classic east coast conditions. Even the persistent rain failed to dampen the spirits around the town for Bank Holiday Monday Quay Day.
This iconic British regatta, which has been taking place annually for over 100 years, runs over eight days (23-30 August) kicking off with this weekend's first Bank Holiday series. The Squib class at 19 boats is the largest fleet at the regatta and one of the most competitive.
Malcolm Hutchings and Andy Ramsey, fresh their recent overall win of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week for the second year in a row sailing Lady Penelope, also won this weekend's racing but they didn’t have it all their own way. They were beaten on day one by Simon Griffin on Brutus and enjoyed some close battles with other local superstars including Micky Wright on Spoof who took second overall, Duncan Grindley on Surprise in 3rd, and Robert Coyle (Royal Corinthian YC commodore) who was 4th.
Commenting on his win Hutchings said: "The racing is always interesting which shows in the results. Crew work and local knowledge is always key to winning but also we have such a good strength of Squib sailors here there racing is really intense and it is almost harder to win a Burnham Week weekend than it is to win Cowes Week."
The highly active and enthusiastic Royal Burnham One Design Class never fails to produce fun, exciting racing. Still bubbling from celebrating the class 80th anniversary two years ago, the RBOD sailors once again enjoyed a weekend of thrilling racing within the 16-strong fleet. David Smith and team on Amanda notched up a consistent string of results over the three days and just managed to pip Will and Barty Dallimore and team on Mandarin into first place. Commenting on his win Smith said: “Winning in this fleet is far from easy, notably this weekend from Ali Devlin on Wimbrel who was going like a rocket. Once she really learns how to sail it, we’re all going to have to watch out. Yes we won all three races but each one was by about a boat length or less, so it was very, very close."
Richard Matthews' Oystercatcher made an impressive start to the regatta taking line honours and a Class 1 win on the opening day – the only day she competed. Overall winner of the weekend however, was Alan Bartlett's Inn Spirit which was sailed consistently well throughout the weekend and managed to beat Tony and Chuffy Merewether's Sunfast 3200 Amazon. In IRC Class 2 it was Duncan Haley and team on SJ320 Double Trouble who scored three first places for an overall weekend win.
Dinghy racing at Burnham Week is always popular and this year is no exception with strong Phantom and Osprey fleets, and a Fast Handicap fleet, which includes a range of classes from Albcores to Laser Radials.
The overall winner of the Fast Handicap fleet in a Laser EPS was Mark Candelas from Milton Keynes Sailing Club who said he was glad he chose Burnham over Bala in his decision to take part this weekend. "It was a toss up between the two and I have to say it was a great choice. It is always a challenge to sail on the tidal River Crouch but it is great sailing and always good competition."
Burnham Week wouldn't be Burnham Week without the presence of the elegant Dragon class and the spirited racing it produces. A total of 11 teams enjoyed close tactical racing throughout the weekend and, as a sign of an extremely competitive fleet, produced a different winner in every race. Consistency at the top of the fleet however, paid off for Mark and Mandy Wade on Avalanche who beat Mike Holmes and team on Hands Off by four points.
Former Dragon sailor Gary Harrison sailing with John Waterhouse, and a couple of 13-year-old Otter sailors – George Duce (today) and Tom Rands (Saturday) aboard the pretty Royal Corinthian One Design – Cormorant – used expert skill and local knowledge to clean up in the RCOD fleet, beating John Waples on Corpo Santo. Harrison said: “The RCOD is not unlike the Dragon to sail, but just a smaller version. As a relatively lightweight team the first two days were great for us but today, in the blustery winds we struggled a bit but had fun nevertheless."
The Multihull fleet at Burnham Week is kept alive by an enthusiastic fleet of speed junkies on their racy flying machines. With three wins Nick Wood, Jonathan Money and team on the Farrier 27 Origami managed to scoop the overall weekend prize from John Galloway and team on a Farrier 27 – Threedom. Wood commented: “Fantastic racing. We’ve had a bit of everything over the weekend, and today it was wet and windy, which is perfect for these boats. We had a great course, which was basically reaching all the way round and had a blast up river to the finish and managed to clock 19kts."
The racing and festival spirit that Burnham Week is known for continues throughout the week and concludes next Saturday with racing for all classes including IRC Class 1 competing for the Town Cup and, Class 2, the Commodores Cup. A grand fireworks display to mark the end of the regatta and celebrate the winner of the Town Cup will take place next Saturday evening.