At 09.55 Saturday 28th May, four cruisers met at Greenward for our annual bank holiday race to Harwich: Zelda (Chris and Chrissie Nolan), Verlette (Steve Barham and family), Clara (Robert and Tracy Coyle) and Lyra (Miles and Joanne Delap and family). Our accomplished Committee Boat, Sprite (George Winder and Harry Hastwell), set the fleet on their way at 10:00 precisely.
Conditions were far from ideal, with a NE F3-4 forecast, but with an hour of ebb and a fair slant to Inner Crouch, we set off at pace to the first mark. The order at Crouch was Clara, Lyra, Verlette and Zelda. All too soon, the tide began to flood, while the course to the Swin brought the wind onto the nose. Verlette and Zelda retired: Verlette returning to Burnham and Zelda motoring on. Approaching Swallowtail No. 3, Zelda reached Clara and Lyra, who were locked in battle for the lead. It was a fascinating struggle: two yachts of different design with skippers and crew working hard to get the absolute best out of them.
Clara short-tacking in the relative shallows along the southern edge of Buxey Sand, avoided the worst of the foul tide. Lyra, with her powerful rig, tacked across the whole channel. Before each tack, Lyra approached Clara, then parted as she began her long port tack. Lyra turned at Swallowtail Bank, tacking back to Buxey Sand where, once again, she met Clara, still neck-and-neck.
Conditions deteriorated in the Wallet. The wind, now a solid NE F5 gusting 6, stacked up uncomfortable, lumpy waves. After much crashing and banging, Zelda made it to the Orwell, where conditions became idyllic: gentle breeze with barely a ripple on the surface of the river. Zelda arrived in Suffolk Yacht Harbour, waiting to see how Clara and Lyra faired.
In the end, Lyra crossed the finishing line in first place as worthy winners of a very difficult, and hard-fought, race.
We met in the Lightship restaurant for an excellent meal and prizegiving. It was lovely to see Iain Crombie and Jill, and Steve and Katherine Barham, who had driven to Levington to join us. They really added to the occasion.
Miles and Joanne Delap were welcomed to the fleet and presented with an RCYC hi-ball glass. They will be presented with the Swallowtail Trophy at our AGM and Prizegiving. In recognition of their efforts, and most elegant arrival at SYH, Robert and Tracy Coyle were also presented with a hi-ball glass. An application by Iain Crombie to win a predicted log prize for guessing how long it would take to drive to Levington were passed to the Sailing Committee, and rejected.
What a difference a day makes! The sail back was in perfect conditions, a broad reach with a following tide, Zelda completed the return trip in 5.5 hours.