Walker Takes The Winning Gun

Gunfleet Sailing Club concluded its 2014 cruising programme last Saturday 20 September when a fleet of dinghies headed up the coast on a farewell sail.  When the boats launched there was absolutely no wind, just a rather grey and oppressive sky, but the ebbing tide took the craft in the right direction, accompanied as always by one of the Club’s Rescue Boats.  After about half an hour a northerly breeze kicked in and this soon saw the boats scurrying along past the coast defence scheme at Holland Haven, and on towards Frinton.  A little while later the dark clouds rolled in with the threat of rain and possible squally conditions, so the dinghies wisely went about and hastily returned to the security of the Club.
On Sunday 21 September it was the turn of the Gunfleet boats with slow handicaps to take part in their very own race, for the Potterers’ Pot.  A force four, gusting five, north/north-westerly wind provided interesting conditions for the eight dinghies taking part and certainly kept the crews on their toes.  At the start it was Richard Walker that was first away in his Sea Ranger, being right on the line, and he led the fleet towards the Kingscliff buoy.  However, it didn’t take long for Peter Downer in his Comet to slip ahead and he was first to round the mark.  There then followed a broad reach, to a run, out to Seaward, depending at the varying angle of the wind, before a beat in to the AWS buoy.  On this latter leg Harry Swinbourne managed to outpoint the rest of the fleet in his Topper, seeming to get his own personal wind direction, and pulled into a very strong position.  Hot on the leaders’ tail were Finn Harkin and Charlie Spence in their Topaz, and Steve Swinbourne, also in a Topaz.  Slightly further back Trevor Fuller and Brogan Bates were having problems with the rudder on their Topaz but managed to make temporary repairs and keep going.  The next leg was a run back out to the Seaward buoy before a long reach down the coast to the St. Michael’s mark, the wind gusts providing the opportunity for several of the craft to plain as they headed towards Clacton Pier.  Unfortunately on this leg Spence managed to fall out of the Topaz and whilst Harkin sailed back to pick him up Daisy Swinbourne and Beth Elliott slipped past in their Topaz.  By this time the wind direction had become more northerly and this meant a very close-hauled sail up the coast from St. Michaels back to the Club line, several of the craft pinching-up as the offshore gusts hit them, in a vain attempt to avoid having to put a tack in; very few succeeding to achieve their aim.  To those on the shore it was difficult to determine a clear winner but when the handicaps were applied it was Commodore Walker that had taken victory, with Harry Swinbourne a very close second.
Results - Potterers’ Pot:
1. Sea Ranger – Richard Walker
2. Topper – Harry Swinbourne
3. Comet – Peter Downer