Peter's Comet Triumphs In Long Distance Race

Gunfleet Sailing Club held its race for the Jim Suckling Long Distance Race last Sunday 7 September, and with very light winds it turned out to be a rather long and tortuous affair.  The Officer of the Day set a course which took the fourteen boats past Clacton Pier and down to the Watersports area, and then back up the coast to Holland Haven.  A fickle west/north westerly whisper of a breeze meant that it took a whole minute before the first dinghy, the Blaze of John Tappenden, managed to cross the line, and it was a further nine minutes before the very last craft got away.  Harry Swinbourne was caught-out in his Topper as he precariously healed it over to leeward, only to find himself in the water when a momentary gust of wind knocked the boat over.  The fleet then limped towards the Pier buoy, stemming the ebb tide as the dinghies crawled down the coast.  The RS 400’s and Hobie 405’s tried, at various times, to use their spinnakers but this became a game of hoisting up and down as the wind varied in direction.  As the boats approached the first mark it was Paul and Katie Davis leading in their RS 400, but all the competitors remained closely bunched.  Slowly they headed out to sea and round Clacton Pier before fetching to the Watersports Buoy.  Once round they then had the benefit of the tide bringing them back but progress remained painfully slow with the wind, at times, fading to almost nothing.  Doing particularly well, at this stage, was Eddie White in his Solution, being only just behind the faster handicapped boats.  After returning past the Pier it was a close haul to the St. Michael’s buoy and then out to the Seaward mark.  As the first boat rounded this latter buoy some 75 minutes had already elapsed, and it was evident that the slower craft would struggle to get all the way up to the Haven, and back again, within a reasonable time.  It was therefore decided to introduce a course change and the competitors beat in from Seaward and hooked round the Outer Distance Mark to finish the race.  The fastest boat took 1 hour and 27 minutes and the last boat to finish completed the course in 2 hours and 6 minutes but everyone agreed that it had been an enjoyable race.  After calculating all the handicaps the winner was Peter Downer in his Comet, having taken 1 hour, 44 minutes and 10 seconds to complete the reduced course.
Results – Jim Suckling Long Distance Trophy:
1. Comet – Peter Downer
2. Blaze – John Tappenden
3. Solution – Eddie White