Busy Weekend For Gunfleet Members

Gunfleet Sailing Club was busy over the last weekend with the first cruise of the season “Westward-Ho” on Saturday 16 May.  In gusty and veering offshore winds a fleet of dinghies, accompanied by one of the Club’s Rescue Boats, sailed down the coast and past Clacton Pier, heading St. Osyth way.  The conditions certainly kept the crews on their toes but fortunately there was only one capsize.  After about an hour and half sailing, the craft landed at a secluded beach for a picnic before heading back home.  By this time the wind had moderated a little and, with the help of an ebbing tide, it wasn’t long before the boats were all safely back at the Club.
On the Sunday afternoon, 17 May, it was the race for the Bill Clarke Shield, this also counting towards the Spirit of the Wind Series for Cadets and Otters.  The wind was uncertain as to whether it wanted to blow from the west or the south-west, changing its angle repeatedly, whilst the ebb tide kept gathering strength.  On the line it looked close to becoming a general recall but the boats held back just at the right moment for a clean, but very tight, start.  Several competitors headed out to sea which was rather surprising as the first leg, a beat to the windward mark, was against the tide.  Andy Dunnett took his Laser quite a way offshore before tacking straight for the buoy, and for a little while it looked as though this tactic could pay off.  However, any early euphoria on the part of Dunnett was soon dismissed as those sailing closer to the shore rounded the mark in front of him.  The next leg was a reach out to the Seaward buoy before a run up the coast to a mark near the Kingscliff.  On these two legs father and daughter Paul and Katie Davis had the kite flying in their RS 400, but could only watch as Ken Potts pulled away in his RS 600; Sonny Hart led the Solution fleet whilst Paul Stanton kept ahead in the Lasers.  Dave Fowell and Derroll Pedder, sailing the Scorpion, made very good time on the downwind leg despite not hoisting their spinnaker.  It had been intended that the next leg would be a fetch back to the AWS buoy but due to the wind-shift it turned into a second beat.  It was also at this point that the wind started to fade away and this, coupled with a ferocious ebb tide, resulted in the leg becoming a fairly tortuous affair.  The different angles being sailed, depending on what the wind was doing in each crafts location, made for interesting viewing from the shore, particularly when a sudden and unexpected shift threw Dunnett out of his Laser as the sail fell back on top of him; it was at this point he decided to retire.
Once round AWS it was a reach back out to sea before a third beat; this time straight through the line.  Having shortened the course it was interesting to see Potts get a lift as he commenced his very last leg, allowing him to head directly for the line; his strongest rival, John Tappenden in the Blaze, watching in frustration as he was forced to put in a couple of tacks before receiving the finishing gun. 
Results – Bill Clarke Shield:
1. RS 600 – Ken Potts
2. Laser – Paul Stanton
3. RS 400 – Paul and Katie Davis
Spirit of the Wind Series – 1
1. Solution – Robert Gutteridge
2. Hobie 405 – Beth Elliott and Gemma Bailey
3. Topaz – Tom Philpot and Deacon Stevens