Pete's Comet Goes Like Blazes

Gunfleet Sailing Club’s younger members had a great sail last Saturday 5 September when they concluded their SOS – Sailing on Saturday with class racing.  Whilst the sun shone, there was a strong offshore wind that veered several degrees in the gusts and meant the young sailors had to constantly be on their toes.  In the Topper fleet it was Harry Swinbourne and Hannah Aylen that lead the fleet but confusion with the course resulted in some interesting legs being sailed.  The other four Topper sailors found conditions just a little bit too hard going, with a number of capsizes, and one by one they retired.  The Topaz fleet faired a little better although there were still some capsizes, which meant that positions were constantly under threat, but despite going over twice it was Harry Spence and Owen Hooper that claimed victory.  The Hobie 405’s lapped-up the strong winds even though Ross and Caleb Aylen tipped their boat over a number of times, at one point righting it within seconds and sailing off whilst the crew were still scrambling aboard.  Pulling away all the time were Conor and Finlay Williams, who romped home to a comfortable victory.
On Sunday morning, 6 September, it was the turn of the slow handicap boats to race for the Potterer’s Pot, and once again it was blue skies and unbroken sunshine along with an offshore wind that greeted the competitors.  Peter Downer had a good start in his Comet and it wasn’t long before the whole fleet fetched down the coast and round the first mark.  At this point Richard Walker, in his Sea Ranger, was in amongst the Topazes and ahead of the Toppers as the competitors ran out to the seaward buoy.  Once offshore it was a beat back to shore and that is when the pack started to split.  Wind shifts, and sudden holes, made the leg frustrating to everyone, and positions constantly changed.  By the end of the first lap Downer had a comfortable lead but the margin narrowed considerably in the second lap; however, he held onto the top spot despite the gap turning into just a few seconds.
Results – Potterers’ Pot:
1. Comet – Peter Downer
2. Sea Ranger – Richard Walker
3. Topaz – Beth Ford
In the afternoon all class of boats got the opportunity to take part in the Club’s long distance race for the Jim Suckling Trophy.  The offshore wind had fallen somewhat and, in a freshly flooding tide, the fleet of dinghies made a grand sight as they headed up to Clacton Pier, Paul Davis and Beth Ford leading the fleet in their RS 400.  Downer, fresh from his morning’s success, was hot on their heels with Tom Philpot and Harry Spence getting a very good start in their Topaz.  Despite the wind appearing light there were still some quite strong gusts blowing through which kept all the crews on their toes.  Once around the buoy off the Pier the boats made slower progress back up the coast as they stemmed the tide to the seaward mark.  By this time Ken Potts was in front in his RS 600 but unable to shake-off the RS 400’s.  A beat then followed in to the AWS buoy, before a run back out to sea and then a long reach up to Holland Haven.  The wind continued to shift and as the craft returned towards the Club so the breeze backed a few degrees, resulting in some of the competitors having to tack.  It was intended to sail two laps but with the slowest handicapped dinghies taking over two hours on the first lap there was much relief by all to see the shorten course flag flying from the Club yardarm.  Praise must go to several of the Club’s Cadets and Otters who eagerly took part in quite a gruelling event, with particular mention to Shona Goodchild and Jude Aylen in their Topaz, who have all the makings of top sailors in the years ahead.
Results – Jim Suckling Long Distance Trophy:
1. Blaze – Jon Tappenden
2. RS 400 – Paul Davis and Beth Ford
3. RS 400 – Simon Clarke and Emily Cossens