2016 Gunfleet Regatta Provides Lively Entertainment

Gunfleet Sailing Club held its Regatta Weekend, sponsored by Discount Windows and Conservatories of Clacton, with some great sailing spread over two days of the August Bank-Holiday.
On Sunday 28 August the Club welcomed visiting competitors from both Brightlingsea and Clacton Sailing Clubs to the Gunfleet’s race day.  The wind was a force 4 to 5 south westerly which freshened as the morning went on.  In an impressive start the Lasers of Ken Potts and John Tappenden sailed absolutely neck and neck whilst James Stacey and S Curtis in their Spitfire catamaran just tore past everyone else as they headed down the coast, on a beat, to St. Michael’s buoy.  Whilst the dinghies tacked close to the shore, to mitigate the adverse effect of the ebbing tide, the catamarans used their speed to head straight out to sea and take full advantage of any extra wind, as well as reducing the number of tacks required.  Robert Mitchell pushed his Dart 16 to its limit and overtook the Hurricane and the Dart 18, the latter, sailed by Ian Wright and James Parsons, having to retire due to rudder problems; they limped back to Clacton Sailing Club, borrowed a rudder and came back to take part in the afternoon race.  Sonny Hart, who had a very poor start in his Solution, managed to catch Robert Gutteridge in his Solution by the end of the first leg and tacked round St. Michael’s buoy ahead of him.  In the slow handicap fleet it was great to see a real battle going on between the Pico, Topaz, and Topper classes, Steve and Daisy Swinbourne leading the pack.  Harry Swinbourne and Alfie Searles sailed the Pico well but just could not make any impression on Swinbourne’s father and sister.  Sona Goodchild and Francesca Cottee put up a fine performance in their Topaz and kept ahead of Tom Philpot and Owen Hooper, also in a Topaz, whilst Eddie White was forced to retire in his Topaz.
Tappenden managed to get in front of Potts halfway round the first lap but lost it when he tacked too early at the AWS buoy and hit the mark, having to undertake a 360 degree penalty.  Andy Dunnett fought to stay level with Potts and Tappenden whilst Yvonne Gough did well to remain in the top six entries.  Harry Spence spent almost all the race out on the trapeze wire in Beth Elliott’s Hobie 405, and as the winds gusted to force 6 they wisely decided not to hoist the asymmetric spinnaker on the downwind legs.
Brian Allen, sailing single handed on his Dart 16 retired as conditions freshened, whilst Mitchell carved-out a small lead on his Dart 16, at the end of the first lap, and continued to maintain this position in the second and third/final lap.
Results – RNLI Charity Shield:
1. Dart 16 – Robert Mitchell – Clacton Sailing Club
2. Spitfire – James Stacey and S Curtis – Brightlingsea Sailing Club
3. Laser – Ken Potts – Gunfleet Sailing Club
First Cadet Home:  James Stacey
The sailors, somewhat exhausted and yet, at the same time, exhilarated took a break for the lunch provided by the Club’s hard-working Galley Crew, enjoyed a chilled drink from the bar, before signing-on to the afternoon’s Class Racing.  At this point the wind abated, dropping to a modest force 3, and indicating perfect conditions for all sailors.  However, as the first class, the catamarans, headed for the start line so the wind picked-up to a force 5, gusting 6+.  As the cats headed down the coast to the Pier buoy the wind continued to strengthen and it wasn’t long before it claimed its first casualty – Wright and Parsons’ Dart 18 capsized when another rudder broke.  The Clacton Sailing Club Safety Boat stood-by as the very experienced pair righted the craft and, for the second time that day, limped back to their home club.  Whilst all this was going on the Topper class got ready to start their race but Ted Newson capsized and broke his mast; at which point it seemed sensible that all Toppers considering taking part remained on shore.  A couple of Topazes had already ventured out – Goodchild and Cottee, and Owen and Lauren Hooper, and they found conditions just unmanageable so they, plus the other Topazes on the beach, decided to call it a day.  The Hobie 405 crews all saw the problems being incurred by those already on the water and made-up their minds to sit this one out.  Meanwhile Mitchell, having stormed into a very strong lead on his Dart 16, suddenly encountered a broken tiller - not a clever occurrence when out on the wire on a blinding reach!  Fortunately he managed to maintain control sufficiently to get back on the cat, and he too made his way gingerly back to Clacton Sailing Club.  The Spitfire of Stacey and Curtis had already encountered technical problems and the two could only sit on the beach and watch.
Meanwhile eight Lasers had signed-on to their class race and were reaching up and down the start line in eager anticipation.  The winds by now were gusting up to 33 mph and two of the Lasers retired before the start but the others headed down the coast, heading for St. Michael’s buoy, followed by the menagerie fleet, Hart once again in the lead in his Solution, using the same course.  Some very impressive speeds were reached, but overshadowed by the sheer acceleration of the catamarans.  The Officer of the Day wisely shortened all courses to one lap and father and son Larry and James Foxon made a fine sight as they twin-trapezed their Hurricane into first place for the cats; Potts taking the honours in the Laser fleet, and Hart grabbing victory in his Solution in the Menagerie Class
Class Racing Winners:
David Foster Catamaran Challenge Trophy – Hurricane: Larry and James Foxon
Paxton Trophy for Lasers – Ken Potts
1893 Regatta Trophy for Menagerie Class – Solution: Sonny Hart