Line honours for Thriller
This year’s East Coast Piers Race and Colne Point Race were held over the weekend of 9-10 July at Marconi Sailing Club, Essex. 61 boats turned out for race day.
The East Coast Piers Race is probably the most established long distance race in the country, for 24 years having attracted top continental sailors and development classes, along with the cream of big cat sailors. However, it isn't just for big cats - a shorter, but no less demanding course (known as The Colne Point Race) is always available for smaller cats.
The Marconi team have the organisation down to a fine art - with a spacious marquee, a huge grassy boat park in which to camp and park, intimate bar and excellent race management. The course is marked with cruiser mother ships flying orange flags, and quite easy for first timers. It is a challenge, but a manageable one. The course takes participants from Osea Pier, down the Blackwater Estuary to Bradwell, across the Estuary, and then along the coast passing Clacton Pier and turning at Walton Pier for the return journey.
Saturday – Inshore Races
Saturday provided the competitors with a force 4 wind coming from the southwest, perfect for a blast up and down the river. The first race started just after 1300 and took the fleet up river round a mark at the end of Osea Island and down to Thirslet Spit, returning to come through the line. Four laps were on the board but the race officer shortened the race to two laps.
The race was made more interesting with the combination of a low tide and other races involving barges and cruisers. There were a few close calls and one catamaran got itself caught up on the bow sprit of a barge. Two competitors had a bit of a rest at the windward mark after their access was being blocked by a barge for a minute or so.
Many of the competitors were caught out by having to go through the inner and outer distance marks of the line in both directions leading to disqualification in the first race.
First Place – Chris Sproat and Georgina Burke, AHPC Viper
Second Place - Phil Marks and Andrew Sinclair, Tornado
Third Place – Lee Harrison and Andrew Dowley, Tornado
The race officer set the same course for the second race of the day, many competitors chose to give it a miss with the big race day on Sunday.
With the tide coming in the second race was a little easier but the wind was shiftier, changing direction all the time with some big gusts causing a few swims on the downwind leg.
After a late start on the first race, Kyle Stoneham and Ben Newton made up for it in the second race with a fantastic sail - although Will Sunnucks and Oli Egan were first over the water, Kyle and Ben took the race victory.
1st Place – Kyle Stoneham and Ben Newton, Nacra F18
2nd Place - Simon Northrop and Tom Walker, Shockwave F18
3rd Place – Chris Sproat and Georgina Burke, AHPC Viper
Sunday - Race Day
The site was awoken at 6.30am by the sound of Neil Diamond over the PA system, a request from a competitor at the race briefing on Saturday night - he was everyone’s best friend Sunday morning. As usual the smell of bacon was spread over the camp site with Tina and their team cooking up a storm for the sailors and their families in the Club's galley.
With a slightly later start of 9.30am for the ECPR this year the wind was light but sailable, 36 catamarans of all shapes and sizes started the long distance race and headed up towards the Bradwell gate.
The Colne Point race then started 20 minutes later at 9.50am with 23 boats taking part.
Getting to Bradwell was not so much of a problem, it was once through the gate and heading to Colne Point that the wind stopped for an hour or so. Many of the boats crept over to the West Mersea shore which paid off as they made their way up the fleet. The boats which had stayed on the Bradwell side benefitted from a force 3 breeze which filled in from the South, competitors at Mersea could see the others on the trapeze with their kites up - it was a waiting game for the wind to spread across the mouth of the river.
From there it was a steady ride up to Clacton where the full East Coast Piers Race was turned early, the Colne Point sailors completed their full course turning at Colne Point. The wind held until back into the river at the Bradwell gate, but then stopped again and the competitors crept the remaining distance over the finish line, just off Marconi Sailing Club.
First back were Jack Tindale and Trevor Bawden sailing Thriller, the bright pink Nacra Carbon F20, followed by Will Sunnucks and Oli Egan on their Vampire M20.
Although a frustrating and challenging race, the competitors were a very happy bunch once they had made it back. Saturday’s conditions certainly helped to balance out the weekend.
Saturday Series - Chris Sproat and Georgina Burke, AHPC Viper
First Dart 15 - Sandy Jordan, Sprint 15
First Dart 18 - John Moore, Dart 18
First Tornado - Phil Marks and Andrew Sinclair
First F18 - Simon Farren and Ben Clegg
First Hurricane - Andrew Bedford and Eric Noyah
Youngest Marconi Crew – Rhiannon Hitt
Team Trophy – Minnis Bay
Colne Point Race - Sandy Jordan, Sprint 15
East Coast Piers Race - Chris Sproat and Georgina Burke, AHPC Viper