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East Coast Race, July 2018: report

East Coast gaffers returned to the Stone Sailing Club on 21 July 2018 for the 55th East Coast Race. This club has seen many big fleets of gaffers in the past; so it was nice to be back after a long period away at Mersea and Brightlingsea. The ‘Heat Wave’ weather made the event seem more like a Mediteranean Regatta with the sun glinting on the water from first light.

The benign conditions allowed the fleet to lie safely at anchor overnight. Saturday dawned with a forecast of winds at 2 knots “gusting” to 6 knots. Towards start time the fleet was trying to stem the powerful ebb tide to avoid being washed over the start line before the gun. Some clever competitors were anchoring near the start line while others had to resort to power to get back in time. This theme continued with a long period of calm and very gentle breezes as the fleet made its way down the Blackwater to the first mark. At Bradwell it became certain that the course would have to be shortened so the race officer decided to bring the fleet back from No 18. In spite of this they were out for three and a half hours.

The fleet was split into three, as usual, to give the smaller gaffers and Bermudans some space at the start. This gave smaller gaffers a half hour start on the larger working boats who struggled to make up their time to sail to their handicaps. In the end, Roy Hart in his little Memory showed everybody the way it should be done by finishing right up there with the bigger/faster gaffers, winning overall on correected time. The first working boat (slow) was ‘Fanny of Cowes’, followed by ‘Transcur’, while ‘Ethel Alice’ led the working boats (fast); ‘Crow’ was the hotshot which never fails to perform. ‘Rhumba’ was the first Bermudan.

The open boats started their race at the same time, but with an upriver course. Unfortunately only two boats took part, but Nigel Bishop, with his Smack boat ‘ELG’, had this to say. “The Stone Race started as a lottery. I started too far back but managed to beat through to lead by a long way, only to be becalmed. The tide changed and ‘Tea’l got the onshore wind before ‘ELG’. We finished about the same as we started, a close race really.”

At the prize-giving Roy Hart, the winner of the race and now Commodore for the year, expressed the thoughts and wishes of the entire OGA fleet to thank Stone Sailing Club for a highly memorable event – Good Hospitality, Good Food, Great Conversation. “When can we come back again?” said Roy. Gerry Wainwright SSC, welcomed the fleet and Robert Hill, East Coast OGA President, thanked the Stone Sailing Club for their extra special hospiality and the sponsors Orsted (Formerly Dong Energy), French Marine Motors and James Lawrence Sails.

Report: Richard Giles