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03/09/2016
Blakeney Open Blakeney Sailing Club

Blakeney Sailing Club hosted its Streaker Open races on Saturday and Sunday 3rd & 4th September 2016. On Saturday it was an early start for some who had partaken of the Sailing Club's Hog Roast and Summer Supper the night before.

The winds of 6-9mph were from the South West. The high tide of 8.8m allowed two good hours of racing with 30 minutes either side to get from the launch slipway to the start line. At 07:15 am the race officer, Alan Collett gave a brief outline for the morning's races, handing out maps of the harbour to the visitors.

The fleet of eight Streakers sailed out to the starting area to be greeted by the "answering pennant" indicating the race would not start on time. An ambitious course was set for the first race, three laps of six buoys sailing through the start line each lap.

The club decided to run the first of its Series Three races, starting at the same time as the Streakers. Thus 16 boats lined up for the start and none crossed before the Allcomers flag was lowered; though Roger Beavis in his Phantom 1165 had to do penalty turns for a misdemeanor at the pin end. The fleets were evenly divided as to which end to start from.

The race required skilled light wind sailing to avoid being pushed off course by the strong incoming tide.

Veronica Falat in Streaker 1829 was the first Streaker to the windward mark, she followed closely on the stern of Seafly 701, helmed by Alan Jackson and crewed by Fren Ewing. Despite his penalty turns, Roger Beavis in Phantom 1165 was third to reach this buoy and by the end of the first lap he was out in front of the fleets. The first lap taking 30 minutes meant the race had to be shortened to two laps.

It quickly became apparent that there was competitive racing between certain pairs of Streakers as well as against the whole fleet. In both races Veronica Falat in her Streaker and Ian Bradley in his Streaker 1817 fought for first and second places, in fact they took it in turns to win! Whilst Mark Langston in Streaker 1920 and Hugh Jones in Streaker 1685 competed for third place, Mark took it in each race.

The second race with a shorter course of four buoys plus a slightly stronger wind meant three laps could be a reality. Once again a clean start. The boats took significantly differing routes to keep clear wind, to negotiate the now outgoing tide with its channels as well as keeping clear of each other.

Towards the end of the second lap, the race officer Alan Collett, assisted by Ben Falat had to decide if there was enough water to allow the completion of all three laps. They were trying to calculate, when the tide turned, how much time has elapsed, how long the last lap might take, how fast the tide was leaving Blakeney, when Chris Keys, the patrol boat helm, announced that there was at least a full stick of water left. What a practical solution! Chris had a cane about two meters in length, which he had just used to sound the depth beneath committee boat, Lapwing. Thus assured, the third lap was allowed to take place and all got back to the slipway with water to spare.

Sunday's wind from the West lived up to its predicted values of 23-28mph though there was one moment of 30mph –see below. Seven Streakers signed up and the magnificent seven courageously raced. Blakeney Sailing Club Series Three races were cancelled due to the wind.

Mark Langston was first to the windward mark (buoy 9), safely gybing and on to next gybe mark (buoy 4) where Alan Robinson capsized as did George Harcourt. Somehow the Race Officer managed to put in four gybe marks, four broad reaches and one long beat, in a course of five buoys! Next gybe mark (buoy 8) everyone successfully rounded. And then buoy 4, yes another gybe mark, saw Ian Bradley and Mark Langston capsize. Hugh Jones now had the lead to himself and held onto it for the duration of the three laps.

Edward Allen repeated a routine he started at the International 14's in June 2015, having completed the race he then capsized - in fact he got caught up in the mooring lines of a port channel marker, capsizing again and had to be helped by the patrol boat.

Before Race two commenced Mark Langston informed the race officer that he would have to retire due to a knee injury. He then promptly capsized within five meters of the committee boat. Alan Robinson also did not start the second race though he did later say how much he had enjoyed the first.

Race two: Shorter course with four buoys and only two gybe marks. Unfortunately Hugh Jones was over the start line at the beginning of the race and had to be recalled. Ian Bradley was first to the windward mark (buoy 8) and maintained his lead until the third mark of the course, buoy 7, which for some reason he took to starboard and then set off for the finish line. Hugh Ambery must have thought it was his birthday as he took it port and continued to buoy 6, followed by Hugh Jones. By now Ian realized his mistake was back on course. The two Hughs were close sailing most of the time, one going faster downwind and the other upwind, they took it in turns to be the lead boat. At the end of lap two both Edward Allen and George Harcourt decided to retire. George repeated Mark Langston's act of capsizing in front of the committee boat (see above).

On with the race: The third lap ended with Hugh Ambery, 2 seconds ahead of Hugh Jones and 5 seconds ahead of Ian Bradley. Gybing round the Windward mark (buoy 9) the two Hughs were neck and neck to buoy 5 –nothing separated them.

It was then that the 30mph was noted on the anemometer on the committee boat. And it was then that Jonathan Dean capsized his Catamaran just to the west of the committee boat, a Laser did the same a few meters south and whilst the patrol boat was standing by offering assistance to these sailors, Hugh Jones capsized his Streaker at buoy 7. One more buoy to tack round (buoy 6) and the racers were on the final beat to the finish line. Ian Bradley had clawed his way into the lead. Hugh Ambery finished second and Hugh Jones third. Any of these three, the finishers would have been worthy winners.

Back at the Clubhouse Christine Hibberd assisted by Simon on Saturday and Jane Lewis assisted by Simon on Sunday produced hot drinks, bacon butties and chocolate tiffins for all to enjoy. Both Ian and Veronica were deserving recipients of bottles of Prosecco and much applause on the Saturday. Ian received another bottle of the same on Sunday whilst he made a gallant donation of prizes to both Hugh Ambery and Hugh Jones.

Report by Alan Collett



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