707 East Coast Championships 2006 29 Apr 2006
The venue for this year's Hunter 707 East Coast Area Championships held over the May bank holiday weekend was the lively Royal Corinthian Yacht Club at Burnham on Crouch.
The close racing afforded by this strict one-design keelboat has attracted new boats and owners to the Burnham fleet, swelling their numbers to fifteen vessels; eleven of which turned out to contest this championship. Sadly there were unusually no visiting boats from the large South Coast contingent who may have been just too exhausted from their efforts during the early (and windy) start to the season provided by the Warsash Raymarine Spring Series and Spring Championships.
The competition was expected to be hard-fought and the teams had prepared their boats accordingly. The crew of Marlin had even thoughtfully fitted a selection of soft toys to the stern rail for their helmsman Mark to 'throw out of the pram' at appropriately stressful moments.
The forecast light shifty winds coinciding with a mammoth spring tide lay down a challenge to Race Officer Edwin Buckley and his team but they proved more than equal to the task.
The conditions for Race 1 of the two scheduled for Saturday were a Northerly fluctuating breeze of about 10 knots with a ferocious incoming tide set to continue until high water at 14.30. A windward/leeward course with the windward mark near the North shore of the Crouch was laid with the Committee boat start positioned a few hundred yards into the River Roach and the leeward gate South of the start line.
Beaver Hunter, sailed by grizzled local veteran Paul Gray started well and quickly recovered from a mainsheet track block failure to lead at the first leeward mark. In hot pursuit was the immaculate Emu Excursion sailed by photographer Nick Wood closely followed by the equally smartly turned out Cacciatore, (fresh from their recent successful foray to the Warsash Spring Championships) and steered by Mark Dell. On the second beat Beaver Hunter briefly ran aground when close tacking up the Roach shore, allowing Emu to seize the lead. The finishing order was Emu, Cacciatore and Beaver Hunter.
For Race 2, the wind now having veered to the North East, the Race Officer set a longer course with a beat to Redward buoy followed by a reach to Colward buoy, and then via spinnaker broad reach returning to the host Club's finishing line at the clubhouse. Emu took an early lead chased hard by Beaver Hunter and Cacciatore and the trio finished in that order. Proceedings were enlivened on the first reach when local publican John Lewis sailing Baby Beluga found himself with a short measure; running aground on the leeward shore but eventually managing to extricate himself from the predicament. Proving once again that the Devil does indeed 'look after his own'.
The traditional Royal Corinthian hard drinking session and a boisterous 'Italian themed' meal was enthusiastically embraced by the fleet who eventually weaved their way unsteadily to their bunks.
Sunday dawned with a bright sunny start and a light breeze from the North forecast to veer to the South west later. The Race Officer laid a windward/leeward course but shortly after the start the wind veered to the North East and the fleet were recalled whilst the course was re-laid for the now Easterly breeze. Race 3 now called for a testing close tacking duel in a shifty wind along the Northern shore as the 707s tried to keep out of the strongly flooding tide. After a hard-fought battle the finishing order was Emu in first place followed by Marlin, Cacciatore and Beaver Hunter.
Race 4 was held on the same course and approaching the leeward gate on the last lap it was Emu again leading with Cacciatore just holding off Beaver Hunter snapping at her heels. Paul Gray decided to test his crew's ability to adapt by making a sudden change of mind to round the inshore end of the gate whilst Cacciatore rounded the offshore port end of the gate and were dismayed to see Beaver Hunter make a gain just large enough to put them in second place at the finish. Taking their cue from Beaver Hunter; Racehorse followed suit and pipped Marlin for fourth place.
Shortly after the start of Race 5 the wind as predicted shifted to East South East and the fleet split to opposite sides of the river. Those choosing the right hand side of the course were rewarded with a satisfying lift. At the first windward mark, Baby Beluga rounded in the lead followed closely by Beaver Hunter, Cacciatore and Marlin. On the downwind leg Marlin drew ahead and at the leeward gate the rounding order was Marlin leading, followed by Beaver Hunter and Baby Beluga. Going to windward the fleet again split to both sides of the river but the South shore again was favoured. At the second windward mark rounding Marlin led from Beaver Hunter with Cacciatore having pulled through to third. This might have been the finishing order had Beaver Hunter not made a poor rounding at the end of the last leeward leg and allowed Cacciatore to gleefully take the opportunity offered to pounce on Beaver Hunter's wind. Hence it was a win for Marlin with Cacciatore a relieved second and Beaver Hunter a fuming third. Emu Excursion, proving that even the best can sometimes get it all wrong, finished in an unfamiliar sixth position.
One race only was scheduled for Monday, which promised to be an exciting day with Westerly winds of force six and driving rain at first.
Four boats decided discretion is sometimes the better part of valour and stayed on their moorings whilst the confident took to the race course.
Race six started in the strongest breeze of force 6 and on the first downwind leg it was Beaver Hunter who demonstrated the art of broaching whilst Cacciatore survived; only to run over their spinnaker at the drop.
Emu's crew showed their all-round ability in different conditions and finished in first place followed by Baby Beluga finally finding form and finishing with their best position of the championship in second. Beaver Hunter having sailed a remarkably consistently series finished third.
So at the close of the Championship Nick Wood and his crew on Emu Excursion were clear winners with a score of 5 points whilst Paul Gray sailing Beaver Hunter and Mark Dell sailing Cacciatore had thirteen points apiece. Beaver Hunter took second overall after application of the series tie rule leaving Cacciatore a very worthy third.