Marco Polo Race Report 2 Nov 2023
The Club’s Marco Polo race last Saturday it is a 100-minute pursuit race, with the slowest boats starting first and the fastest last, all on pre-set timings. It’s a style of race that challenges every boat, as some conditions favour some boats, however, mix in the wind variations of between 5 and 20 knots and this year we had a wide range of conditions to play with.
It’s open to 4.7 ILCA rigs and up…literally any dinghy or keelboat. There was a Merlin Rocket, Blazes, through to Squibs, RBODs, Dragons, a Flying Fifteen and Cruiser, probably over 20 boats.
The 1st Gun from the Club Line sent off the lasers in upwards of 15/20 knots, Lucy Prior and Nathan Flynn together with Club member Nick Peel. To say Nathan had the reach of his life to the first mark of Rubber Ball, some 2 miles away, wouldn’t be an exaggeration; even the rescue boat was admiring his fitness and his odd pause for breath half-way down the reach. It was a leaning out on your toenails to get all the leverage race, the speed was awesome and spray everywhere!! Just ask the Blaze that missed the 1st mark in a cloud of spray, they literally sailed past, blind to it.
The course then consisted of a windward/leeward style, using the marks of Jubilee in the Roach and back down to Redward for the remainder of the race. A part of the river that the adults know well, while Nathan and Lucy were having to really use their skills to think about tides, both in the river Crouch and the Roach. Then there was Branklet Spit, really shallow even at high tide, the ‘withies’ marking the shallows up the Roach- how shallow is too shallow for an ILCA, the Lasers were wondering? Then work out the best way to cross over the water gushing out of the inlets up the Roach in an ILCA- the tide was mighty strong. As the race went on with the tide going out fast, all the above changed considerably each lap. Mix the navigational aspect with the sight of some 20 other boats chasing you down, and the pressure is quite something. Usually in a race if you’re winning, you’re concerned about boats behind but don’t think that they are faster, every boat behind the Lasers was technically faster, so you were being hunted!
In the last five minutes Nathan was still in front, he’d noted the Squib was catching, with a dying breeze he’d worked out he could possibly just stay in front until the finish! He had the clock running on his watch…. then he touched the mud trying to squeeze out of the tide- as he said “I’ve never jumped out so quick to push off”. The Flying Fifteen was behind the squib that he’d worked out was quicker than both in the softening breeze and with just under 2 mins to ago, the FF was past the Squib and just one tack behind. With one minute to go the finishing RIB raised the minute flag, and then continued to motor on in the sailing line of the leading boat, with 30 seconds to go the lead was down to five boats lengths, and at the gun the FF could see the whites of Nathan’s eyes!!!! The hooter went and a loud cheer from Nathan, he’d won by just under three boat lengths.
Nathan had sailed a brilliant race, squeezed everything out of his boat for speed, and in true river style had used every part of the river correctly for tide and shallows- it amused me as the last time I was in the Roach with Nathan was when we sailed the Otter Long Distance Race in the RCOD!!
I was sailing in the Flying Fifteen with an ex-Otter of some 50 years ago. We were both super proud of Nathan winning, finishing behind a boat sailed well in a pursuit race is OK, I promise you. Nathan’s modesty ashore and that grin on his face that never left all afternoon or evening and probably not his father’s either, was evidence of a fantastic day J
Top marks and thank you to the race team for creating the event.
Please click the following links for more photos courtesty of Petru Balau Sports Photography.