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Europe Open at Dabchicks Sailing Club

by Emma Pearson on 8 Jun 2016 4-5 June 2016

Four ladies in 4 boats by 4 different builders

It was a muggy morning when I first arrived at Dabchicks Sailing club. I had never been there before so on arrival I made the mistake of driving right to the end of the road with the boat in tow. Luckily I was directed where to leave it and park the car by another sailor. The europe class were sharing this event with the OK and Enterprise classes and together crammed ourselves into the visitors' area.

After a good clear briefing upstairs and much discussion in the ladies changing rooms as to how much kit to wear we were all launched and set off out of the river for two or maybe three light winds races. In the europe fleet we had 4 boats: all female competitors and all built by different builders (both of which are fairly unusual).

Races 1 and 2 were much the same for the europes. As requested in the briefing by one competitor, the europe and OK fleets were to share a start so as to maximise the number of potential races and so as not to be milling around or waiting for too long. A clean start for all lead to Lucy biting at the heals of the OKs, me struggling with a rather desperate rig situation, followed by Rachel and then Sally-Anne. The tide was on a massive ebb which lead to some interesting angles and even some gybing between the wing and leward marks! Sally-Anne and Rachel decided to head in early. They had both done well with keeping up with us as even before the briefing had said that racing wasn't really their thing but were happy to join in.

After race 2 the battle continued against the tide with what seemed to be an infinite number or short tacks to make it up the river to the club. By this time the sun had come out and burnt off the foggy dampness that had been hanging around and the weather had blossomed into a beautiful summer's day – I will freely admit that I did feel as if I were on holiday again!

The club had organised an "opt-in" dinner for us which a select few of us enjoyed over a good chat and some drinks. Later in the evening the club had a pub quiz organised – not just for the visitors I must add, but in order to help raise funds for refurbishing and extending the ladies' changing rooms. The upstairs bar was near enough full of people enjoying the social and having fun in aid of a good cause. I don't know what time the function ended but I left around 11pm and there were may people still going strong.

After another remarkably comfortable stay at the ever convenient Chateau-Peurgeot, room 106. I awoke to a bright and sunny, if a touch breezy morning. I parked the car once again in the local car-park and had a nice breakfast in a local cafe which was followed by a leisurely rig and change ready for racing.

With a change of sail for me I was feeling quietly confident that my performance for the day should be a lot less frustrating. Race 3, again light and somewhat fluky Sally-Anne couldn't make it unfortunately but the three of us ventured out again. To further our casualties Rachel had problems with her self bailers leading her to head back early and my kicker broke going round the top mark during the first race of the day. Lucy, now with 3 firsts had cemented herself at the top of the scoreboard; but feeling like I was improving race on race and enjoying the majority of it we continued to battle it out with the tide. Race 4 was again, much the same as races 1 -3, big tide and not much in the was of wind. However, two-thirds of the way down the final leg of race 4 the sea breeze kick in, creating a 150 degree wind shift, a sizeable increase in wind strength and a beat up to the finish line. Race 5 eventually got underway after a complete re-lay of the course – still in big tide (now flooding) but with a little waves to play with and about 14 knots of breeze. 3 short laps later and we were done. Lucy had edged ahead of me but not without a fight and now we had a long cruise and a play in the waves to get back home.

We packed up in glorious weather and had a prize giving up in the bar, overlooking the Mersea mud. Dabchicks is easily the friendliest club I have ever been to and credits must go to the organisers and volunteers who helped with the running of the event. The weather was not the greatest in terms of sailing but the best was made of what we were given.

Hopefully we will be returning next year.

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