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Helming to Win by Nick Craig
Helming to Win by Nick Craig

Enterprise Eastern Championships at Alexandra Yacht Club

by Terry Maton 9 Jul 2010 11:08 BST 12 June 2010

Old ‘Essex Girl’ still has a few surprises

The above Saturday saw some red faces at the Alexandra Yacht Club. At the grand old age of 137, it’s a good 30 years since the ‘Alex’, as the Club is familiarly known to its members, hosted an Enterprise Open.

The Clubhouse is placed (somewhat handily for visitors to find) right at the ‘seafront’, on the cliffs next to the Cliff Lift, and in close proximity to Southend Pier, so the location is both public and, to an extent, picturesque. (We get a nice view of Estuary Mud when the tide’s absent.)

The Enterprise Mob descended, er, started arriving there, at some ungodly hour of the morning, and the scene was set.

But let’s rewind a little - bllrrp – blooowwpppp - wlllrrrrpp – ah, that’s better – our organisers, Ian and Sue Simpson (bless ‘em!) had been invited to bring the race to Southend and, once they sobered up and realised that it was going to be a showpiece event and one to get right, the planning and organisation was formally kicked off.

If only they’d known…!

Preparing to host a race event is a bit of old hat to many of you, and we ourselves run Club races at the drop of a hat (the same old hat, as it happens). But, as already mentioned, we ain’t done something of his prominence for, well, almost not within living memory. So it got a bit windy in some quarters (don’tcha just lurrve sailing metaphors?).

There were challenges for everyone: some logistical, some local, and some unscheduled (just who ordered the weather??):

Challenges for us: jetty and slipway management, course planning, publicity, admin, signing in and out, safety boats and crew, organising volunteer staff, etc., etc., etc., etc. Oh, and just *where* do we park all those extra cars?

Challenges for our visitors: the pier (literally, not easy to miss!), tide and currents, shallow water, less shallow water, hidden breakwaters, tourists on jetskis, small children adrift on airbeds, the Gulf oil spillage (well, you never know…).

A challenge for all competitors: another Club who decided to use our designated markers for a finish line... friendly!

And, just for fun: where do we find a new caterer for the buffet we’d promised, having been let down at the last minute?

…but in the end Ian and Sue solved everything that was solvable. and decided that the visitors could ‘discover’ the ‘local hazards’ for themselves. After all, our sailors were already familiar with the area and needed all the, ahem, advantages we could get against the 'crack professionals' we were expecting. (Sportsmanship - what's that? Dunno what you mean.)

A final meeting was held the night before the race, in the bar, of course – it helps get the attendance up – and was only intermittently interrupted by the Uruguay/France match:

Flags – check! Horn – check! Race buoys – check! Race officer – um, he’s around somewhere. Who’s Jetty Steward…? Safety boat crew…? Start time…? Aw, forget it – let’s go and watch the footy.

But the course was easy to settle. We’d use the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep it ‘Square’ and ‘Sausage’. Which turned out to be a waste of time in the end, ‘cos we did something else on the day. Ah, well!

Anyway, let’s fast forward back again (you can make your own fast-forward sound effects this time).

The weather was pretty well ideal, albeit a bit variable. Mostly 6-7/8 cloud, bright, mild, sunny intervals, dry with some threatening black cloud, wind off-shore (with the cliffs, that messes up the visitors nicely!) and veering NW to NE. Variable, everything from ‘0’ to ‘4’, and often in the space of about two yards, or three seconds. That made it somewhat interesting!

Being shore-based your scribe isn’t in a position, literally, to describe the race thrills and spills, but the results speak for themselves – somewhat of a ‘clean sweep’ for the Bevan family. It was a clean fight and fairly won, and all the protagonists had a good word to say afterwards. So let’s top you up with the odd snippet:

The aforementioned Variable Wind made it fun for all. Fast, slow, hang out, jump in, pass someone, stop dead, get passed, try and catch up. And repeat as necessary. Comments ranged from unprintable to “Funny wind. You’d have a run down to the mark and, by the time you got there, it would be a run back” and “Fantastic first thing, then dead flat, then it just went totally mad”.

One competitor obviously thought it was the Marie Celeste Re-enactment Race. Graham Kirkup of Hunts SC managed to get himself overboard and into the ‘briny’. We’re not sure how it happened – over-enthusiastic tacking, perhaps, but there might just be a clue in the boat’s name: ‘Slippery Cleat’. Once she’d managed to stop laughing, and collect herself, the crew, Jo Coleman, turned the vessel back and collected her helm.

The ‘Alex’ also ran a Wayfarer race, on the back of this event. There were just two entries and, well, this is predictable stuff: they managed to collide on the first mark. Tch!

And on similar, but different lines: post-race, our modest slip was somewhat mobbed when it came to boats returning to dry land. The backlog was cleared efficiently, but the house ‘convention’ of going round if the slip was in use, hadn’t been communicated to the visitors. But no-one died, so we got away with it (this time).

How’d the Simpsons do? A halyard parted during the second race, forcing retirement and requiring a tow ‘home’. No-one was hurt when the tensioned cable broke but Ian said, ambiguously, “Gutted! We were gutted!” (He also said “…we were being slaughtered at the time…” but I diplomatically won’t mention that.)

Oh, and why the red faces? Bet you thought I’d forgotten. There were nearly a lot of them ‘cos, despite the Club arranging free parking for competitors, the local Yellow Peril decided to ticket everyone during the third race. We managed to put them straight, though, just in time.

But, rather, there were two other reasons: a few too many beers while celebrating in the clubhouse afterwards, and mild sunburn for those who forgot to ‘cream up’.

Great souvenirs of a day at the seaside!

Postscript: by now the astute reader will have realised that, whilst the account is fundamentally true, a proportion of the aforegoing has been ‘jazzed up a bit’. (And the non-astute reader will have been wondering just what on earth the author was going on about.) No apology is made for this.

Overall Results:

PosHelmCrewSail NoClubR1R2R3Pts
1Phil BevanLaura Bevan22439Grafham Water SC1112
2Paul YoungMegan Ward22901Midland SC3525
3Brian CummingLinda Cumming23049Dabchicks SC2365
4Anthony ColeAndrew Holme23094Aldenham SC8257
5Peter DollingElaine Dolling22912Dabchicks SC5638
6Graham KirkupJo Coleman23224Hunts SC4448
7Richard DennyMaureen Denny23163Snettisham Beach SC771114
8Alex JibDavid Jib2533Deal & Walmer SC98715
9John SherwoodAshley Simpson20375Alexandra YC1110818
10Ian BaileyJeremy22812Alexandra YC109DNC19
11Ian SimpsonSue Simpson23010Alexandra YC6RTDDNC18

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