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Norfolk Punt Class Open at the Norfolk Punt Club

by Simon Lomas-Clarke 15 Jul 2015 11:07 BST 11-12 July 2015
Norfolk Punt Open on Barton Broad © Robin Myerscough

On Saturday 11th July Norfolk Punts gathered on for the Norfolk Punt Open on Barton Broad a gloriously sunny day with a breeze perfect for punt sailing. The first race got away promptly under the gradient North Westerly. Under the usual shifting conditions the fleet was well behaved on the line but with a short leg to the windward mark, jostling for position was fierce as the fleet converged. Woodpecker, Swallow II and Rhode Island Red broke clear of the fleet on the second leg but with individual handicaps these three boats needed to continue to extend whist fighting amongst themselves. After a capsize from Rhode Island Red, Woodpecker took a commanding win followed over the line and on handicap by Swallow II.

The breeze dropped slightly for the second race, favouring the conventional spinnaker boats over the asymetrics of Rhode Island Red and Woodpecker. Navigation errors at the first windward mark lead to some very close encounters with boats and pointy bows all heading towards eachother. After the fleet cleared the mark without serious incident, Woodpecker and Swallow II were seen unwinding themselves and rounding the mark in the correct direction while the fleet disappeared down the next leg. Some good working of the shifts by these two stragglers saw them back into the lead by the end of the first lap and extending away. A port/starboard incident saw Swallow II doing turns but then working the shifts again to finish first on the water and on handicap.

Some excellent race management while others enjoyed the location and their lunch saw the gradient dying away and the sea breeze taking hold and quick re-shuffle of the course and the final race of the day starting on schedule. Tight competition throughout the race between all the competitors ensued with Swallow II and Woodpecker again breaking clear and finishing in that order on the water and on handicap.

A fantastic barbecue on the club pontoon tool place in a perfect warm evening amid the most beautiful setting.

Overnight rain had just about fizzled out. By the start of the first race on Sunday but the fresher breeze was accompanied with an overcast sky. For both races on Sunday the fleet lined up with some opting for a timed run and others choosing to hold their spot on the line. The strong gusts nearly caught out Swallow II on the first downwind leg as the sailors had to work hard to keep their powerful craft moving upright in the right direction. Swallow II and Woodpecker continued as they did on Saturday, taking the first two places.

With the wind still producing some hefty gusts, the final race was eventful for some. One boat having an unplanned swim and Rhode Island Red struggled to control their huge spinnaker while balancing on their twin trapezes and took a visit to inspect the wildlife in the reeds. Normal service was resumed at the front with Woodpecker following Swallow II across the line.

The 90 year old trophy, commissioned by Swallow II's builder, was awarded to the event winners Simon Lomas-Clarke and Rob Daniels sailing Swallow II, by the club commodore Felicity Daniels. A big thanks has to go to all those who helped on the day and in the pre-event preparation. Simon emphasised what a stunning location, fantastic boats and amazing hospitality the event offers and hoped to be invited back again for the event next year.

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