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Ocean Elements 2018

Learning & Skills Solutions Pyefleet Week - Day 4

by Fiona Brown 10 Aug 2017 11:34 BST 5-12 August 2017

Learning & Skills Solutions Pyefleet Week Big Wednesday sponsored by AOC, Just Trays and Deltech UK proved to be an excessively damp affair with near record breaking rainfall.

The regatta's Big Wednesday celebration is held in honour of the late Reg White. Reg was a life-long member of Brightlingsea Sailing Club, an Olympic Gold Medallist and multiclass Champion including two Tornado World Championships, a three-time winner of the Little America's Cup and a legend in the local Brightlingsea One Design class. Reg was a great supporter of Pyefleet Week and, following his death inn 2010, Reg's family created the Big Wednesday Gold Medal Race and annual Celebrations which now form the centre piece of the week and his children Rob, David, Mark and Sally and their families continue to run the evening's festivities.

The Big Wednesday Gold Medal Race is a massed start all in handicap race which does not count towards the overall points. With heavy rain and a fickle breeze to contend with, races officers Alan Hicks and Craig Bond and their team did a terrific job of setting a great course despite the tricky conditions. Unsurprisingly the atrocious weather put off a lot of crews, but 36 hardy teams refused to let a little bit of dampness ruin their day. Those who didn't race took shelter at the club to watch the fun.

Although the wind was relatively light and very fickle, there was always sufficient to race and after a short postponement the fleet was underway. The local Brightlingsea One Designs (BOD), which this year celebrate their 90th Anniversary, were specifically designed with very big rigs to cope with the often light breezes encountered racing in the River Colne and its associated creeks, and so it was perhaps not surprising to see members of the fleet doing well in the race, particularly as the wind went lighter during the latter stages.

After a terrifically close battle victory and the Reg White Gold Medal Race Trophy went to David Conlon, Ed Gibbons and Sarah Bines sailing BOD C27 Rebel. Brother and sister Jessica and Chris Rust sailing an RS200 took second place with Danny Fox, Tim Hearne and Bob Hedger and sailing BOD C8 Egret.

The Gold Medal Race Trophy for the first Cadet was awarded to Rebecca Bines and Connie Hughes sailing an RS200 who finished in sixth place overall.

Ashore the organisers were facing a tricky dilemma. Almost 400 tickets had been sold for the Big Wednesday Beach BBQ and for a while it looked like the event could be a complete washout. But Brightlingsea Sailing Club is famed for being run entirely voluntarily by the members and those members are a resourceful bunch.

With Regatta Chairman David Gibbons overseeing operations, extra marquees were loaned by members to provide covered dining areas on the beach, extra tables were set up in the cadet room and upstairs lounge, the big BBQs were moved under shelter, food service was transferred to the galley and the band set up in the club instead of outside.

With the majority adding wellies to their Caribbean beach party outfits somehow they all managed to fit into the club house and marquees and the atmosphere was amazing. "I'd always said that if we got bad weather we'd be forced to cancel, but actually this has probably been one of the best Big Wednesday Parties ever." Said Rob White during a brief break from the dancing. "It just goes to show what the club can do when we pull together. I can't believe how well its gone." Added a relieved David Gibbons who had worked his socks off with the team to ensure the evening still went ahead.

Thursday will see a return to series racing and once again the entrants will be divided into two groups with one racing in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The forecast is for the rain to finally retreat around mid-morning and for the north/north-easterly wind to range from 12 gusting 20 mph in the morning to 10 gusting 15 mph in the afternoon.

Further information and full results are available from www.pyefleetweek.com

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