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Learning & Skills Solutions Pyefleet Week at Brightlingsea Sailing Club: Day 1

by Fiona Brown 31 Jul 07:17 BST 28 July - 3 August 2018
Learning & Skills Solutions Pyefleet Week 2018 - Day 1 © William Stacey

After weeks of glorious hot sunshine and near perfect sailing conditions, the weather gods decided to throw a curve-ball at Brightlingsea Sailing Club's Learning & Skills Solutions Pyefleet Week and for two days the competitors have been held ashore while near gales have lashed the race area. Both Saturday's practice race and Sunday's opening races were casualties, but despite the frustrations the crews continued to make the most of the club's legendary hospitality and the week's terrific entertainment programme.

The forecast for Monday was a little more promising with winds expected to moderate somewhat for the morning session, but then increase again later in the day. Race Officer Dave Gibbons set to sea in good time to get proceedings underway for the planned 10.30 first start and as the boats came to the line they were facing 18-22 knots from the south west quadrant with stronger squalls regularly rolling through.

The 120 strong Pyefleet Week entry is split into two groups which on opposite sides of the day. On the morning shift today were the RS700s, the Brightlingsea One Designs, the Wivenhoe One Designs, the "Parent & Child" Handicap (in which cadets can race with a parent or adult friend) and the Cadet Handicap.

Several crews decided that conditions were too much for them before they even left the beach, but five RS700s came to the line for what was to be a wet and wild ride. Sadly conditions got the better of both Richard Goldklang and Steve Carr who headed home early after capsizes, but the remaining three flew around the course in spectacular style with Pete Purkis leading the fleet home from Dave Bridle with Simon Redfearn in third.

Next off the line were the three man Brightlingsea One Design (BOD) clinker day boats, which at 81 years young and 20 boats strong are the oldest and largest fleet competing this week. The BODs are famously over canvassed so today's conditions were always going to prove a challenge. Half way through the first lap a particularly vicious squall took the wind up towards 30 knots and both Sue Bouckley, whose crew includes her daughter Hannah Stodel, a three time Sonar World Champion and three time Paralympian, and Oliver King, being crewed this week by father Dan and brother James, the 2015 Nacra 15 World Championship winning crew, found themselves taking a most unexpected dip. Several others pulled out due to gear failure, but twelve of the twenty starters screeched around the course with Chris Matthews, Ed Gibbons and Millie Newman just holding off Piers Lambert, Sarah Bines and Dave Conlon on the line. 1995 Mirror World Champion Clive Goodwin, crewed by Derick Gentry and Mark Schofield finished third, just ahead of Mark White, Dick Stephens and Matt Wilby.

Conditions might have been fresh to frightening, but that didn't stop the Cadet Handicap fleet from giving it their all. Whilst the main fleets start from a Committee Boat in the estuary and sail in relatively open waters, the Cadets start from the club line and sail inshore courses. It was the Optimist of Katy Jenkins from Bourmoor Sailing Club which came out top of the heap from Ed Eeles and Harry McTiernan, both sailing RS Tera Sports. Francis Hartgrove sailed impressively to finish fourth in his first ever race in a Laser 4.7

One of the six strong Wivenhoe One Designs (the little sister of the Brightlingsea One Designs which are sailed by two crew) elected to stay ashore, but of the remaining five it was George Brown and Peter Goldsmith who put in the best showing, with Nic Blower and Micah Dougal second and Nigel Cook and Julie-Anne White third. These classic day boats were designed specifically for sailing on the sheltered upper reaches of the river Colne so today's big waves were an added challenge for the fleet with much bailing necessary.

The Parent and Child class is always hotly contested at Pyefleet Week and this year looks set to be no exception. Several boats elected not to sail but Nicola Henderson and son Enzo Goodsell and father daughter duo Ben and Astrid Eddy enjoyed some great boat on boat racing in their RS Feva XLs with Nicky and Enzo ultimately claiming victory. Third place went to Stephen and Willow Cross in a 2000 with David and James Herbert sailing a Sprint 15 fourth.

After a hearty lunch at the legendary Pyefleet Lunch Table the race committee set to sea again for the afternoon sessions, but unfortunately the the wind did increase as predicted and as the first of several huge squalls rolled through the decision sadly had to be made that no further racing was possible today.

Back ashore the crews enjoyed a delicious home made club supper before dancing the night away to local band Silence of the Sirens.

The regatta continues until Friday 3 August with each fleet racing one race a day. The only exception to this is "Big Wednesday" when everyone comes together for a spectacular massed all in handicap start for the Big Wednesday Trophy which was presented to the club in memory of the late, great Olympic Tornado Gold Medalist and all round sailing hero Reg White

For further information and full results visit

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