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EAORA Jane's Cup and Thames Estuary Trophy from Burnham to Chatham

by Cathy Brown 20 Jun 2019 19:20 BST 15 June 2019
EAORA Jane's Cup race from Burnham to Chatham © Laura Ivermee

Jane's Cup - Saturday June 15

It was great to see an entry of 17 boats for the Jane's Cup race from Burnham to Chatham - welcome evidence of renewed enthusiasm and support for offshore racing on the East Coast.

The spinnaker start in a gentle south westerly made a spectacular scene, and the first part of the race, a fair weather, foul tide run out of the Crouch to the Whitaker, was enjoyed by all. Kites were packed away at the Whitaker buoy - where the tide turned against the fleet again - as yachts turned upwind, heading south-west towards the Thames.

To start with, it was possible to lay the course without tacking, and Richard Matthews' Ker 51 Custom Oystercatcher XXXIII, by a long way the scratch boat, sped off into the distance, Ross Eldred's Club Swan 42 Mercury also opening up a gap on the following fleet.

The wind seemed to free, and code zeros and asymmetrics blossomed - but it was a false dawn. A dark cloud brought a massive header and soon tacks were necessary to reach the Maplin buoy.

From then on, the breeze increased, rather more than forecast, producing lumpy conditions in Sea Reach, and the formidable Thames ebb proved problematic, especially for the smaller boats.

There were reefs and sail changes, and the beat up the Medway seemed to take a very long time. But there was the consolation of a great party at the Medway YC once it was all over.

Overall results:

1 Oystercatcher XXXIII, Ker 51 Custom, Richard Matthews, West Mersea YC
2 Mercury, Club Swan 42, Ross Eldred, Medway YC
3 Spirit, Sigma 38, Paul Scott, Haven Ports YC
4 Golden Fleece, S and S 41, Michael Wheeler, West Mersea YC
5 Ghost Train, Beneteau 33.7, J and V Bolton, Medway YC
6 Victoria, Archambault 31, Adrian and David Gibbons, Colne YC

Class 1 results:

1 Oystercatcher XXXIII
2 Mercury
3 Intense, Corby 33, Lizzie Brown and Paul Wood, Royal Burnham YC
4 Flying Fish, First 40.7, SFPC Ltd, Medway YC
5 Brave, Arcona 410, Richard and Cathy Brown, Haven Ports YC
6 Salt, Maxi 1300, Gareth Jordan, West Mersea YC

Class 2 results:

1 Spirit
2 Victoria
3 Reefer X, X 99, A and P Goodman-Simpson, Medway YC
4 Zero Gravitas, SJ 320, Tim Brooke, Walton and Frinton YC
5 Lyra of London, Swan 431, Miles Delap, Royal Corinthian YC

Class 3 results:

1 Golden Fleece
2 Ghost Train
3 Zephyros, Dehler 34, T French, Medway YC
4 Borsalino, Stephen Jones one off, James Fisher, Haven Ports YC
5 Xepha, MG 34 RS, S O'Loughlin, Medway YC

Thames Estuary Trophy - Sunday June 16

The weather had taken an un-forecast turn for the worse for the return race from Medway to the Crouch, and some of the Medway-based boats, perhaps sensibly, declined to go to the start line. So there were 12 starters, in decidedly gusty conditions, some electing to keep their spinnakers in the bag for the twisty route out of the river, which required a number of gybes, with only short legs in between.

Once again, Oystercatcher XXXIII led from the start, and with 14 aboard, had no worries about sail handling, and showed the way with an enormous asymmetric. Behind her Mercury was also pulling away from the fleet.

Once clear of the fluky winds under the ships at Garrison Point, more colourful sails appeared, and the fleet enjoyed a lively sleigh ride out along the edge of the Medway approach channel, across the Thames, and then around the edge of the Maplin sand.

It was foul tide again, flooding this time, against the wind, kicking up waves which gave surfing conditions. But even as they raced north towards the Whitaker, crews were already wondering how uncomfortable the beat into Burnham was going to prove.

There were black clouds all around, and the true wind speed was gradually building, a steady 20-plus knots with gusts well into the 30s.

Oystercatcher XXXIII was so far ahead that she alone managed to carry the flood right into the Crouch and to the finish. Nobody else reached the turning mark before the ebb set in.

Near the Maplin buoy a Mayday was heard from a narrowboat, which should surely not have been at sea in such lively conditions. She had lost steerage, her anchor was not holding and she was drifting helplessly on to the sand.

Mercury was first on the scene and nobly took on the role of relaying her Pan Pan messages to the Coastguard - the Swan's tall mast offering much better range than the barge's almost inaudible handheld. Mercury stood by the casualty until the Sheerness and Southend lifeboats reached the scene. This generous and seamanlike gesture was later rewarded with redress for the time spent out of the race.

Meanwhile the rest of the fleet had tales to tell of adventurous broaches and blow outs before kites were finally lowered, and swapped for reefs, at the Whitaker, for the upwind and up-tide slog to Burnham. Two boats apparently decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and retired, so avoiding this bruising and boat-breaking ordeal. Another retired with gear failure, but fortunately still able to make her own way home.

Oystercatcher XXXIII was once again victorious, followed by Mercury, once redress was applied, and then Victoria, Adrian and David Gibbons' Archambault 31, the smallest boat out, which performed impressively on a day when wind and tide conditions might have been expected to suit bigger boats better.

Overall results:

1 Oystercatcher XXXIII
2 Mercury
3 Victoria
4 Spirit
5 Brave
6 Golden Fleece

Class 1 results:

1 Oystercatcher XXXIII
2 Mercury
3 Brave

Class 2 results:

1 Victoria
2 Spirit
3 Lyra of London

Class 3 results:

1 Golden Fleece
2 Borsalino
3 Seraphina of London, Nauticat 42, D Malcolm and C van Clinken, London SC

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