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East Anglian Offshore Racing Association Offshore Regatta

by Cathy Brown 17 Jul 2019 07:46 BST 11-14 July 2019

The EAORA Offshore Regatta - also known as the triangle - comprises three races, from Harwich to Ostend, Ostend to Ramsgate and Ramsgate back to Harwich, over four days. It has become the highlight of the season for many competitors, and this year attracted 14 entrants.

They ranged in size from Ed Harrison's Impala 28, Alchemy, rating 0.884 under IRC, to Richard Matthews Ker 51 Custom, Oystercatcher XXXIII, rating 1.380. Those figures translate to the fact that Oystercatcher has to go more than twice as fast as Alchemy to beat her on handicap. The other competitors spanned the rating range in between.

As some races suit bigger boats, and some conditions suit smaller boats, all races are divided into three classes, to allow competitive racing with boats of similar performance. It was notable how the overall standings varied during a regatta which saw big contrasts in the conditions prevailing on each of the three legs.

Thursday July 11 - Harwich to Ostend

The first race, for the Graham Wallis trophy, provided one of the most enjoyable North Sea crossings many could remember. The sea was flat, the sun shone, there was sparkling visibility, and a pleasant westerly breeze which enabled spinnakers to be flown almost throughout the 76-mile course.

The only problem was that at times the wind was just a little too gentle, with "holes" slowing progress dramatically. Oystercatcher XXXIII completed the course in nine hours and 21 minutes, more than four hours ahead of the final finisher, the Sigma 33 Woozle Hunter, but on handicap, Alchemy beat Oystercatcher by an hour and 23 minutes.

In fact, the results were more or less in reverse handicap order, with scratch boat Oystercatcher XXXIII in the unfamiliar position of absolute last.

Graham Wallis Trophy Results

Overall
1 Alchemy, Impala 28, Ed Harrison, Royal Harwich YC
2 Eclipse, Contessa 33, Des Cowan, Haven Ports YC
3 ApeX, X332, Robert Leggett, HPYC.

Class One
1 Jameerah, J120, Simon Ruffles, RHYC
2 Brave, Arcona 410, Richard and Cathy Brown, HPYC
3 Oystercatcher XXXIII, Ker 51 Custom, Richard Matthews, West Mersea YC

Class Two
1 ApeX
2 Spirit, Sigma 38, Paul Scott, HPYC
3 Victoria, Archambault 31, Adrian and David Gibbons, Colne YC

Class Three
1 Alchemy
2 Eclipse
3 Golden Fleece, S and S 41, Michael Wheeler, WMYC

Friday July 12 - Ostend

2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of EAORA, and the lay day in Ostend provided the opportunity to mark this in style, with a pontoon party in the afternoon, and a celebration supper in the Royal North Sea YC before the prizegiving for the first race.

Richard Matthews, who has been racing in the series for most of six decades (since he was 11, he said) and has won the overall championship in a number of different boats, gave a heartfelt after dinner speech, paying tribute to the organisation and wishing it a healthy future.

Saturday July 13 - Ostend to Ramsgate

The start of the 56-mile Cannon Ball Trophy race, in a brisk headwind, lumpy seas, and overcast skies, could hardly have been more different from the first day's balmy conditions.

This time there was no holding Oystercatcher XXXIII, whose powerful hull and tall rig soon disappeared over the horizon, leaving everyone else trailing in her wake.

On the morning's forecast, it looked as if there would be little chance to fly a spinnaker on a course that promised fetches and tight reaches, but the wind freed in the final stages, again benefitting the slower boats which appeared over the horizon with spinnakers set, while class one boats Brave and Jameerah were caught in a hole between the two wind bands.

Brave had the compensation of having been escorted by dolphins for an hour on the leg down the Belgian coast from Middlekerke Bank to Ruytingen East.

Cannon Ball Trophy Results

Overall
1 Oystercatcher XXXIII
2 Alchemy
3 ApeX

Class 1
1 Oystercatcher XXXIII
2 Brave
3 Jameerah

Class 2
1 ApeX
2 Spirit
3 Victoria

Class 3
1 Alchemy
2 Golden Fleece
3 Eclipse

Sunday July 14 - Ramsgate to Harwich

The Walker Challenge Cup promised to be another upwind marathon, especially as the 47-mile course started against the formidable flood tide running south past North Foreland.

There was drama from the start, with five boats called over the line, including all in class one, who then had to find their way back through the fleet.

Opinions divided about which was the favourable side of the beat north towards Fisherman's Gat, and some significant gains and losses were made. Although a long way ahead on the water, Oystercatcher XXXIII was not saving her time on many in the pursuing pack.

The three miles through the Gat provided a break from beating, with code zeros and reaching kites appearing, but it was all too brief. Out in the Black Deep by now the ebb was running, helping the fleet make progress on what became an increasingly demanding beat with freshening breeze and a rapidly-building wind-over-tide sea.

Strong wind had not been forecast, but there it was, and the spinnaker run from Cork Sand Beacon to the finish in Harwich Harbour provided plenty of excitement. Once again, the form-book was shaken up, with Michael Wheeler's beautiful S and S 41 Golden Fleece coming into her own, while Alchemy, which had looked favourite to win the weekend, understandably struggled in the heavier conditions.

Walker Challenge Results

Overall
1 Golden Fleece
2 ApeX
3 Eclipse

Class One
1 Brave
2 Jameerah
3 Oystercatcher XXXIII

Class Two
1 ApeX
2 Spirit
3 Pinnochio, MG RS38, B Long, Colne YC

Class 3
1 Golden Fleece
2 Eclipse
3 Alchemy

Regatta Overall

The overall winner of the 2019 Offshore Regatta was Robert Leggett's consistently-sailed ApeX, by the narrowest margin, 14.4 points against Alchemy's 14.7. Golden Fleece was third, and last year's champion, Eclipse, had to be content with fourth this time. But the combination of ApeX and Eclipse ensured that the Nore Command Trophy for the first club team remained with holders Haven Ports YC.

Thanks go to MS Amlin, which is sponsoring EAORA's 70th anniversary year. The next event in the programme is the Mary Hill Trophy Race, from Harwich to Ramsgate, delivering boats to take part in the classic Round the Goodwins race, the opening event of Ramsgate Week, the following day.

Offshore Regatta Results

Overall
1 County Standard Salver - ApeX
2 Alchemy
3 Golden Fleece

Class 1
1 Millennium Trophy - Brave
2 Jameerah
3 Oystercatcher XXXIII

Class 2
1 Ailish Trophy - ApeX
2 Spirit
3 Victoria

Class 3
1 Secretary's Plate - Alchemy
2 Golden Fleece
3 Eclipse

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