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East Anglian Offshore Racing Association Houghton Cup & Amazon Cup

by Cathy Brown 28 Aug 2019 17:08 BST 24-25 August 2019

Houghton Cup, Burnham to Brightlingsea, and Amazon Cup, Brightlingsea to Burnham

Unusually good Bank Holiday weekend weather - blue skies, blistering heat, but rather a shortage of breeze - made the penultimate race weekend of the 2019 EAORA season one to remember.

Shorts and T-shirts are rarely the order of the day for racing in the Thames Estuary, but seasoned crews were delighted that jackets were truly not required. Sunburn was the main problem.

It's not far from Burnham to Brightlingsea, if you go direct, but the race officer had devised a 44-mile course, with plenty of corners, to ensure that boats did not reach the notoriously shallow Spitway before there was enough rise of tide.

The fleet started on the ebb, which was just as well, as the breeze was so light and fluky that getting out of the Crouch would have been impossible against the flood. Progress was still so slow that the tide had long turned before the leading boats reached the Gunfleet Spit buoy after a 20-mile beat.

Actually rounding the mark, with the flood running fiercely, and very little sail power, was nerve wracking - but then boats got some help from the tide, and spinnakers were finally, gratefully hoisted for the downwind leg towards the Spitway. It still wasn't fast, though.

Hours were passing, and by the time boats were heading up the Colne, the question was whether anyone would reach the finish at Brightlingsea before high water, at 1830.

Brave, the Arcona 410 owned by Richard and Cathy Brown, by a long way the scratch boat on handicap, just made it. And it gave her just enough margin (four minutes on corrected time after ten hours racing) to beat Victoria, the Archambault 31 entered by Adrian and Dave Gibbons, which revelled in the light conditions.

Woozle Hunter, the syndicate-owned Sigma 33 from Marconi SC, was third, 20 minutes behind Brave on corrected time, but two hours behind on the water, and just pipping Paul Scott's Sigma 38 Spirit by a couple of minutes on handicap.

These were the only finishers, after the remaining starters retired from the unequal struggle against the tide.

On Sunday the wind seemed to be even lighter as boats headed out to the start, and the race officer considered a postponement, but just in time a zephyr came in, and the shortest course - 36 miles - was set.

Brave, hotly pursued by Victoria and the Colne-based MG RS38 Pinnochio, got away from the chasing pack. Once again, the ebb helped progress on the beat, but when boats turned up tide for the spinnaker run back to the Spitway, speed over the ground dwindled alarmingly. And going almost nowhere was very hot indeed!

Another beat out to North Middle provided a little respite, but then kites were hoisted again at Maplin Approach, and stayed up all the way to Burnham, with a few gybes to keep things interesting.

The tide, which had helped Brave the day before, was against her this time, as she headed up the Crouch to the finish in slackish water, while those further back in the fleet benefitted from the strengthening flood.

Victoria was the winner, again showing her mastery of light airs, and with a first and second place from the weekend, greatly improved her standing in the overall season's points championship.

Spirit, which had been in contention for overall honours, had an uncharacteristically disappointing weekend, results-wise, and so Richard Matthews' Oystercatcher XXXIII has clinched the overall title, even though she missed these two races.

With just one race to go, there's still a lot to play for, with Victoria, Spirit and Brave fighting for second and third overall, and the class one title still to be decided between Brave and Oystercatcher XXXIII, and class two honours currently tied between Victoria and Spirit.

Michael Wheeler's S and S 41 Golden Fleece has however already made sure of the class three trophy for the season.

Thanks go to MS Amlin, which is sponsoring EAORA's 70th anniversary year. The final event in the programme - the Buckley Goblets on Friday September 6 - will see competitors racing from West Mersea to Ostend for the traditional end of season celebrations.

Overall Results:

Houghton Cup

1 Brave, Arcona 410, Richard and Cathy Brown, Haven Ports YC
2 Victoria, Archambault 31, Adrian and David Gibbons, Colne YC
3 Woozle Hunter, Sigma 33, P Hammond/D Harrington-Lynn/A Pentelow/A Thomas, Marconi SC

Class One
1 Brave

Class Two
1 Victoria
2 Spirit, Sigma 38, Paul Scott, Haven Ports YC

Class 3
1 Woozle Hunter

Amazon Cup

1 Victoria
2 Pinnochio, MG RS38, B Long, Colne YC
3 Woozle Hunter

Class 1
1 Brave

Class 2
1 Victoria 2 Pinnochio 3 Spirit

Class 3
1 Woozle Hunter
2 Golden Fleece, S and S 41, Michael Wheeler, West Mersea YC

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