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2023 Mersea Week is biggest in years

by Julian Lord 25 Aug 2023 13:18 BST 13-18 August 2023
Mersea Week 2023 © Sam Kelly Mersea Imagery

The 49th annual Mersea Week, hosted jointly by West Mersea Yacht Club and Dabchicks Sailing Club, saw a bumper entry of over 130 boats, including a good number of visiting yachts, smacks and dinghies.

Five days of racing took place on Essex's River Blackwater estuary in mainly fairly breezy conditions, except for Tuesday's race, when the fading land breeze and the strengthening incoming sea breeze fought for supremacy. This made for some tricky decision-making in the quite strong ebb tide.

The small but competitive IRC Keelboats class was dominated by the Clifton Family's Archambault A31 Aztec, with Alan Brook's Cork 1720 Mexican Train just pipping Toby Ramsay's self-designed Ramsay 6.7 Mojito for second place.

Such an important part of the week, and with the best entry for several years, the 13 Smacks looked spectacular, especially downwind with clouds of sail set, and for the second year running the overall winner was Charlotte Cock's CK395 Puritan, beating the newly restored MN69 Martha II (Phil Plumtree) into second place, with Angus Milgate's CK171 Peace in third. These three smacks were the only individual race winners. Whilst the fleet all start together, separate prizes are awarded to the Slow Division, with Nick Purdie's CK46 Gracie winning, ahead of CK213 Boadicea (Reuben Frost) and Jasmin Klimcke's MN12 Polly. Built in 1808, Boadicea is by far the oldest smack still competing these days.

The Classic Yachts & Gaffers fleet was divided into two groups, with the 'A' Division dominated by the massive Fife 48 gaff cutter Kismet of Richard Matthews - quite in contrast to Julian Lord's diminutive Tumlare Zest which finished second - whilst in third was another big boat, WMYC Commodore John Munns Nicholson 43 Dark Horse. In the 'B' Division, three visiting boats took the top places, a week long tussle between the two leaders being decided in favour of Tollesbury's Simon Lewington's Brittany Class Droleen II by winning the final race, ahead of the Nordic Folkboat Strider (Robin Dutton) from the Stour. The other race winner, Kim Holman's first design Phialle (Stephen Jones) finished in third.

With three of the nearby Brightlingsea fleet joining the local boats, eleven Sonatas enjoyed some good competitive one design racing, with Brightlingsea boat Blackjac (Tim Ashworth) dominating with four race wins. Locals Tony Hawkes & Pat Hill with Aubie Too took runners up position, with Brightlingsea boat Zingy (Daniel Willett) in third and West Mersea's Adrian Mathie's Exposition in fourth.

The Local Handicap keelboats saw Stuart Howells recently acquired Dehler 29 Dynamic from Harwich take the 'A' division with four second place finishes, just ahead of David and Mike Banks Hustler 32 Tramp, with Brightlingsea visitor Bruce Long's MG RS 38 Pinocchio in third. In the 'B' Division, the C&C27 Algonquin (Barry Ashmore) won, with two MGC27s up next, Tearaway (Richard Holroyd) beating Vic Prior's Skybird into second overall.

The 14 strong White Sail class all started together, but were divided into Fast and Slow for prizes. These boats are mostly more cruiser than racer and usually sail shorthanded, and Rob & Clare Smith's Oceanis Clipper 323 Tamarisk was the 'A' group and overall winner. Second overall and 'B' group winner was Richard Swinton's Hustler 30 Mischief. Next up in the 'A' group were Philip Woods Sigma 33 Jazz and Andrew & Jill Stebbing's Hanse 311 Seahawk II. In the 'B' division, the Hustler 25.5 UFO (Bob Mercer) and WMYC Rear Commodore Alan Jones with French Mistress (Beneteau 285) were second and third respectively.

The MFOBs (Mersea Fishermen's Open Boats) completed six races and enjoyed their usual close tussles. The difference in size, speed and crew numbers between the biggest and smallest boats is considerable, and whilst the fleet all start together, they are divided for results. Just four points separated the top three boats in the Fast Division, with Brian & Will Sargeant's WM25 Merlin taking top slot by a single point ahead of CK135 Spray (Oliver & Victoria Grogan); next up were David Cope & Ben Woodcraft's WM32 Fiducia. The Slow Division was also closely fought, Seamus Clifford & Molly Eldridge's WM30 Woody coming out ahead of William & Lou Cohen in WM28 Samphire and WM48 Joy (Tim Crossley & Ben Norfolk).

With the addition of a new Performance Dinghy class, the dinghy entrants raced in four classes. The Slow class was won by RS Feva XL of Scarlett MacLennan & Lizzy Bartlett, ahead of Charlotte Powell's ILCA4 and the first of three Comet Duos (Rosie Brown & Nik Antoniadies). The Medium class consisted of seven ILCA6s and five Solos, and it was the former class taking the first two positions, Sam Grout winning from Poppy Lowe, with Brian Lamb the first Solo in third. The Fast class saw a win for Janek Payne's ILCA7, ahead of Will Powell's RS300 and Dan Woodcock & Rupert Dando's RS400s. The new Performance Dinghy class consisted almost entirely of RS700s, with Jack Grogan winning from Tom Dutton, Sam Caslin and DSC Vice Commodore James Sparks.

So, another very successful East Coast week has concluded, and the organising committee will soon begin planning for next year's celebratory 50th Mersea Week.

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