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ITCA Eastern Region Topper Traveller Round 8 at Brancaster Staithe Sailing Club

by Edward Medcalf 28 Sep 06:33 BST 24 September 2023
ITCA East Region Topper Travellers at Brancaster Staithe - 'solo sailor in spray' © John Blackman Northwood

Most readers of these columns will share the attitude that whatever a long-range forecast might be on our favourite weather app, it will almost certainly have little bearing on reality 3 weeks later. We take it with a pinch of salt.

So when strong southerly blasts were indicated from the beginning of September coinciding with ultra-low neaps, Brancaster Staithe Sailing Club (BSSC) organisers were smugly confident that the day itself would bring anything else and that would be terrific. A strong southerly, you see, would be show-stopping because it would hold the weak tide out but all other directions would provide just enough water to be workable.

And of course, it didn't deviate by a degree. Which made things a bit tricky.

BSSC is a new fixture on the Eastern Traveller circuit, an experimental venue as area reps attempt to open the eyes of youth to what treasures exist in their region's far-flung corners. The club was aware that it is customary to offer a sailing venue with high enough moisture content to do more than get one's toes vaguely damp but as launch time passed with only a bit of sand somewhere over there getting soggy, thoughts turned to bog-snorkelling and whether they might need to hold any qualifiers in the East.

Almost an hour after the tide was meant to arrive engines roared as some of the armada of safety craft churned their way off their moorings and ploughed up where the channel was meant to be to investigate conditions in the harbour's racing area. There they were met by an F5 gusting 7 driving a hard chop; happily, the PROs' anemometer was a bit gummed up and registering flat calm or at best a gentle zephyr so everyone carried on.

Behind them, 22 sailors set off in various stages of rig, reefed or otherwise. Purists might scoff at shortening sail when it's only a 4.2 to begin with but from the off those who had swallowed pride were in much better contention than the die-hards. Race one began in a sea of white, some of it foam and spray, much of it upturned Topper hulls. A minor signalling hitch later rendered the race null and void but if anyone wasn't fully awake before, they were now. The words goat rodeo sprang to mind - note to self, a possible name for next boat.

Even though we had got to the point of being thankful for the wildly conservative safety boat: competitor ratio, the 2nd race was momentarily postponed. Gale over tide had produced vicious sea conditions, this within the sheltered harbour, and the heavy attrition from the previous race had to be professionally dealt with. We were now down to 13 sailors as lee shores, bent masts and prudence started to take their toll. Jensen Jakob (NBYC) (reefed) led Nathan Clark (WOBYC) (would never stoop so low as to reef) up the 150 yd beat, and down 2 screaming reaches with a nuclear gybe in between. Those behind were hanging off their own transoms trying to avoid buried noses and violent deceleration/destruction. Tild Phillipps (SBSC) (couldn't be bothered to reef) out of everyone made it look easy as she swanned serenely up the middle to take 3rd place. The 4.2s had 2 finishers - Toby Turner (SBSC) (overpowered despite the reef) and Faith Turner (SBSC) (he reefed so I'd better not show him up). Behind any casualties were pleasantly surprised to find that they were only about waist-deep when they capsized - anything to make life a bit easier.

Race 3, we were down to 12. This was a 3-way punching match between Jensen, Nathan and Ellie Thwaites (NBYC) (why waste a F6 by reefing) who kept the boys honest as they all finished within a 5-second period. The 4.2s saw a similar result to race 2. By now the incessant brine blast had worn down the sailors' energy levels, and the PRO decided discretion was the better part of valour particularly now that the few droplets of tide that had bothered to turn up were rapidly starting to be blown back out again.

In the aftermath at the clubhouse, it was therefore deemed that Nathan won the 5.3s on countback, followed by Jensen and Tilds. The 4.2s were won by Toby with Faith 2nd. Faith also took home the 4.2 perseverance prize, as did Sofia Eaton (SBSC) in the 5.3s.

BSSC would like to thank parents, competitors and volunteers - the PRO, drivers, results team, mark layers, kit providers, fist aiders, chocolate biscuit makers and others - for their patience. Many had travelled for miles and hours to participate, support or make the event happen and we wish we could have provided more!

Overall Results:

PosChamp NoSail NoHelmClubR1R2Pts
4.2 Rig
1st169 GBR 44888Toby TurnerSnettisham Beach SC9102
2nd173 GBR 45500Faith TurnerSnettisham Beach SC13114
3rd174 GBR 45562William MottSnettisham Beach SCDNCDNC10
3rd310 GBR 45796Noah HughesWaldringfield SCDNCDNC10
5.3 Rig
1st285 GBR 48974Nathan ClarkWaveney and Oulton Broad YC213
2nd521 GBR 49093Jensen JakobNBYC123
3rd246 GBR 46731Tild PhillippsSnettisham Beach SC347
4th691 GBR 47625Ellie ThwaitesSnowflakes/NBYC/RNSYC538
5th568 GBR 45701Tabitha Blackman NorthwoodHunts SC8513
6th336 GBR 48679Harry WemyssHickling broad SC/ Snowflakes SC6713
7th585 GBR 47634Abbey PennyHorning sailing club11616
8th48 GBR 16517Magnus MedcalfBrancaster Staithe SC7916
9th209 GBR 44144Joshua Blackman NorthwoodHunts SC12819
10th620 GBR 47426Sofia EatonSnettisham Beach SC101219
11th632 GBR 49034Kieran VanhoutteEly SC4DNF23
12th662 GBR 46929Ralph LeftleyNBYC/ SFSC/ RNSYCDNCDNC38
12th348 GBR 43126Sally KerrySnettisham Beach SCDNCDNC38
12th  GBR 7Harry SpinkBrancaster Staithe SCDNCDNC38
12th  GBR 12322Anya GittinsHorning sailing clubDNCDNC38
12th229 GBR 47450Claudia SavorySnettisham Beach SCDNCDNC38
12th32 GBR 48573Jack FranklinSnettisham Beach SCDNCDNC38
12th118 GBR 40848Nate SparrowBASC / WOBYCDNCDNC38

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