Day 1 Event Report by John Booth
Fuelled by Wednesday night’s excellent chicken casserole and fresh from a pleasant snooze under the warm starry sky, the 30-strong fleet of the RS700 National Championship glided out from Brightlingsea Sailing Club into a 6 to 10 knot South Easterly exactly as forecast.
Race 1 saw Richie Thurlby shoot out of the pin end and use his upwind pace to round the first mark by a fair few boat lengths with John Booth rounding second. Richie and John swapped places several times but ultimately, it was Rob Higgins who took the win on the finish line. He paired good strategy with pace to take over and cross first.
Race 2 saw Tom Porter shoot out of the blocks, trapeze hard and show the fleet a clean pair of… rack bars. With untouchable upwind speed, he held his lead to the finish. Rob getting the better of the chasing pack only to fall victim to an unfortunate snagging incident just before the finish.
In Race 3 John managed to sneak around to first place and extended on a tussling Pete Purkiss and Rob Higgins. Unfortunately though, 30 years of sailing hadn’t taught him to read the number of laps. He left the chasing pack to enjoy a bit of variety as the right side of the course looked like it had more breeze than the patchy left. Rob got the better of him to take the win with James Clarke reading the conditions best to progress to second place.
Day 2 Event Report by Richie Thurlby
Dawning with a cold and misty start, Day 2 began with a three-hour delay. The fleet launched at a similarly low state-of-tide as Day 1, leading to another long trek down the slipway.
Race 1 proved that getting a good start was essential for a clean lane out to the left, with almost all of the fleet heading to that corner. John Booth showed incredible upwind speed to round the first mark, followed by James Clark and Richie Thurlby. John had a commanding lead for the rest of the race well ahead of Richie and Marek Dudak, who sneaked past James to take third place.
With it becoming apparent the left was strong, the pin end was getting busy at the start of Race 2 as everyone was fighting for a clean lane. Pete Purkiss was a bit too keen, jumping the gun in the second race – whatever it takes to keep his nickname “Pistol Pete”! It was Jack Grogan who, with a combination of a great pin-end start and strong boat speed, rounded the top mark first, with John and Rob close behind. On the second leg, John and Rob showed their rapid downwind speed to sneak past Jack at the gybe point. John continued his dominant performance to take the win, followed by Rob and then Jack.
Special mention of the day goes to Tom Porter for capsizing at the mark and righting it without losing any places!
Day 3 Event Report by Rob Huggins and James Clark
Another morning dawned and once again it was mirror-like conditions. After a short postponement to allow the wind to come in, the fleet finally hit the water. The RS700s navigated around the classical giants of the smack and barges, which has just started their race – not your usual sight!
John Booth took the lead in Race 1 with his lightening upwind speed and disappeared into the distance. Behind, it was a lot closer for the rest of the fleet with plenty of place changes. Rob Higgins took second and Richard Allen took third in his brand-new boat. It was great to see that the new boats available from RS Sailing were straight in at the pointy end.
Race 2 saw the first recall of the week. Feeling kind, the race officer allowed the fleet to try again under no further restrictions. A rare bad start from series-leader John allowed some of the other racers to enjoy the pointy end. Marek Dudak shot out the middle of the line to hold an early lead. They didn’t quite hit hard enough left (a common theme of the week) and allowed Rob and Philip Highfield to sneak in. Rob held on to take the win from John, who had recovered incredibly well to take second. Phil took third.
With most of the fleet praying the race officer was going to tell us to go home the flag still went up for the Race 3. Marek and Richie Thurlby shot out of the line and held the early advantage. John cleared his air and went a bit further left and snuck in at the top mark to take the lead. John took the win, Marek – showing great speed all day – took second, and Rob managing to sneak past Richie to take third.
The fleet were welcomed ashore for the second day in a row by ice-chilled cans of “come ashore” beer and soft drinks, thanks to RS Sailing. This was a great reward for the return of a tally.
Congratulations to John Booth, 2023’s RS700 National Champion, with firsts in 4/10 races. A great event hosted by Brightlingsea Sailing Club and sponsored by Noble Marine, Rooster and RS Sailing. Photos by William Stacey.