The event was shared with Fireball and Merlins who held their own open meetings.
A relatively low turnout of Albs did not distract from some good close racing. The Brightlinsea club did a first-class job of organising the separate starts of the three fleets setting a traditional Triangle Sausage course for all fleets with three laps.
Launching just before midday all three fleets had a leisurely sail out on the ebb out to where the Colne joins the vast expanse of the Blackwater estuary. The race area was flanked by land on two sides with Tendering Hundred to the north-east and the beaches of Mersey Island to the west.
Saturday Race 1
At bang on 12:30 the race officer gave first warning signal for the 13 boat Fireball fleet who all got away cleanly. The next start was the Merlins who all had to come back for a general recall and wait for the Albacores to get away.
With a 12-15mph north-easterly breeze coming off Tendering Hundred the sea was quite flat. The first beat was to prove decisive, with a warm sunny day a few of the fleet ventured far right believing a sea breeze would fill in from the east and give them the advantage. Cunningly Matt Thompson had other ideas – having watched the Fireballs go up the left of the race track gain a big advantage he followed in their wake arriving at the windward mark with clear blue water between him and the fleet a lead that he held for all three rounds. Mike Mac who had been third round the windward mark reached off to gain second place. The run on the second lap saw some trading of second and third places however by the end of the third beat Mike Mac had established a firm second place with third place consolidated by Richard Smith.
The Fireballs got away cleanly again. The 29 Merlins were badly behaved again with several boats over but not a general recall.
The water remained quite churned up for the Albacore start five minutes later. There did not appear to be a favoured side and Mike Mac went ahead at the first mark followed by quite a tightly bunched fleet. Mike went on to sail a master class pulling away on every leg, Matt Thompson established himself into second on the first lap. There was quite a lot of trading places all the way round for the rest of the fleet with a close third place from Howard Witt just being achieved in the last 50 meters of the race.
Sunday Race 3
Race 3 was not as warm and quite overcast and with a light shifty wind from the north the race officer did well to get the Fireball fleet away.
The Merlin Fleet were not so lucky as with their start sequence in progress the race officer binned the start due to a significant wind shift. After a short wait the Merlins 5 min warning went and even starting against the ebb tide the entire fleet managed to be over for another general recall - apparently they had another general recall at their next start.
The Albacores got away cleanly initially there was 5mph wind to work with but this quickly died away to patchy and shifty conditions. Graham Darvill sailed up the middle of the race track and played the shifts well getting to the windward mark clear ahead of Mike Mac - positions they held until the end of the race. The rest of the fleet struggled to get round against the ebb tide and by the time they did Graham was off into the distance. Third place was contested by Andy, Matt and Howard down the first reach with Matt eventually establishing third place. By this time the Merlin fleet had swallowed up the Albacores and with an hour already raced the Race officer signalledfor a shortened course finishing the boats after 1 lap.
Race 4 & 5
The three fleets drifted around for over an hour. A passing Thames barge out of Maldon with its rig dropped on the deck and a sailing Mersey Oyster smack proved to be the only entertainment. With no sign of wind the race officer abandoned racing and sent the fleets ashore for an early pack up.
Full result available here: https://www.sailbrightlingsea.com/series/1628
There is potentially another Brighlingsea event next year – it's easily accessed from Maidenhead 115 miles of dual carriageway and east midlands 150 miles. The Colne / Blackwater Estuary is a greet sailing area and the facilities and race management at the club second to none. It is a mystery why this is such a secret location for most but those of us who took part intend to go again!
Richard Smith aka Mr 4thPlace