Lack of wind on the first day did little to affect the carnival spirit round town at the gloriously sunny opening weekend of Burnham Week 2017, which this year celebrates 125 years.
With 155 entries, which is almost 20 per cent up on last year, this premier east coast regatta continues to attract the some of the country’s leading sailors particularly from the Squib and Dragon classes. Despite the lack of racing on Saturday when the sea breeze failed to materialise, racing throughout the rest of the weekend has been extremely competitive and has produced some worthy winners. The race committee even managed to make up for lost racing on Saturday by running two shorter races today.
On shore the now established Bank Holiday Monday Quay Day supported by Burnham Week organisers – Burnham Week Ltd – is one of the event’s social highlights. Once again this iconic east coast town welcomed thousands of visitors keen to embrace the pirate-themed shore side activities and help celebrate this special anniversary event.
In a light but relatively steady south-easterly breeze, crews in the 13 classes, which comprised big boat IRC Classes, multihulls, keelboats, cruisers and dinghies, enjoyed two good races. With results in some cases going down to the wire, racing in today’s final Bank Holiday Series was exceptionally exciting.
The boost in overall numbers this year including an impressive 25-strong Squib fleet and 12 Dragons, and good support from local one-design classes such as The Royal Burnham One-Designs with 12, and Royal Corinthian One-Designs with 10, and strong support from the Gig racing association team, this friendly traditional town regatta looks set to go from strength to strength.
With 25 boats on the start line, this highly competitive fleet produced intense racing throughout but it was local dinghy sailor Jamie Mears on By The Lee who showed his true colours and concluded the weekend with a perfect 1,2,1 scoreline and in doing so managed to out sail Micky Wright and Alex Porteous on Spoof. Mears commented: “It was a really good weekend of racing. I think getting off the start line in clear wind, and into the bank first was key today. The breeze was great and it really picked up for some good racing this afternoon. It was fairly shifty so it was also important to use those shifts to tack on. It really was Burnham at its best.”
An impressive 12 Royal Burnham One-Designs, which is 50 per cent of the boats still in existence, turned out this weekend to contest the weekend’s Wylie Patterson Cup. The opening race for this 85-year-old one-design class was won by Amanda sailed by David Smith, Sarah Hastwell, and Charlie Renwick. They followed this up with a second to Red Jacket (Stephen Herring, Mel Lewis, David Harris, and Vincent Barrelet) but in today’s concluding race they were back on form and clinched the overall win with a clear four-point advantage.
The Royal Corinthian One-Design class mustered a healthy 11-boat fleet and once again this local classic, which is now 83 years old, produced top class racing with the overall win still undecided going into the final race.
Justin Waples and team on Cormorant enjoyed close racing with brother John on Corpo Santo, and Sue Law on Coralie. Chatting about the racing after his class win, Justin Waples said: “It really goes to show that old one-designs can have exceptionally close racing with the whole fleet finishing within 15 seconds of each other.”
The big change in the format for the IRC class this year is the Town Cup – the premier Burnham Week Trophy. Instead of a one off race on the final Saturday of the event, the Town Cup is now run over a three-race, no-discard series. The winner of the first race (Town Cup 1) was won by a J/80 Glorious Fools sailed by Digger Harden/Peter Jackson but overall the weekend series winner and winner of Race 2 (Town Cup 2) was Duncan Haley’s well sailed Corby 29 Double Trouble.
Today’s winner for the Commodore’s Cup was David Evans from Walton and Frinton YC racing his Hustler 32 Hullabaloo. This was the fourth time Evans has won the trophy. “I thought I’d come round and have another go at it. I have raced at Burnham Week for 43 years. I love this regatta because everyone is so friendly. Today was amazing, in fact I’d say the sailing was as good as I have ever had it. It really was classic Burnham Week weather with everybody smiling and everybody happy.”
With some well-seasoned international racers in the 12-strong Dragon fleet, consistency was the name of the game. With two fourths and a first, Peter Marchant and Katie Cole sailing with Jono Brown on Beauty and the Beast clinched the series from Mark and Mandy Wade and Chris Brittain on Avalanche.
Commenting on his win, Marchant said: “It all came good in the end. We had fabulous conditions in the last race with winds up to 12-15kts. It really was Champagne sailing. Winning today was all about speed and knowing the right way round the course. That was important. I made the normal Peter Marchant start in the last race, which is not very good, but the first start was a cracking one and we managed to win that one. The good news is most of the fleet is racing during the week too, so we are looking forward to more good racing.”
Class 5 & 6 local handicap
There was just one point between the top two boats in Class 5 with Grace and Danger sailed by Roger Noble, Stephen Gosling, Robert Noble, Steven Bratt, and Sophie Gosling taking the overall win from last year’s winners. As hard as they tried, Daryl Mylroie, Mike Dedman, David Owen, Dominic Mylroie, Roger Cruiks on their Nimbus Maxi Eclipse were unable to repeat their winning performance from last year and had to settle for second this weekend.
With two wins on his score sheet Ian Keam-George and team on Lucy Ann, the Beneteau 323, sailed well to win Class 6 local handicap for the YH White Sails Trophy from John Saunders’ Elan 31 Jeanie.
It was great to see some good competition in the Multihull class with the likes of local hotshots Simon Barnes, Jeremy Polturak and Charlie Pitcher winning the weekend on their super-fast Dragon Fly 28 Performance, Persuasion. They won the first two races but in the fresher breeze this afternoon, were unable to hold off the two Farrier 27s sailed by Nick Wood (Origami), and John Galloway (Threedom) who took first and second respectively in the final race of the series.
It was no surprise to see local talented sailor Richard Bavin take control of the RS Elite class this weekend to win the Princess Caroline Bowl. Sailing Serious Moonlight, Bavin held off former class winner David Wood on Oinksqueal to finish the weekend two points clear.
It may be a smaller than usual fleet with just four boats sailing, but there was no shortage of close racing this weekend. Nick Tolhurst, Deborah de Boltz, and David Hanson sailing the late John Lewis’ 707 Baby Beluga befittingly won the weekend series with two wins and a second. Team Baby Beluga raced well as a team and managed to hold off the local 707 hotshot, Paul Gray, from Maylandsea Bay YC on Beaver Hunter.
Dinghy racing at Burnham Week always attracts a good entry and this year was no exception. The Phantom class East Coast championship attracted 12 boats from all along the east coast. However, it was local Creeksea SC sailor Chris Roberts who used his local knowledge to gain an impressive 1,1,2 scoreline.
It didn’t look so good for Roberts in the penultimate race however, when he found himself late for the start. An impressive tactical decision on the last section of the race today was the key to his overall win. “I was very fortunate with my win today because I missed the start sequence and was 200 yards behind the line and everyone else sheeted in and gone. On the final leg they [the fleet] were short tacking up the south bank and I went to the north bank and managed to lay the pin.”
A final race second place was enough for Roberts to take the overall class win.
In the ever-popular Osprey class it was Mick Greenland from Isle of Sheppey YC sailing his year old boat – OMG – with his friend and fellow helmsman Ken Brown who won the series. Just five minutes between the entire fleet at the finish gives an indication of just how close the racing was.
An elated Greenland commenting about his win said: “We had a great weekend but had to work at it. In the first race we led and were miles out in front but then sailed the wrong course, which left us half a mile astern. We then worked our way through the fleet again and won. In the last race today we had a really close race and spent the race holding off our closest rival. We did it but it was tough. As always at this event, we really enjoyed it.”
As part of their commitment to the event, the Osprey class hosted a class barbecue over the weekend and raised £110 for the RNLI Burnham Boathouse Fund.
In the Dinghy Fast Handicap fleet, Scarlett Anderson in an RS200 started the series well with a first race win but as the wind increased today it was Jamie Waterhouse in a 470 who sailed to his strength and managed to notch up two wins to take the series from Anderson by just one point.
One of the biggest attractions for spectators during the first weekend is the hugely popular Gig Racing, which takes place just off the Quay.
Gigs from rowing clubs from all along the east coast wowed the crowds during the 6.2-mile sprint race for the Lord Nelson Cup yesterday. The overall winner, who took home £500 prize money, was the mixed team from Lower Thames on Victory – a Celtic Longboat. The men’s category winner was from Southend Rowing Club on Rozinante – a Seax Gig. Flying the flag for the girls was team High Spirit from Burnham on Crouch Rowing Club on a Spirit class Gig, who won the Women’s category.
The week ahead
Racing continues all week and concludes next Saturday with Trophy Day, which includes the final race in the three-race Town Cup series for IRC Class yachts.
A special mid week dinghy memorial race in memory of John Torrence - a local, and regular Burnham Week competitor who passed away nearly a year ago - will be held at Burnham Sailing Club at 1800. It is an open event with a Fast and Slow Handicap fleet and, according to the dinghy fleet sailors here at Burnham Week, a large fleet is expected.
Burnham Week’s famous shore side entertainment programme also continues all week. This includes a grand fireworks display to mark the end of the regatta and celebrate the prizewinners, this will take place next Saturday evening (4 September).