Colne Point Long Distance Race

Marconi Sailing Club: Sunday July 4th 2010

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colne point race

Alex Montgomery heard the Essex forecast of sunshine and westerlies 3 to 4, due to swing SW rising to 5-6, and raced to the 0850 Colne Point Race start to join regulars Paul Ellis and Alastair Forrest.

Big fleets turned out for both Three Piers and Colne Point races, with the three Catapults amongst forty-four for the 29-mile Colne Point, including several fast singlehanders and the Spitfire Youth Squad  As always, the bigger cats mustering for their earlier start and 50 mile Three Piers course gave an adrenalin-packed atmosphere.

The start was dead down-wind, with the tide sweeping down towards the line, so a good start was a safe start, finding a way through the vocal downwind gybing. For all their activity, the gybing boats took a long time to clear the three Catapults (electing a simple proper course, with some searching for tide or wind) and some gybing boats (the older larger cats and Sprints) never did and fell behind.

The three Catapults showed very close speeds, Paul inching ahead out in the stream. Alastair had re-rigged his outhaul-in-haul controls to give greater camber dead downwind, and when this was applied it seemed to give him a little speed over Alex, gradually gaining a couple of hundred metres.

Alex came up on both with a long gust, and at the Bradwell gate, the three Catapults were 50 metres apart after seven miles of sailing.

Leaving the land to cross the bay, the breeze swung SW and freshened. Paul picked up a gain, while Alex, seeing this as the signal to put the boards down and tighten up, lost while doing this, and then lost again reversing it all when it swung back west behind the boats.

(Right: Paul on the pre-race crowded slipway)


boats on the marconi hard

Having Paul the local man out a hundred yards ahead helped the traditional search for the Colne Point Gate on the far shore, the mark for the turn home, and he rounded ahead of Alastair, with Alex another minute back.

The turn revealed that the breeze had gradually freshened, to be a trapezing breeze for the whole of the beat home. The tide turned at 10:15, and wind against the tide kicked up a steep chop with some biggish waves out in the bay, until Bradwell and the Blackwater were reached again. It gave demanding sailing, keeping the Catapults (with round front sections tending to slam) moving fast and consistently, and in the Blackwater heavy gusts down the river kept the concentration going

Paul’s tactics were to keep a fairly straight course back to Bradwell (to starboard of the course marker boats). It meant tacking more often to avoid going too far off a direct course.

catapults running colne point

    Alastair lost steadily against the other two, falling behind while Alex strove to catch Paul, gaining perhaps two minutes over the next 20 miles on the trapeze, but finishing 45 seconds behind.

Paul came in on 3 hours 36 minutes (for 29 crow-fly miles, and perhaps 35 sailed miles) and the Catapults were bunched on corrected time, with Paul 16th in the 44-strong fleet, with Alex 17th . Alastair was 23rd a result which flattered him as ten minutes had opened up from the two others.

A Shadow won, followed by a Nacra 18, with a little Topaz Ultra doing well at third, and 5 Spitfires and 5 Sprint 15s filling most of the other places ahead of the Catapults.   

(Left: Alastair (camera) Paul and a barge slip down the Blackwater)

   Post-script: Alastair again netted the “Oldest Finisher” trophy for the two races. Exceptionally consistent sailing allowed him to beat Paul by exactly the same margin as last year. Next year, he plans to collect it in the correct Three Piers prize-winner dress code --- wearing only sunglasses and a wetsuit rolled down to the hips.

 blackwarer sailing