Eastern Cup Formula Report
8 August 2006
"Felixtowe was washed away,
So off to Clacton we went to play,
Andy's cafÃ© was no more,
All I heard was Ingram snore!"
Clacton was the destination for the UKWA and this year's Eastern Cup. The great forces of nature had conspired to deny us a trip to Felixtowe as the infamous long shore drift that has threatened many communities down the eastern sea board of the United Kingdom with the spectre of coastal erosion took its toll on the Felixtowe sea defences and eroded away the promenade where we supposed to be staying. It was with a last minute flurry that quick emergency plans were put into action and the venue was moved further down the coast to the seaside resort and UKWA favourite of Clacton. Most competitors were happy with this decision and indeed, who is anybody to argue with mother nature, it was only "all action Jackson" who showed some degree of disappointment as after a long winter of saving his shillings his plans to storm the market at Felixtowe and win the 2007 Bargain Hunt charity auction were left in ruins.
Not one to talk about myself â€¦.too much! I had to arrange an early return from the exotic windsurfing paradise of "El Medano" to attend the Clacton event and it was with some reluctance that I boarded the flight home at Tenerife south airport and began my air and land journey to Clacton - Waking in a cliff top house in El Medano to fall asleep in the back of a van in Clacton. I had plenty of time during the three and a half hour flight home to question my judgment and sanity, and even with such time for contemplation I have still to understand just what I was doing??!!
The forecast for the weekend was for not a lot of wind on Saturday building to some pretty strong winds on Sunday. The forecast for Saturday appeared to be pretty much spot on early doors with little wind about, a relaxed slow start is always welcome as it gives us all time to catch up, rig, register and get ready for action. True to the forecast the wind started to fill in from the south and it wasn't to long before a course was set and the dreaded orange flag was raised for all fleets-as if the gallows can handle all fleets at the same time! So afloat we went for the first race of the day, conditions were marginal to say the least, but none the less the race officer's optimism was answered as all formula sailors managed to get away from the start and powered off into the distance towards the windward mark, a scene reminiscent of swans emigrating south for the winterâ€¦..well it would have been if it wasn't for farmer Jones.
We had two races back to back before lunch and although in the first race I was a little under powered the wind was building nicely and the tide was also helping to increase what wind strength there was, it was the very tide that had swept away Felixtowe and Andy's CafÃ© that had just helped the flash punk to do me like a kipper on the way to the windward mark on the second lap of the second race. King Neptune obviously has a conscience.
Lunch came and the fleets went ashore to re-charge and get ready for the afternoon and the building wind speeds. Lunch was enjoyed with the topic of some random bit of rope that was floating around the starboard lay line for the windward mark, not knowing where this magical "lay line" was I was none the wiser but it had certainly caught a few of the other sailors out and I made a bit of a mental note to keep an eye out for this trip wire.
The afternoon brought a fresher breeze and ten meters were now beginning to pull a little hard on my medano weary hands and arms. Racing began and we were off, but up the first beat the paradise was shattered by the screaming rants of formula supremo Keith Atkinson who had fallen foul of the mythical rope of "lay line". The mythical rope lay below the surface and was unable to be spotted as you flew over the waves and amongst the busy sea state that comes with wind over tide. The rest of the fleet caught up and come the second lap I found myself tacking just behind Keith and in prime spot to see him fall foul of the mythical rope of "lay line" for the second time in the same race! The air turned blue as Keith released another verbal tirade against the forces conspiring against him. One mans loss is another mans gain though, and cunning as I am I decided to go 20 metres below Keith and thus avoid the mythiâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.maybe not, straight round the front I went, didn't even had to time shut my mouth as I let out a gargled scream of shock. "fancy see you here Keith" I called on re surfacing I don't think he heard me, I was down wind.
The afternoon continued with some great racing, the wind just continued to get stronger and the racing just got faster. It was kind of like one of those bleep tests you do at school (place of learning Mr Ingram, they've changed a bit, but still the same principle, boys and girls go together now though!) as you were getting more and more tired the wind was getting stronger and stronger. The race crew managed to locate the trip wire and used their maritime expertise to remove the obstruction and wipe the smile of "all action Jackson's" face! 6 races were finally run and at the end of racing all plans for a big night out in Clacton were dead and buried as bed was the only real option available given the fact that most of us could hardly carry our kit up the beach.
Off to the local watering hole we went for dinner and unlike the last formula report form Bridlington there was very little to write about! Entertainment was provided by one of our ever so courageous techno sailors who's attempts to enjoy some local hospitality were sadly dashed by some interfering formula sailors, the poor soul will remain anonymous but Glaswegian "bronzed Adonis" will be holding a charm school at the next event for all those wanting to learn from the master, which by a stroke of luck is in Clacton! Genius!
Sunday. Oh Sunday, what a day, it had it all wind, waves, controversy and shore break! I can't remember what the wind speed was when we awoke but it was pretty windy and the sea state was pretty rough. In fact the one vivid memory I have was looking at Jay Williamson (race officer) announcing to us all that the orange flag was going up for all fleets as the wind had dropped to 16 knots whilst over his shoulder Richard Jones pulled of an enormous back loop on his 4.5m sail in the shore break. Exactly which wind meter did the 16-knot reading come off? The one under the seat? Or the one still in Mr Carr's pocket?! I speak in jest. The race boards went first and it was with some trepidation that the formula fleet watched our illustrious chairman Mr Ellis fly up to the windward mark and then stop, I don't think I've ever seen anyone get stuck at the windward mark before, anyway fair dues as he flagged all the way back down wind to safety and announced he'd be rigging his 6.5m instead. Yeah, good idea.
So then it was the fly boys from the formula fleet. Keith had made it perfectly clear that it was not formula weather and he was not going out, this handed a chance to "All Action Jackson" to possibly get some points back on Keith and retain his overall leadership at the top of the 2006 rankings with an event win. I don't know how many people went afloat for the start of Sunday's race, I was on a 7.5m sail and despite wanting too I had little chance to look at anything other than my feet and my front arm. It was sooooo windy and the sea was soooo rough. The flags dropped and the talk stopped, the fleet slowly made its way upwind with a two steps forward, one step backwards type of sailing. Downwind was just hideous, I just counted to ten lots to take my mind of the feeling of impending doom, which never seemed to be too far from the front of my mindâ€¦..should of counted slower. We eventually finished the race and I was glad to get back to dry land where I crawled out of the sea and ended 9 days of solid sailing. I was glad to get back to the beach and finish what was in hindsight the most enjoyable and exciting race I've ever competed in, though I was not thinking that at the time. My heart however went out to poor Xavier who'd finished ahead of me in second but sailed the wrong course and so got DSQ, never mind, my sympathy lasted about 2 seconds as I got promoted to third. But more heart break as youngster Aaron Curtis had sailed the race of his life to finish in second, only to find out his result was helped slightly by the fact he was half way to the windward mark before the flags had dropped, charity does not extend to halfway up the beat and he was given an OCS, the sympathy came back for just 1 second this time as I was now second! One mans loss and all that.
It was decided that racing would be finished for the day to the disappointment of some sailors and especially Alan Jackson who needed one more race to take the event win and stay ahead at the top of the 2006 rankings. Discussions will go on, but I guess if you've not won by the time racing is finished then you've obviously not won!
Prize giving was arranged and the trophies were distributed to all the various winners and runners up, a special mention to Lewis Robinson who sailed the Sunday course on his 7.8m techno! An amazing achievement, respect from all!
Sailors gave generously to the local Jet Ski club whom Ceri had arranged a whip round for as they were running a special fund raising day for a local girl. Thanks to all that gave generously. Thanks also to all the event sponsors, local council, Ceri and Race crews (tough conditions and tough job). I really thought the event was most enjoyable and ultimately worth travelling all the way back for from sunny Tenerife-now that's some seal of approval! We're back to Clacton for its original time slot in September, I hope the racing is just as good and hope to see even more people turn up to see just what they missed out on.
Results and pictures can be found elsewhere on the site. I apologise for the delay the neoprene world has been hectic.
GBR366 - gratefully supported by Sola Wetsuits, Severne Sails, Amex masts and booms, Merrel Footwear, Boardwise.