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Eastern Creeksea Open - Report

CREEKSEA PHANTOM OPEN MEETING

An impressive fleet of 28 boats entered the Creeksea Phantom Opening Meeting which yet again proved to be a favourite with regulars who knew that every effort would be made to attend to all their needs. The traditional barrels of beer had been carefully selected by the home fleet and proved an immediate hit with those that arrived early on Friday afternoon.

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On Saturday Race Officer Edwin Buckley was faced with something of a dilemma as the North Westerly breeze did not look to be settled and with a flooding tide it looked difficult to get a true beat for the first race. He therefore sent the fleet heading up river on the clubs favourite course of Cliff and Canewdon, with a short beat across the river before a long run back to Creeksea. The weather gods soon realised his predicament and shortly after the start the wind picked up and the heavens opened to wake the fleet up and stretch some muscles. The fleet found they had a hard beat to contend with which soon split the fleet into two groups for the reach to Canewdon. After a quick fetch across the river the fleet decided that the south bank was the prefered option to better the flooding tide although choosing where to cross the river to get to the start line proved a challenge that resulted in some place changes. Paul Church made the best of this challenge to score a race win ahead of Matt House and John Wayling.

After a buffet lunch the fleet took to the water for two back to back races over the same course. The tide had by now started to ebb hard and the breeze was weakening. The obvious tactic was to short tack close to the Creeksea shore and Roberts and Wayling pulled ahead of the fleet and looked to have secured a good lead ahead of the fleet who were struggling to find the breeze. Several boats had spotted that Clive Morley had headed for the south shore to benefit from a bit more breeze and a generous lift made this strategy look like an attractive option.

On crossing the river Morley was overjoyed to lay the mark some considerable distance ahead of Roberts and Wayling and the rest of the fleet. Having made the mark the tidal gate swung open and rushed Morley to the next mark off the club and a comfortable win looked in the bag for a resurgent Morley - but the next mark was the 13 navigation mark – which has developed something of a reputation as a leveller of the great and good this season – which sits in deep water off Baltic Wharf where the tide is strong running.

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A quick tack around the mark and a beat to the line seemed like the best option but it wasn’t to be as the wind was still weak and a tack back to head for the shore and a weaker tide looked essential. This pushed Morley downriver at a rapid rate and to his horror he saw Roberts round the mark and head for the shore ahead of him, followed by Wayling who also benefited from a good lift to head for the shore somewhat higher than Roberts. A tacking duel in an area of wind shadow now took place with Roberts pulling ahead to get over the line in first place. Wayling took second and Roger Smith sailing his first Phantom Open from the home club took third ahead of Morley.

With the hard running tide and a fading wind the decision was made to finish racing for the day and the fleet adjourned to enjoy an Indian meal at The Polash restaurant in Burnham. The sponsors of the local Phantom sailors worked hard to feed the fleet and followers. The attendance of the local press for a photo call saw the local fleet in their new “Powered by Polash” polo shirts pose for photos with the proprietor. Mooning by an unnamed Phantom sailor will hopefully be photo-shopped out!

Sunday looked likely to produce a similar dilemma for the race officer in setting a fair beat but suggestions of a long drag race to the River Roach were thankfully dismissed and a variation of the original Cliff / Canewden course was posted.

The start line was also extended to the fairway on the far bank and the fleet found that the wind had once again swung round to give a decent beat upriver. On the up river section of the course the wind began to fluctuate and swing with half the fleet pulling away to form a tight bunch going across the river from Glaze to Bridgemarsh. Wayling got around the mark first but following boats discovered that they had not allowed sufficiently for the tide and this problem was compounded by a sudden reduction in wind strength that saw Roberts and Smith lay the mark on starboard just as the port takers began to approach the mark. On the run back to the club line Roberts tried to put Wayling under pressure but he kept his cool to cross the line whilst the following pack again had a difficult decision to decide when to commit to crossing the tide to reach the line with Church mastering this to take third.

The next race was run over the same course and this time Wayling made it look easy win a win ahead of Church. Phil Longley the Class Chairman from local club Stone enjoyed a good race to take third - a sign of things to come in his brand new boat.

After a break for lunch the fleet were delighted to see that the predicted sea breeze had kicked in and a downriver course was set to make the best of the opportunity to show the fleet off to the Burnham clubs. A classic port tack start by Longley surprised the fleet and it looked like this race was in the bag for him. The beat with the ebbing tide was quickly over and the challenge of the rush inshore to beat the tide and run back to Creeksea saw anxious moments for many as rudders hit mud and gybes were required to either clear air from the gathering pack or dodge the weed that seemed to have gathered for this moment.

Place changes were frequent and Wayling managed to get ahead of Longley on the run to build up a good lead to the next mark before a shorter beat back downriver. Unfortunately it was only later that Wayling realised that it was necessary to sail through the club line on the upwind leg and after rounding the mark he had to make good his mistake and resume the race. This gave the lead back to Longley with Church now in close contact for the run back up river.

Once again it was difficult to decide how best to tackle the dilemma of less tide / less wind with the option of sailing the rhum line to the mark in more breeze but a stronger tide. Longley kept his cool and punched the tide to round the mark ahead of Church whilst Roberts had kept inshore and reached in fast to catch Church at the rounding.

The short beat back to the line saw Longley win with a close finish between Church and Roberts.

Due to the time and the distance that several sailors had travelled it was decided to miss the final scheduled race and that was it for another year.

At the prize giving Wayling thanked the Safety boat teams and the race officer, together with all those that had given their time to fetch trolleys (Tim Gold's press ganged offspring!) and feed the fleet etc.

The next event on the Eastern Circuit is a rescheduled event at Stone Sailing Club on 16th and 17th July. The next Grand Prix event is at Shoreham on 8th and 9th July.

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