Rowhedge Regatta is always one of the highlights of the BOD season and this year’s edition was an epic with strong gusty winds, glorious sunshine and a fabulous welcome ashore.
Celia Charlton at the helm of C30 Sarah Louise got the best start off the Bateman’s line with the entire 9 strong fleet hugging the Mersea shore to keep out of the tide as they set off downriver on a course that took the fleet around Big Buoy, No 8 and then Mersea Wreck before heading direct to Rowhedge.
Hard on her heels were Mark White in C53 White Spirit, Alan Hicks in C54 Storm Petrel and Geoff Gritton in C56 Never Say Never who were jostling for position as they rounded Mersea Stone. Just behind the leading group Phil Rust in C16 Dulcet and Danny Fox in C8 Egret kept clear of the dog fight and began to make ground. Mark Wilby sailing C75 The Mike made a great start too but was further out into the tide and soon found himself dropping back as those inshore took advantage of the significantly reduced current.
It was nip and tuck on the beat out with plenty of place changes and some very close crosses. As they came to the turn upriver at No 8 it was Never Say Never leading with a narrow margin over Storm Petrel and Dulcet. Sue Bouckley sailing C50 Eider had started badly some yards behind the pack, but sailed a superb first beat to round No 8 in fourth place. Behind her White Spirit and Egret rounded overlapped and were followed in by Sarah Louise.
With the breeze regularly gusting over 20 knots the fleet made a spectacular sight as they hoisted their spinnakers for the long run to Rowhedge. As they reached Mersea Stone Dulcet had managed to pass Storm Petrel and hardened up a little to get inside Mersea Wreck Never Say Never elected to drop their spinnaker giving those behind the chance to make ground and ultimately loosing him several places.
It was true champagne sailing as they headed upriver towards Alresford Creek with the boats regularly powering up onto the plane on the gusts. Several boats suffered the speed wobbles but it was Dulcet that came closest to grief when their spinnaker guy twinning line popped out of the cleat destabilising the spinnaker suddenly and causing them to broach violently. For a few seconds the team in the support boat thought they were going to be called into action, but quick thinking by crew Jess Rust and Piers Lamber, who hopped out onto the plate, just saved the day. Although they got her back on her feet they scooped in half the Colne in the process and had a lot of pumping to do while Storm Petrel held onto the lead.
Egret meanwhile had been quietly making ground and as the river narrowed on the approach to Wivenhoe their policy of staying low on the Wivenhoe shore paid off and as the fleet worked its way through the painful doldrums of Prior Wharf and the Colne Barrier just inches separated Egret and Storm Petrel. As they picked up the first of some huge gusts coming through Wivenhoe Egret was just ahead and the gap between the two opened and closed as they hit the gusts and lulls.
The final approach to the finish provided a terrific spectacle as Storm Petrel made numerous attempts to pass Egret, almost doing so on several occasions, but on the line Egret just hung onto the lead to claim the Rowhedge Regatta Trophy with Storm Petrel second, White Spirit third and Dulcet fourth.
Once ashore Rowhedge delivered its usual wonderful welcome with free drinks for all the crews, some terrific food offerings, great stalls and lovely traditional entertainment. The BODs were followed home by the smacks whose awesome power and gleaming varnish and brass held everyone spellbound.
Six of the fleet stayed on to take part in the downriver race for the Ian Brown Trophy and provided the spectators with plenty of thrills and spills as they lined up and shorted tacked out of the village and down through Wivenhoe. White Spirit and The Mike led off the line with Egret third but by the time the fleet had cleared Priors Wharf and the last of the moorings it was Egret in the lead for the drag race home. Egret held her lead all the way back to the finish to make it a resounding two out of two.
A wonderful day was had by all and huge thanks must go to the Rowhedge Regatta organisers who did us proud and to Nick Readings for the loan of his big RIB and the high volume pump, which ultimately weren’t needed but which were a welcome reassurance for the fleet.
Next weekend we have a weekend off formal BOD racing, although there is BSC Club racing for those who still want to sail, so our next official BOD event is Wivenhoe Regatta on Saturday 24 June. Thursday nights will continue as usual in the meantime.