Once all the boats were rigged the Burnham hospitality kicked in with free bacon rolls and coffee together with the sponsored polo tops being handed out before the briefing. Then to the racing...
Conditions could be described as 'fresh' with a gusty force 5/6 over a strong tide, the result being waves - which took a few by surprise. The tide initially took Charles by surprise in the first start as he popped out of the blocks just a little early while Mervyn Wright was having the other problem - trying to get back to the start! The waves on the first triangle contradicted the customary river tactic of running to the shore to get out of the tide on the reach back to the leeward mark, instead the waves in the middle of the river paid handsomely and fun was had by all after the first lap. There was some confusion over the number of laps - the PRO had displayed correctly but with flags so the chandlery was busy that night! The first three were Greg Wells, Chris Waples then Steve Goacher being crewed by Tim Harper.
After a delay while the mark layers went to locate more ground tackle, the course was lengthened considerably to take advantage of the perfect easterly breeze for a long beat. That change in the length together with a different style of wave as the course took on more of the river, allowed for other boats to come to the fore. There were numerous place changes throughout and a real bunching at the end of lap 3. The Race Officer had put up No 4 (it was No 3 for the first race), so a few had to regroup quickly to keep their positions. The race finished - Steve Goacher in first place, then Hamish McKay with Greg Wells third. A glorious two mile run back to the marina through the moorings and the oncoming racing one design fleets on the river, kept everyone amused.
The customary beer from the back of the car for all, then off to more drinks (it just happened to coincide with Justin's brother hosting a drinks' party for the RCYC one design boat celebrating their 80th year) followed by supper at the Club. At some point in the evening Peter Bannister took it upon himself to toast the Class so fun was had by all.
The wind was a just a little less maybe force 4/5, and from a different direction, so the water was flatter - would this change the boats at the top? Hamish MacKay, crewed by Andrew Lawson, took full advantage of another long beat. Who was it that said Burnham couldn't have a beat with a Southerly? The River Crouch actually meets the River Roach that runs North to South, so perfect! MacKay and Goacher had a close battle, with Steve just taking line honours and Charles Apthorp coming third.
Edwin Buckley, the PRO, moved the course around a bit for this race, creating different angles of attack. McKay and Goacher again rounded 1&2 at the first rounding of the windward mark and repeated as in Race 3 with a gybe set only to turn directly into a strong current. Charles and Justin sneaked off to the east shore and stole a march, leaving MacKay and Goacher desperately trying to soak down to the shore. By the third lap on the last run, Goacher with 100 yds to go, sneaked ahead leaving Charles 2nd and Justin 3rd.
At this point the tide turned. For many this had gone unnoticed or the possible effects unnoticed. The River Roach takes on a different approach on an ebb tide, and by the second lap, those led by Justin almost caught the leading pack - if they had been nearer to begin with it might have helped some might say! The final places were the very consistent boats of Goacher from MacKay with Charles in 3rd.
To conclude, although a seemingly low turn-out, the boats came from eight clubs, the racing was very tight and of high quality and good fun, with a excellent 'crac' ashore. What did everyone miss? A brilliant weekend of championship racing in challenging conditions on an interesting stretch of water that rewarded thought - another time more boats could and should come along...
The final positions were:-
1st Steve Goacher & Tim Harper - Southern Champions
2nd Hamish MacKay & Andrew Lawson
3rd Charles Apthorp & Alan Green
Top girl was Amanda Waples crewing Justin coming 6th.
A huge mention and thank you to the sponsors of the polo shirts, Phil Evans Sailing Services, Goacher Sails, Waples Wines, and Allen Brothers (who also provided hats for all, and the spot prizes too).
Click here for the full results