Sunday, 28 July 2013

East Coast Old Gaffers Race

57 ft Pioneer - local Smack built in 1864, relaunched 2003
The 50th ECOG Race started in very light winds although stronger breezes were forecast for later. About seventy boats left the start line near Brightlingsea, making a fine sight as they made their way down the Colne. It was a difficult race for the race organisers and the conditions required two changes of course after the initial announcement. Several boats retired due to running aground or slow progress. The rest of the fleet made sedate progress with all light weather sails on display.

About half way around there was a lot of congestion around a buoy off the old nuclear power station at Bradwell and we managed to slip ahead of several boats. This cleverness didn't pay off however as, after rounding the buoy, we lost the wind while tacking between two smacks and collided with one of them. The boats were moving quite slowly: there was no damage whatever to the old smack and only a fairly minor scrape along Bonita's starboard rail. As we had to use the engine to extricate ourselves from the situation and to avoid further damage, we retired from the race at that point and sailed back to Brightlingsea. See our track below (click for detail).

The crew were a bit unsettled by this encounter and we were disappointed not to complete the race. We talked over what went wrong. I think that once we had lost way on the boat there was nothing we could have done to avoid a collision. I felt the helmsman on the smack could have easily prevented it with a minor course change, but the view from his deck may well have been different. Smacks are big unwieldy things that are sailed very competitively and I suppose we should have kept further away from them in a congested and confused situation.

So a bit of a frustrating day for us. However later there was a prize giving ashore and hospitality in the Colne Yacht Club with music well into the night.