The lure of the East Coast drew 26 Merlin Rockets to the Brightlingsea Craftinsure Silver Tiller on the 18th and 19th May 2019. The sky was unusually blue, the water reassuringly brown and the locals extremely welcoming.
A promise of sunshine and a sea breeze from the organiser, Dan Willett, was delivered upon and four races with multiple starts were held on the Saturday in plenty of wind. The fireballs, hornets and albacores seemed to have more success staying behind the imaginary line until the gun went, but three recalled starts and a few notable numbers on the blackboard later, the Merlins started race one.
The little heard of pairing of Nick Craig and Tobytastic Lewis won the first beat, and sailed away, with the rest of the fleet taking each other all over the ocean in misguided efforts to overtake each other. Sophie Mackley and James Ward were the first to consistently demonstrate that the left was the place to be and with an extra knot of tide under them dominated the upwind legs. Tim Fells and Frances Gifford did something wise and got through to second, ultimately followed home by Pete Ballantine and Rob Allen.
By race two there was really a lot of ebb tide taking the fleet up to the windward mark. Even more than a lot on the left, so winning the pin and tacking last seemed to win the race. Ian Sharps and Alex Warren having watched race one, had worked this out and sailed off into a resounding victory, followed by Tim Saxton and Tom Pygall who had been at the pin for all six of the starts so far. Matt Biggs and Annabel Steward rounded out the race two podium.
The racing carried on like this for the rest of the afternoon, with Chrisses Gould and Kilsby winning race three and Sharps and Warren race four. Race three saw a tighter battle for the race win and by race four it had got a bit chilly.
With the tide having been fast-flowing in an outward direction for almost all of the afternoon, it was no great surprise to find there wasn’t much water up at the club. Luckily they have a very long slipway allowing for a suitably long queue for the hose. But no-one minded because it had been a great day.
This was celebrated with multiple pints of Poretti, which looks like Moretti and sounds like Moretti, but it’s only ever been seen in Brightlingsea Sailing Club. It has very similar effects to Moretti but its definitely not Moretti. Poretti. Laura Willett and Pete Nicholson’s mum had cooked enough chilli for the entire population of Essex so we ate that, and then some people squeezed in some apple pie.
Day 2 and the sky was now less blue which made the East Coast more East Coast-like but sadly lacking in the sea breeze that we had enjoyed so much the day before. Race officer, Phil Rust, seemed to have seen days like this before and had an air of pessimism about him. It turned out to be a good day for an early prize-giving followed by stand up paddle-boarding in light rain.
So Ian Sharps and Alex Warren took their first Silver Tiller win together, throwing down a proverbial gauntlet for the rest of the season. Tim Saxton and Tom Pygall’s consistency gave them second and third went to Tim Fells and Frances Gifford. The silver fleet was won by local legends, Piers Lambert and Tim Bees and Geoff and Helen Kimber continued their bronze fleet domination. Pete Ballantine won a trailer wheel for travelling to Essex from Salcombe and was heard to remark upon how much more stunningly beautiful the East Coast is.
Thanks to Brightlingsea Sailing Club for an excellent open meeting.
The Craftinsure Silver Tiller circuit continues on 2nd June to Ranelagh Sailing Club, the finest venue known to the international sailing fraternity. The trophy first presented in 1946 will be fought for on the iconic River Thames, followed by chicken cassoulet, french bread and salad, consumed round the convivial Ranelagh dinner tables. Literally not to be missed.