Concentration was the name of the game at the first Sharpie Open event of 2018, with light, shifting winds and at times perilous shallows ensuring challenging racing inside the harbour at Overy Staithe.
Seven Sharpies made the start, with help from Andy Turner on board Committee Boat Blossom and the safety boat team of Simon “Spike” Turner and Louise Waring. Race Officer Dave Cooper, assisted by Brancaster’s Patrick Neal on Saturday and Overy’s Rodney Tidd on Sunday, did exceptionally well to get in four races to complete an exciting series.
The Overy crews of GBR 133 Ghost (Ben and Paul Goakes) and GBR 128 Capella (Alex Smith and Paul Beachell) were hoping to make the most of their local knowledge against the five visiting crews from Wells. But Chris Gibbs and Charlie Orton clearly had other ideas and showed they had no intention of relinquishing the trophy won by GBR 125 Windspiel last year, scoring an easy first win and leaving the other crews to battle it out in their wake. Ghost secured a valuable second place and Richard Mulderij and Alastair “Oggy” Ogle in NED226 Fuut nabbed third spot.
Race Two was closer, with Windspiel harried around the course by the others, with Martin Read and Imogen Gibbs in GBR 135 Poelsnip reading the shifts well and finding good boat speed. But Windspiel managed to stay ahead, while Ghost grabbed another crucial second and Poelsnip turned the tables on Capella to cross the line in third.
Day Two dawned with more sunshine and not much wind, giving the crews a chance to discuss Meghan’s dress, Harry’s E-Type and Chelsea’s FA Cup win during the tow down the creek. With a start line just off Scolt Head Island, Ghost and Capella battled up to the first mark, only for the yellow-hull to run aground on a mud bank.
Although Windspiel, this time crewed by Maddie Gibbs, managed to get into second, Ghost held them off with a great display of light air sailing to claim the win. Capella crossed the line in third, while Tim Ashby and Charlie Borthwick in GBR 111 Southern Cross escaped a raft in the doldrums off the East Beach to notch up a well-deserved fourth.
The final race was a thriller, going right down to the wire. A sea breeze had picked up and with a windward mark out in the channel the fleet had a real race beating out through the waves from the bar as the tide ebbed. After a rare navigational slip-up by Windspiel, Poelsnip set the place, pursued by Capella and Fuut in a closely-fought battle. There is some excellent footage of the fleet surfing back into the harbour which you can catch in the gallery and on the BSOA & OSSC and Facebook pages.
Although a near capsize at the gybe mark nearly ended Poelsnip’s race, her crew miraculously kept her upright and stayed ahead of their closest competitors in the 50-minute race, ultimately giving them their first win and third place overall. Meanwhile, Andrew Cracknell and Justine Sykes in GBR 16 Titania scored their best result of the series with a 4th, showing glimpses of the speed that won them a race in the Sharpie Nationals last year.
The result meant Chris and Maddie clinched the Overy Trophy, presented back at the Staithe by OSSC Commodore Camilla Warner, with Ben and Paul second, only two points adrift. The racing bodes well for some close competition at the Wells Open on June 2-3 ahead of the British Championship at Brancaster which takes place on June 16-18.