The 46th annual Mersea Week finished on Friday 16th August, and like most sailing around the country, the racing was held in pretty tough conditions – quite a contrast to the sunshine and sea breezes enjoyed by competitors last year.
As many as 70 volunteer helpers supplemented the organising committee to make the week happen, with the usual separate committee vessels and race areas out in the River Blackwater estuary for keelboats and dinghies.
With overall sponsorship from Marinestore Chandlery and Adnams Brewery, daily sponsors and free moorings for visitors, entry fees are kept to a fraction of some other annual regattas in order to maximise participation, and this year 138 boats of all shapes and sizes took part. These ranged from the fastest IRC Sportsboats, four classes of yacht (IRC, classic, Locally Handicapped and White Sail), Sonata one designs, traditional Smacks, three dinghy fleets and Mersea Fisherman’s Open Boats. On the opening day, strong winds with near-gale force gusts saw the dismasting of a sportsboat, a man overboard in the Sonata fleet and a lot of capsized dinghies, whilst bizarrely, keelboat racing was abandoned on the following day through a lack of wind! Competitors then enjoyed the best conditions of the week on Tuesday, with a layday on Wednesday before Thursday and Friday saw the return of strong winds for the final racing of the week.
In the Smacks, the best entry for some years of 13 of these fine tan sailed boats made a spectacular sight, and despite suffering a broken boom on Tuesday, Ross Wey sailing Alberta won the class from Richard Haines’ Kate and Richard Robinson’s Martha II. Nick Purdie’s Gracie was the leading smack in the slow group. The IRC Sportsboats needed a tie-break to determine the overall winner – Richard Matthews in his Melges 24 What A Blast drawing level on points by winning the final race by just 27 seconds from Toby Ramsay’s self-designed and built Mojito. This enabled Matthews to take top slot from Mojito, with Martin Gozzett, the leading Cork 1720 in third.
Mersea Week Chairman Julian Lord with his International H Boat Humdinger won the IRC Cruisers from Scot Yeates sailing his Holman classic Stiletto and John Munns Nicholson 43 Dark Horse, whilst in the ten boat Sonata ODs, Camel (Simon Farren) dominated with four firsts to win from Aubie Too (Tony Hawkes and Pat Hill) and the Gozzett Roberts & Shipton partnership with Wet Endeavour. There was a close tussle in the Locally Handicapped cruiser class, with Paul Harrison’s Beneteau 33.7 Maverick winning from Steve Johnson helming the late Frank Reed’s Hustler 32 Tramp. Paul Harrison also took the prize for the best overall performance in the cruiser classes. Barry Ashmore’s Algonquin was third up and winner of the division for the slower boats in this fleet.
A second place in the final race gave local boatyard owner Peter Clarke with Tasman top prize in the Classics and Gaffers class, ahead of Richard Bailey’s Cornish Crabber Lahloo and Timothy Howes Buchanan Saxon Aelfwyn. Finally in the keelboats, the White Sail fleet for yachts not using spinnakers was dominated by Jon and Penny French’s Oyster 26 Sea Pie, ahead of James Millar’s sistership Pipedream, with David Curtis Bavaria 34 Hannelore best of the fast boats in third.
Mersea Week 2019 – photo © Chrissie Westgate
A big fleet of 24 of the Mersea Fisherman’s Open Boats competed in the week. These are clinker built, gaff rigged open boats with no decking, and capsizing is nearly always terminal! Two of the races for this class were lost because of strong winds, whilst the final day’s racing for both them and the dinghy classes were sailed in the more sheltered creeks of West Mersea, rather than out in the River Blackwater estuary. Bryan Sargeant’s Merlin dominated the Fast fleet and as overall winner also took home the new Golly Gamble Trophy. Next up in the fast fleet was Gerard Swift’s Gipsy and David Haynes Thrift, whilst Winnie (Simon Jacklin), Overproof (Lucy Struth) and Woody (Tom Fleetwood) were the top three in the slow fleet.
In the dinghy classes, James Sparks Phantom Q won the Fast class (and the best overall performance by a dinghy) ahead of Michael Izatt’s RS600 Le Surf and Dan Woodcock’s RS400 Hotblack Desiato. Top slot in the Medium Fast class went to Janek Payne’s Laser Radial, ahead of two regular Mersea Week Enterprise dinghies – those of Brian and Linda Cummings and Peter and Elaine Dolling. Like the MFOBs, the conditions meant that the Medium dinghies lost two of the five scheduled races, and Charlotte Allen and Julia Martin’s RS Feva XL was the only boat to complete all three races, winning overall from another Feva XL, that of Alex Canham and James Humphreys.
The week concluded with the main prizegiving at West Mersea YC, with a full range of trophies and glassware for all the leading boats, supplemented this year by some fabulous additional prizes provided by Marinestore Chandlery, having been sourced from their suppliers including Marlow, Dubarry, Barton, Helly Hansen and Mustoby the company’s MD Eleanor Callus.
Full results can be found at www.merseaweek.org
Mersea Week 2019 – photo © Chrissie Westgate
by Julian Lord