Marconi Sailing Club TT : Summer Series
Saturday 20th - Sunday 21st April 2024

Having concluded a successful Winter Series, the Dart 15s held their first Summer TT at Marconi Sailing Club on the beautiful River Blackwater on the Essex East Coast.

Nigel and Fiona Denchfield had kindly agreed to be Race Officers for the event and Alex Metcalf from Windsport International provided event support across the weekend.

Despite a very mild month to date, the wind went round to the north and had been exceptionally strong during the preceding week.  This did not deter the fleet and 24 competitors signed on for a weekend of racing alongside colleagues from the Shearwater fleet, joining us at the Marconi TT for the first time.

On Saturday, the racing was scheduled to start at 11:30am and the course was set round in the bay off Osea Island to maximise the possible length of the beat.   With winds ranging from 15 to 25 knots and decidedly chilly, a few fleet members decided to sit racing out for the day.  The plus side of the northerly direction was that the sea state was pretty flat as it was wind across tide.

The square course was set and following the Shearwater start, the fleet set off for the first race of the weekend.  It was the top of the tide so for a brief period of time, the tide was slack and the key to success for the first lap was getting lucky on the shifts and the gusts – of which there were plenty - both on the beat and the downwind leg.   Osea Island created some additional shifty conditions at the top of the course – added to by Thames Sailing Barge Blue Mermaid (run by the charity which had a bird's eye view of Shearwaters and Dart 15s managing the gusty reach (and wind shadows) from Mark 1 to Mark 2.

Steve Sawford (Rutland) led the fleet round mark 1, closely pursued by Jon Pearse (Marconi), Mark Aldridge (Grafham), Jenny Ball (Marconi) and Jason Clarke (Marconi).   By lap two, the ebb tide had started to make itself felt and standing out to the right hand side of the run from Mark 2 to 3 started to pay off, possibly helped by some extra puffs coming round the western end of the island.  This enabled Jenny and Jon to edge to the front of the fleet.  A few more closely fought and lively laps saw Jenny go on to take the win with Jon second, Mark third, Steve in fourth and Jason fifth.

Race 2 got swiftly underway with Jason leading at the first mark closely followed by Jenny, Mark, Steve, Ed Tuite Dalton (Draycote) and Jon.   The fleet set off down the run and rounded Mark 3 in time to see Jason do a spectacular pitch pole on his way to Mark 4.  After calling out to check Jason was OK, Jenny wasted no time in sailing round him and hope she could put a few boat lengths between them before he righted the boat, which Jason did remarkably quickly.  Mark was chasing hard with Ed, Jon, Steve, Andrew Dowley (Marconi) and David and John Ball (Marconi) also in the pack.   The windshifts made it difficult to decide the best route up the beat and all variations were tried to different levels of success each lap.   Jenny held on to take the win with Mark second and Jason very impressively regaining ground after his capsize to take third.  Ed was fourth followed by Jon, Steve, Andrew and David & John.

The falling tide necessitated the Committee Boat and start line to move slightly further up the course for Race 3 to be stationed in deeper water.   This time, Mark and Steve decided to opt for a port hand flyer.  Jason, Ed and Pete Sherwin (Stone) duly sailed down the line on starboard to close the gate, which they did, but unfortunately incurred an OCS for their pains.  Despite having to duck a few boats, Mark and Steve’s gamble paid off and they were clear first around the windward mark with Jason, Pete and Ed chasing hard.  Jenny, Jon, Andrew and Scott Wilcox (Stewartby) were in the pack not far behind.  Christophe Clarke (Marconi) managed his second capsize of the day on leg 2 but righted again and went on to finish the race.  The downwind leg again proved to be tactical and Scott, in particular, showed great pace.    But despite best efforts, there was no catching the leading pair with Mark taking the win and Steve second.  Jenny managed to sneak past Jon to take third and fourth respectively with Scott fifth, Andrew sixth and Rob Wilson (Stone) in sixth.

The fleet headed home after a lively and energetic afternoon of racing.  But at least that kept them warm, unlike the Safety Boat and Committee Boat crew who were decidedly cold by the time they came in.   After hot showers, tea and cake – the bar was duly opened.  The fleet sat down to a hot meal up in the clubhouse, with views across the sun setting behind Osea Island before returning down to the bar for an evening chatting about sailing, life and the universe.  And the Shearwater helm who had fallen off the back of his boat during race 3 leaving his boat and his young crew hurtling towards Maylandsea whilst he tried not to be run over by the fleet of Dart 15s descending on Mark 4.

Sunday’s forecast was for 17 to 23 knots from the north – with a plan for two “round the cans” races followed by a stand-alone long distance race - a ten mile figure of eight race around Osea and Northey Islands.  The race is a long standing feature of the Marconi TT but has not been raced for several years due to lack of wind.  This year, there was confidence that the long distance race would take place with a breezy but manageable forecast and straight line sailing both ways – potentially making for a record time.

However, Sunday morning dawned with more breeze than forecast and by the briefing at 9am, the weather station had been fluctuating between 25 and 30 knots with an unpleasant sea state off the club.  The decision was reluctantly taken to cancel the long distance race as spreading competitors and safety boat cover over a long course was imprudent given the conditions.   The start of the “round the cans” races were postponed to enable the Race Officer to head out to the race course and assess conditions round in the bay.  On a more positive note – the fleet took the opportunity to surprise Vice Chair, George Love, with a birthday cake to celebrate a milestone birthday, successfully organised in secret by his wife Pauline and fellow Carsington sailor, Ray Gall.

On returning to the club, the Race Officer reported that the conditions were breezy but sailable and the fleet opted to go ahead with the remaining two races.  A number of the fleet decided to stay ashore but very kindly got kitted up to help people launch safely in the onshore breeze for which the eight competitors were very grateful.

Race 4 got underway and for this race, the tide was still on the flood causing at least two boats to come into contact with the windward mark as a result.  Mark got an early lead off the start line with Steve and Jason on his heels, whilst Jon, Jenny and Andrew were chasing hard behind.  Jason and Steve had a close fought battle with Jon and Jenny having their own battle close behind.   Jason managed to get clear of Steve on the final upwind leg and Jenny managed to do the same with Jon.  Mark’s lead was, however, unassailable and he went on to take the win.  Jason followed in second and Jenny managed to pip Steve on the finish line with Jon in fifth.

By the start of Race 5, the tide had turned and was pushing competitors towards the Committee Boat.  Local sailors duly started a little further down the line but Committee Boat end was favoured by the wind shifts and the ability to tack off with the favourable tide.  Jon and Jenny who banged the left corner found themselves at the back of the fleet vs those who had gone right.    Mark and Steve were in the lead but were being hunted down all the time by Jason.  By the second lap, Jason had got himself to the front and stretched out a convincing lead although Mark and Steve never gave up the chase.  Andrew, Jenny and Scott were having their own closely fought battle with Andrew and Jenny gaining on the upwind leg and Scott faring better on the downwind leg.   Jason went on to take the win with Mark second and Steve third.   Jenny tacked off early after Mark 4 for the finish line and managed to take fourth place from Scott with Andrew close behind.

The fleet returned ashore and were grateful to have some assistance from kitted-up pit crew in the water to help with an onshore breeze landing.  It was still a very cold northerly breeze, but at least the sun was putting in an appearance!

Hot showers, tea and cake got everyone ready for prizegiving.  The many people who had made the event happen both ashore and afloat were thanked.  In particular, the safety boat crew who had a very cold job indeed plus the Committee Boat Crew and Race Officers Nigel and Fiona were thanked with bottles of wine for their efforts.

Spot prizes were awarded to Jemma Clarke for gritting her teeth and completing all three races on Saturday and to John Ball as our youngest competitor who got frozen whilst racing as a crew on Saturday and eventually got brought ashore by his dad after two races.

Prizes were then awarded from 8th place and were a good mix of local sailors plus pond sailors:

A big thank you to Nigel and Fiona Denchfield for giving up their weekend to run the racing and to all the safety boat teams for enduring two very cold days on the water.  Thanks also to everyone shoreside who supported registration, tally board, results, galley and bar – very much appreciated.

Pictures taken by Paul Metcalfe
Report by Jenny Ball

Fleet Sail No Helm Crew Boat Sailing Club Rank R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 Total Nett
Dart 15 66 Mark Aldridge Grafham Water SC 1st (3.0) 2.0 1.0 1.0 2.0 9.0 6.0
Dart 15 2025 Jenny Ball Catbert Too Marconi Sailing Club 2nd 1.0 1.0 3.0 3.0 (4.0) 12.0 8.0
Dart 15 2037 Jason Clarke Marconi Sailing Club 3rd 5.0 3.0 (25.0 OCS) 2.0 1.0 36.0 11.0
Dart 15 2033 Steve Sawford Tigershark Rutland SC 4th 4.0 (6.0) 2.0 4.0 3.0 19.0 13.0
Dart 15 2035 Jon Pearse Marconi Sailing Club 5th 2.0 5.0 4.0 5.0 (7.0) 23.0 16.0
Dart 15 1359 Scott Wilcox Stewartby 6th 6.0 (9.0) 5.0 7.0 5.0 32.0 23.0
Dart 15 1410 Andrew Dowley Sailing Chandlery Marconi Sailing Club 7th (8.0) 7.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 33.0 25.0
Dart 15 1988 Christophe Clarke Bongo Fury Marconi Sailing Club 8th (13.0) 11.0 10.0 8.0 8.0 50.0 37.0
Dart 15 1966 Robert Wilson The Usual mistakes Stone Sailing Club 9th 9.0 10.0 7.0 (25.0 DNC) 25.0 DNC 76.0 51.0
Dart 15 2016 Keith Chidwick Ritardando Datchet Water SC 10th 11.0 12.0 9.0 (25.0 DNC) 25.0 DNC 82.0 57.0
Dart 15 2023 Edward Tuite-Dalton Draycote Water 11th 7.0 4.0 (25.0 OCS) 25.0 DNC 25.0 DNC 86.0 61.0
Dart 15 1339 Jemma Clarke Marconi Sailing Club 12th 14.0 14.0 11.0 (25.0 DNC) 25.0 DNC 89.0 64.0
Dart 15 1923 David Ball John Ball Two's Complement Marconi Sailing Club 13th 10.0 8.0 (25.0 DNS) 25.0 DNC 25.0 DNC 93.0 68.0
Dart 15 1839 Peter Sherwin On the Edge Stone sailing club 14th 12.0 13.0 (25.0 OCS) 25.0 DNC 25.0 DNC 100.0 75.0
Dart 15 2019 George Love Fly-by-Wire Carsington Sailing Club 15th (25.0 DNC) 25.0 DNC 8.0 25.0 DNC 25.0 DNC 108.0 83.0


Full Series Results available here

Una Fleet
CompetitorsEvent Placings
NameSailClubFormatHandicap PlaceFleet Place
Mark Aldridge66Grafham Water Sailing ClubUna Rig11
Jenny Ball2025Marconi Sailing ClubUna Rig22
Jason Clarke2037Marconi Sailing ClubUna Rig33
Steve Sawford2033Rutland Water Sailing ClubUna Rig44
Jon Pearse2035Marconi Sailing ClubUna Rig55
Scott Wilcox1359Stewartby Water Sports ClubUna Rig66
Andrew Dowley1410Marconi Sailing ClubUna Rig77
Christophe Clarke1988Marconi Sailing ClubUna Rig88
Robert Wilson1966Stone Sailing ClubUna Rig99
Keith Chidwick2016Queen Mary Sailing ClubUna Rig1010
Ed Tuite Dalton2023Draycote Water Sailing ClubUna Rig1111
David Ball1923Marconi Sailing ClubUna Rig1313
Jemma Clarke1339Marconi Sailing ClubUna Rig1414
Peter Sherwin1839Stone Sailing ClubUna Rig1414
George Love2019Carsington Sailing ClubUna Rig1515