The Classic Yacht Reggata at Sufffolk Yacht harbour sees the arrival of a fleet of classic yachts to enjoy some friendly racing in Dovercourt bay. If you own yachts a pre-1970 design of traditional construction, Bermuda or gaff rigged and built of wood or steel and you are east Coast this is the premier event on the East Coast, they even let a few modern classics enter a bit like the ‘spirit of tradition’ class.

Simon Joined the rest of the crew on Zest (David, Jonathon and Jonathon). What’s zest i hear you ask? err, it’s the skin of a fruit, it’s enthusiasm! Nope it’s a Tumlare or a Tumlareen (i don’t know that bit either!).. What an earth is a Tumlare? well if you are swedish it’s a Porpoise but in this case it’s a Knud H Reimers designed yacht, 8.30m LOA (length overall) she has a canoe stern (or a double ender for the Viz readers) a pretty little yacht (and quite quick too!). Zest has no engine, no interior of any sort, She is near as dammit in her original guise, the only modern accessories are a digital compass, and, a speed and depth gauge (which is quite important on the East Coast!).

Zest has won the slow handicap fleet at the regatta for the last 5 years, missing out on winning overall to some very pretty and very well sailed fast handicap yachts and to some very very well sailed Stella one designs (slower). The basic difference between fast and slow handicap is length, most of the fast handicap yachts are longer overall so generally quicker.

The regatta is three races, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. Three starts, slow handicap first, then Stellas, then fast handicap.

The forecast on Saturday was 8 – 10knots, the tide was going to be flooding for the racing (and for geeeting to the start line!) a very long beat to the start line saw the RO generously put up a postponement to allow those yachts without an engine to get to the start line (thanks to Peter Wilson onboard his gentlemans cruiser Maude we had a little tow to get us there to stop to much delay).

Race 1. wind 6-8 knots, Tide yes there’s always tide here this time flooding.

Beacon hill start, Foxes (S), Stonebanks (S), Pye End (Starboard, beacon Hill Line.

The Beacon Hill line is set not far from the Harwich breakwater, a flood tide. Start line tactics in a small long keeled classic? Try and find a nice line early as they don’t turn quickly, have a prefered end but don’t get buried trying to get the pin. So we decided that middle to pin was fine, the only other yacht going for the pin was Venya who looked like they were lining up for a port tack flyer, seeing Zest running the line to the pin, Venya took our stern and luffed up for the gun, two good starts, the rest of the fleet spread towards the committee boat end. We tacked inside the  breakwater, crossing with Venya (she is a little faster than us) three tacks and we were first to clear the breakwater, a few slow handicap yachts were making good progress inside us. We stayed on starboard tack heading out to open sea, we needed to hold this tack almost to the layline to avoid the strong tide in the commercial channel, Venya following us, soon the rest of the fleet tacked onto starboard and we all headed very gently out into Dovercourt bay. Unlike modern fin keelers tacking on the shifts, on a long keeled boat you tend to sail through smaller lifts looking for a more substantial lift or if the header is over a minimum 10 degrees is our minimum, also tacking back towards the channel begins to put you into stronger tide. So we sailed on until we could tack near the layline to Foxes, the wind was fading as we got further offshore. It was going to be a long, slow lazy delivery to Foxes…

Finally rounding Foxes first a  bearaway set saw a tidy hoist from team Zest saw them lead the spirit Flight of Ufford towards Stonebanks next round in class 2 was Venya closely followed by Lynx. As we got halfway through the leg the RO notified the fleet that the race was going to be shortened at Stonebanks. With the tide underneath Zest we were closing rapidly on the finish, would we take line honours from the 53ft Flight of Ufford? No, that thing cuts through water like Alan Sugar fires employees. Second on the water (first Slow handicap) That’ll do.

Race 2 (start line at Stonebanks), wind 8- 12knots, tide …..yes still flooding (at least the sail in will be quicker!)

Laid mark X (port), Foxes (port), Pennyhole (Starboard), Stonebanks (port).

On hearing the course, Simon asked the skipper JT to check the course board again as pennyhole to starboard sounded like it might be a mistake; nope there it was Pennyhole starboard. We weren’t the only boat to question the brains trust on board the committee boat, when some of the top boats are asking you if you are sure about the course they might be onto something….see the crude chart to see if you can spot the ‘quick’ way home…

At the gun it seemed most of the slow handicap fleet were still digesting their lunch as Zest lead the fleet away again, closely followed by the beautiful half tonner Lynx, and Droleen II, a couple of OCS saw the fleet split straight from the gun. The tide flooding still saw the beat fairly one sided, first to Foxes was Zest, followed by Droleen, Lynx and Venya.

Hoisting and running down to Pennyhole as we enjoyed the spectacle of the kite hoists on the rest of thh fleet, our attention turned to the course to steer; “Surely we can just leaving Pennyhole to starboard and Stonebanks to port means we can go staright to stonebanks?” “i don’t think that’s the intention of the Race Officer”. “err i’ll give the race offficer a call on his mobile….”

A few moments later the Race Officer clarified that Pennyhole was to be a turning mark and not a passing mark, phew, that stopped the potential for alot of different courses, but it did mean that the next rounding at Pennyhole meant crossing tracks with the approaching fleet. Zest with no one around had time to drop the kite, gybe the boat  and round in good order, taking the opportunity to take a quick clearing tack to get above the oncoming sea of spinnakers. Looking back we could see that this mark rounding was a good old test of skills, kites to douse, a loop of a mark, to stand on and get bad air from the fleet or try to find a gap to thread your way upwind early?

By the time Zest was approaching Stonebanks they had been overhauled by the spirit of tradition boats, Flight and Gwenmyfar, Our bowman david repacked the kite ready for another hoist and the long reach home to the beacon hill line. Third over the line Zest took slow handicap line honours.

Overnight the overall is hard to call as the RO keeps the Stella times secret, Whisper in the fast handicap were our guess to be overnight leaders. As all the boats race the same course the RO can amalgamate the times for an overall winner, would one of the stella one designs take the cup again the Timoa also had two wins in her fleet.

Sunday saw more breeze for the last race of the regatta. Stating at the Beacon Hill line

Race 3. Wind 12-15knots, tide….bored of the tide? starting to flood…

Stonebanks (port), Foxes (port), Pennyhole (starboard), Outer Ridge (port), finish Beacon Hill.

No questions on that one, the only query was could we fly the kite straight from the line? It was going to be fairly tight with the flood tide. Zest had a scrappy start, a bundle of rope in the wrong place saw the kite flogging and the fleet rip away led by Venya. The only boat flying a kite? err guess. “Always the kite” that’s our motto! It was very tight and the team on Zest seemed to have made the wrong call fighting the spinnaker Zest was being pushed sideways. “should we drop?”, “lets get settled and see the course”. As we cleared the breakwater Zest settled, it was tight but we didn’t feel overpressed, we began to claw back the leaders.

Venya rounded Stonebanks first with a good lead, next round just inside Zest wast Droleen II, a very scrappy drop saw Zest lose a bit of time, early tack was the call to get out of the tide on the way back upwind to Foxes, the fleet soon tacked to follow the ‘Brains Trust’ onboard Zest. There was no catching Venya though, local legend Geoff had tuned up the new rig and she was smashing it up to Foxes. For once Simon got the layline wrong and two tacks to make the mark saw Venya slip away and she rounded first. A better hoist on Zest for the run down to Pennyhole, a tidy drop and then another beat upwind, same tactics as before. Early tack to try to get some tidal relief.

It looked like we had gained a little bit back from Venya, the big boats with all the nav were giving us some clues now as to tide and wind.
TOP TIP: its always good to check out what the lead boats are doing especially if they have state of the art nav / tide / wind instruments, they can reasure you are going the right way and they also show where the next mark is!

As we approached Outer Ridge it looked like Venya weren’t laying the mark, was this going to give us a chance to make them wobble? bvehind us fast handicap Whisper was pointing (like a Merlin Rocket!) straight at Outer Ridge and going like a train. “we just need to get this layline right, no two tacking this time” says navigator Simon on Zest. The simple rule of don’t make the same mistake twice? dammit, we fell two boat lengths short of the marrk. two more tacks, Venya was gone. The only thing now was to get to the line as quickly as possible. it would also be nice if we could keep the fast handicap leaders Whisper behind us if for a minor moral victory and nothing else.

A fast white sail reach in saw Venya take their first canon, well done Rufus and team (and Geoff for the tuning and guiding!). We held off Whisper to take fourth on the water.

The question on everyones lips “who is overall winner?” chatting in the bar, the wind ups began because the Stella times are hidden there is a bit of guessing, Mark Wincer skipper of Whisper was quietly confident. All we knew; it wasn’t going to be us, maybe top 5?


1st Whisper (fast)

2nd Timoa (Stella)

3rd Flight (spirit of tradition / fast)

We ended up as class winners but 6th overall, a good result, but boy these big boats are hard to beat! Special mention to Lynx third in class, sailing only two up and first Lady helm! well done Jane and Anthony it’s not only the Suffolk Sails making that boat quick!
Thanks to Jonathon T, David and Jonathon W ‘team’ Zest, a pleasure to sail and race with you (and the lunches are amazing!). See you at AYC.