A HARDY bunch gathered to compete in the Dennis Wood Cup at Clacton Sailing Club.

It took place in chilly north-westerly winds, under grey skies.

Using this last chance to tune-up before the National Championships, father-and-son team Ian and Liam Wright claimed victory after leading from the start in their Dart 18 catamaran.

They were closely chased from the gun by Larry Foxon and Mike Rolfe, in their Hurricane, and Rob Mitchell, in his Dart 16.

The fleet headed offshore on a broad reach, where the strength of the ebbing tide became noticeable.

The alert crews understood it was possible to gybe early on this leg as the tidal leeway would help the cats drop down to the first buoy.

Liam, at the helm of the Wright's Dart, had sailed deep and reached this buoy ahead of the Hurricane.

However, it was only a question of time.

Hardening up onto the first reach, the two cats raced neck-and-neck, with Foxon and Rolfe easing ahead as the fleet headed back upwind to the ODM.

Meanwhile, Pete Boxer and Eilish Dempsey, in their 18, were enjoying a tussle with Mitchell, sailing his 16 single-handed.

Racing rules say the overtaking boat must keep clear and, with the following swell, there was a moment when the faster Dart 18 nearly sailed up and over the back of the Dart 16, before finally managing to squeeze past upwind.

Dan Brzezinski, who will also be racing at the Dart 18 National Championships next weekend, used this race to tune up with his new crew, Brian Allen.

Slightly off the pace on the start line, they could never get back with the leading pack but later went onto make rig adjustments as part of the never ending learning cycle of sailing.

From the ODM, the course led back out to the seaward and then off towards a buoy laid to the south, with each lap being made up of two triangles.

Sailing back inshore into the fluctuating force three to four winds created many opportunities.

Cats are notoriously slow to tack, compared with dinghies, so it becomes more of a strategic decision whether to tack on a wind shift.

Originally intended as an ambitious four-lap race, commodore Derek Cheek shortened to three laps and pronounced Liam and Ian Wright as winners on handicap.