CLACTON Sailing Club organised their annual long-distance race back from Brightlingsea, known as the Double Dan.

There was a healthy turnout of Clacton catamarans and they were joined by an equal number of dinghies from Gunfleet Sailing Club.

They set sail in moderate to fresh north westerlies and ebbing spring tides.

Robert Mitchell and Mark Butchers sailed to victory in their Dart 16, once the handicap had been calculated, and took little over an hour to complete the course.

More used to sailing on the open coast, the congested waters of Brightlingsea Creek seemed a little crowded to the visitors.

A strongly-ebbing tide and following winds threatened to carry the boats over the start line early.

In the five-minute start sequence, the river seemed full of crossing sail boats frantically having to avoid each other, moored yachts and other river traffic.

In the closing seconds, Matt Burrell and crew Dan Brzezinski managed to thread one of the bows of their Hurricane cat between the boom and hanging mainsheet of Andy Dunnett’s Laser.

Once untangled, both boats fortunately went on to make clear starts.

Having warned the fleet at the briefing that there could be no general recall, it was with some relief that race officer Martin Chivers recorded just Stelios Tabis and his crew Jeff Parmay as being over-early in the 20’ Nacra.

The fleet raced out into the relative open waters to pass the only mark of the course at the Point Clear sandbank.

Brightlingsea Sailing Club members and brothers James and William Stacey were first over the start line and became the chase boat, sailing a near-perfect race to cross the finish line as first boat home in just 53 minutes.

Handicap calculations relegated them to third place overall.

The Spitfire was chased by three Hurricanes and two Dart 16s, with the dinghy fleet close behind and making a fabulous spectacle.

Having crossed the start line in second position, Brian Allen and Ian Wright, despite sailing fast, made a tactical error of heading too far offshore in their Hurricane.

Larry Foxon and Mike Rolfe, in the next Hurricane, pointed high and took 500m off the Allen boat.

However, they were themselves eventually over-hauled by Burrell and Brzezinski, finishing fourth and fifth respectively on handicap.

However, it was to be an epic battle between the two Dart 16s that would go on to place first and second place overall.

Mark Venables, sailing with son George, was able to point higher than the Mitchell-Butchers cat and soon built a healthy lead.

Both Dart 16s hugged the left side of the creek as previous event experience had proved this to be the best option.

At the top of the creek, the Venables had to put in an additional tack to clear St Osyth beach.

Michell had reduced the lead at this stage and managed to clear the beach without tacking, which proved decisive.

The wind direction meant the catamaran dominated the results this year, taking the first five places.

The dinghies, of course, enjoyed their own race within the race with Lasers, Solution, RS200 and a Hobie 405 that were led home by brothers Jack and Paul Berry, sailing their Fireball into sixth place overall.