EXPERIENCED crews revelled in the challenging conditions with some memorable high-wind racing at Clacton Sailing Club's annual regatta.

The morning RNLI trophy race got underway in brisk F4 winds and building southerly swells.

The cats and monohulls jostling close inshore to make the most of the starboard line bias.

Matt Burrell, with his now regular crew Dan Brzezinski in the fastest boat in the mixed handicap fleet, was clean away off the line making the windward mark first and going on to be outright winner.

Rob Mitchell and George Vennables were second in their distinctive yellow Dart 16 ahead of a pair of Gunfleet SC's Lasers a highly-respectable third and fourth place with Robert Gutteridge taking first place mono ahead of Paul Stanton.

Once round the windward mark the course took the fleet out to sea on a ‘scary fast’ broad reach before heading further downwind to the third mark. Clacton Sailing Club newcomer Trevor Kettle crewed for Pete Boxer on a Dart 18 catamaran and after only a few minutes of instruction was flat out on the trapeze enjoying the wild ride of his first cat race.

The race developed into something of an endurance event as once the tide changed, the wind and swell increased.

Commodore and Race Office Derek Cheek maintained the original three laps for cats and two for monos.

Ted Nelson attempted the race in a Topper dinghy but was forced to retire, as conditions deteriorated.

The Regatta events continued in the afternoon with the CUDC cup race.

A course change from the morning replaced the upwind/downwind sausage by two beam reaches.

They were predicted to be fast and a reduction to two laps meant that the race would be over in half an hour.

It was another clean start line and the fleet beat into the building swell with winds now reaching force five or six in the gusts.

A sailing boat can usually be sailed to windward in extreme conditions like these by feathering or spilling the wind but everyone knew it would be the downwind legs that would be a test of nerve.

Matt Burrell and Dan Brzezinski, having shown their prowess in the morning, decided that discretion was the wise thing and retired after the first reach and risky gybe out to sea.

Robert Gutteridge as the top dinghy helm from the morning also retired in his Laser, leaving a diminished fleet of just six cats on the water to battle it out.

There were more crew changes in the afternoon, with Pete Boxer teaming-up with Pauline Smith and Rob Mitchell in the yellow Dart 16 sailing with another new member Victor Gomez.

Racing was amazingly tight and the first three cats rounded the final gybe mark together.

Running fast and loose Chivers, Boxer and Mitchell all approached the buoy at speed, with each obliged to give space to the inside boat.

Rob Mitchell and Victor Gomez could afford to be cautious on this final leg as he knew he would comfortably win on handicap.

That left Martin and Debbie Chivers to cross the line just seconds ahead of Pete Boxer and Pauline Smith, who were second and third overall.

Prior to the event, Gunfleet Sailing Club's visiting dinghy competitors joined with the RNLI rescue crews to attend the formal opening speech from previous Commodore Bernard Evans, with his wife Vivienne.