A light breeze greeted the crew of Maria as they mustered for a 7.30am start at the Colne Smack and Barge match on September 13. There was enough wind to blow the fleet out of the river under full sail, but not enough – or so it seemed – to break the course record already held by Maria.
After a middling start, the crew had the masthead running sail up “quick sticks” and soon sailed through the lee of Fly in hot pursuit of Alberta. A cat and mouse game ensued as Alberta made it clear Maria was not passing to windward and by the Colne Bar buoy was still in front – but only just.
Hardening up on to port tack round the buoy, Maria spent a few minutes in Alberta’s dirty air but after settling down in clearer wind, managed to point a few degrees closer to the wind and worked to windward. By the time we rounded the temporary mark laid off Clacton Pier (Pete is seen above scanning the horizon for the buoy), Maria was ahead by a couple of minutes from Alberta and My Alice as we set off downwind again for the Spitway buoy.
After a close reach from the Spitway to Bench Head, the wind, which had gone more easterly as the race progressed, freshened for the one-tack windward leg back into the Colne – and it was at this point the crew realised that beating the course record was on the cards. It was all hands to the windward rail as Maria stormed up the river and over the line, first home – but had we beaten the record?
Much to the crew’s relief, the record-breaking run was confirmed at the prizegiving in Brightlingsea Sailing Club that evening. Maria had shaved two minutes off her previous record time, making the run in three hours, 12 minutes and one second. Something to aim at next year!
Crew for the day: Paul Winter, David Bridle, Pete Hickman, Sally Harman, Drew, Crispin Thomas, Mark Butler, Andy Mortlock & Joe.