Signet Week was incorporated within the Pyfleet Week at Brightlingsea Sailing Club, up a creek off the River Colne Estuary; just West of Clacton, and in the shelter of Mersea Island. Pyfleet Week is the Clubs major Annual racing and sailing week and a big plus was having a camp site adjacent to the Club. There were 15 SigneTs to enjoy challenging sailing and super evening social events and food.
There was an extremely long slipway that enabled launching to take place at all states of the tide although there was practically no water at low tide. Racing normally started at the club with most of the marks being a long way apart in the Colne Estuary, it wasn't possible to see the next mark from the one just rounded. The actual courses were determined by the wind direction.
The sailing conditions were as different from what we have at Aquarius as you could get, Most sailing was in 10-15 knot and higher steady winds. There was up to 4 knots current varying greatly during the day and over different parts of the course. There was a lot of heavy rain.
The practice race on Sunday was held in excellent conditions with a 10-15 knot wind. After launching Richard found he had forgotten his buoyancy aid and had to run back to the tent to fetch it; the fleet had started by time he returned puffed out. Then the outhaul broke and after repairing it the fleet had disappeared. A safety boat was leading us round the course but Richard couldn't even see another Signet, let alone the safety boat or marks and he had little idea of where to go. After about 20 minutes he saw a group of Signets in the distance so took a short cut to them instead of a fruitless search for marks. Better to find out where the marks were and retire later. The race took 2 hours for 2 laps.
The first Championship race was another 2 lap race and very hard in a 15-20 knot WSW wind. After a poor start Richard was in the lead at the end of lap one. Near the end of lap 2, on the run to the finish, Richard didn't notice he was being caught and was overtaken by Chris Whiteside, and then Roy Melsom, in the last 100yds; after 2 hours only 2 seconds between the first 3 boats.
The weather forecast for Tuesday was for exceptionally strong winds for the time of the year!! But the morning race was very pleasant and easy in a 12-15 knot wind. We were surprised that the course was shortened to 1 lap at 50 minutes; Richard wasn't complaining as he was in the lead.
The afternoon race was very different with the wind increasing to 15-20 knots for the first lap and it was very exiting surfing down large waves. We appeared to have a shortened course at the end of the first lap, after only 40 minutes, but Richard didn't get a finish hoot, when he was sure he had crossed the line, so he turned round and continued racing; everyone else followed him. Sailing became extremely hard with the wind increasing to 25 knots. Towards the end of the second lap there was mayhem when a 40 knot squall came through (Force 8 at the starting box). Robert Britton, crewing for Richard, said he would like more sailing in similar conditions!!
There was almost no visibility in the torrential rain and it was practically impossible to make way to windward. After very nearly capsizing (lucky Robert moved very fast) at the start of the long broad reach to the finish line Richard took his main sail down, and noticed everyone around him was doing the same.
We found that the race had been shortened because they knew the squall was on its way; Richard had turned round less than a boat length from the line. There were many capsizes and a lot of damage; Chris Whiteside had his mast break into three pieces and a Brightlingsea One Design 18ft clinker built boat completely sunk.
Wednesday was a family day off for the SigneTs. For those racing it was another increasing wind day and the afternoon race was cancelled. In the evening there was a superb Cabaret put on by the various Classes; there were a lot of quips directed at the SigneTs. It was amazing what Anne Nicholson and Angela wild had managed to get the entire SigneT contingent to do; they were very well received.
The Thursday morning race was in complete contrast with the wind dropping to nothing and it was almost impossible to get round the marks against the current; The first 3 boats were Paul Nicholson, Richard and Roy with over 5 minutes between each boat.
The Thursday afternoon Crew invite race was delayed an hour while another squall went though. Robert was the first boat home in good conditions for a crews race.
Friday was cold but good sailing in a NW 10-15 knot wind. David Rothery's boat was badly damaged on Tuesday so Richard suggested Robert helmed with David as crew; they did very well to come 5th.
Richard crewed for Laurie Bridges and went for a cruise up river; they got into real trouble when they ran out of water and had to wade through knee deep mud. They tried to paddle to the other side to be able to sail on a beat to get back but couldn't make any way against the wind. Eventually Richard waded out pulling the boat until he was up to his neck in mud and water and there was great relief when Laurie managed to raise the sail and get going towing Richard through the water until Lawrie dragged him back in. They were just able to get back without having to tack.
Robert helmed for the last race of the week; the Friday afternoon single handed race in a 10-15 knot wind. He did well to come 5th in hard conditions for single handed sailing.
There was an excellent prize giving with Richard and Robert taking first place.
Our thanks to Brightlingsea SC for giving us an excellent Signet Week with very good sailing, socials and food. I am sure we will be back for a third time.