Monday, 23 August 2010

My Mersea Week III - Round the Island Race

The Round the Island Race, for dinghies and small multi-hulls always takes place on the Wednesday of Mersea Week, weather permitting. There is a time-limit, but within that, entrants have to decide in advance what time they wish to start, and which way around the island they intend to sail.

With one of the least racy boats in existence - the 8ft 'Sea Pig', a rotund little lug rig, Mersea-built, wooden dinghy - the TM had a bit of a job on his hands getting all the way round the island in less than 24 hours, let alone the 6 or therabouts allowed. He opted (contrary to prevailing opinion amongst the rest of the fleet) to make the attempt in a clockwise direction.

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This meant heading up Strood Channel from the starting line, opposite the West Mersea Yacht Club. I set off on foot, along the sea wall with IM and the dog, fully confident that we would be able to keep pace and assist in the really exciting bit of the day - carrying the boat across the Strood. In fact, he streaked ahead, and the little tan sail can only just be seen in these pics. H and his friends were waiting at the Strood, in radio contact, to do the heavy lifting bit. (Below, you can just make out the Sea Pig, left of centre, having been launched into the water the other side of the Strood.)

At the end of the sea wall path, I handed IM over to a friend, who whisked her away by car, leaving me to trek the couple of miles back to West Mersea with the by then rather exhausted dog (it was a very hot day) and pick up my trusty bike (which is not a mountain bike but a sedate 1964-vintage Triumph with a basket on the front, so strictly for roads, not sea walls).

Whereupon I zoomed back down to the Strood to join the assembled throng in watching other boats being lifted across at high water and take a few pictures.

And thence to East Mersea to see if I could spot the Sea Pig emerging from the River Colne. After a longish wait - during which I retraced my tracks to the East Mersea Village Shop to buy an ice-cream, and then had a little post-snack snooze at Fen Farm - a small black dot with a red dot on top hoved into view at the extremity of my camera's zoom facility, and I watched as it tacked its way, painfully slowly, as it seemed, towards the beach. 

The wind had all but disappeared. And sporting a sail the size of a tea-towel atop a boat as hydrodynamic as a washing-up bowl, is not the best  method of harnessing every last bit of available wind-power. So, just off Fen Farm, out came the oars, and Sea Pig's skipper, mindful of bending every rule of the race well beyond breaking point, rowed his vessel the remaining 5 miles home.

And still missed the cut-off time by 15 minutes!

Oh well. Still a better result than last year. Luckily, it was all hugely enjoyable, if a little tiring (for followers as well as for rowers).

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