It is organised by the Tollesbury Sailing Club and it is an open event for traditional East Coast Smacks as well as most types of Classic Yacht. The Smack Race is in the form of a pursuit race and the Classic Yachts race on a handicap system. The yachts start at the same time as the first Smacks with the faster Smacks starting later, usually at two 10-minute intervals. They sail slightly different courses with the Smacks racing the longer course.
The race takes place in the mouth of the tidal Blackwater Estuary with the start at the Nass Beacon off West Mersea. The course sends the smacks and yachts upriver first, with the tide, towards Osea Island. They then head downriver on a course past the committee boat (handy in case the race needs to be shortened) and out past Bradwell, roughly towards the river Colne. They then return to finish at the start line and most then head towards Tollesbury Hard for ‘refreshments’ and post-race yarn.
The eventual weather forecast was for a SSW wind F2 to F4 with a light shower in the morning. High water was at 15:00 and the Start was set for 10:30 to allow the boats to finish well in time for high water and the aforementioned post-race ‘refreshments’.
The start went pretty smooth for most except the Smack ‘Sunbeam’ breaking (and fixing) their main sheet one minute before the start and the ‘Alberta’ arriving some 20 minutes after the start due to having rested on a mud bank for a while after leaving her home port of Brightlingsea to join the race. ‘Alberta’ had a cracking sail however and she beat two Smacks, who had started on time, to the finish.
About one hour after the start the wind dropped to a very light breeze in which some of the boats struggled to maintain any meaningful speed coming downriver against the tide. Fortunately the lull did not last long and the wind picked up again. Soon afterwards first ‘Black Diamond’, a YW Diamond built in 1962 and then the smack ‘Maria’ came past the committee boat and heading out of the river.
The SSW breeze held albeit never reaching the promised F4 but it was enough to see all but two boats finish before the time limit of 15:00.
For the Smacks, ‘Maria’ took line honours and a Tollesbury support RIB took the winners pennant to them which was soon flying proudly off the tip of the topmast. ‘Fly’ took second place with ‘Sunbeam’ and ‘My Alice’ coming in third and fourth. In order, the other finishers were the ‘Charlotte Ellen’, the ‘Alberta’, the ’Polly, and the ‘Peace’
For the Yachts, ‘Black Diamond’ took line honours and, on handicap, the Gaff Yawl ‘Cormorant’ came first, the West Solent ‘Black Adder’ second and ‘Black Diamond’ third flowed by the Sterling 28 ‘Rhumba’. The Nantucket Clipper ‘Colne Clipper’ and the Gaff Yacht ‘Jacinta’ retired and the small gaff cutter ‘Pelican’ did not start.
After the race the gathering on Tollesbury Hard was a happy one, partly due to the refreshments but mainly because the general consensus was that it had been a great day and, for many, a great finish to a successful season. Later that evening there was a well-attended prize giving in the Tollesbury Sailing Club where food was served, live music provided and more refreshments consumed.
The Tollesbury Smack and Classic Yacht Race in 2015 will be on the 3rd October.
For more information, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by: Phil Cooper. For many more photos of the day visit the photo gallery.