Butlins Cup - Race Report - April 2018

Clacton Sailing Club members were greeted last Sunday by a blustery north wind, light drizzle and biting cold temperatures as they rigged and tuned their craft on the beach for the scheduled long distance Butlins Cup race.

Mark and George Venables - Butlins Cup 2018

Picture above: - Mark and George Venables rigging the Hurricane SX

Race Officers Mike & Sue Suffield counted 7 catamarans on the start line but after a drama-filled hour of sailing only 2 cats were destined to finish the race unscathed!

First victim

Bravely opting to sail his Dart 18 single-handed Dan Brzenzinski was to be the first victim of a spiteful gust of wind as the start sequence counted-down. Although an experienced high wind sailor his capsize acted as a stark reminder that these were serious conditions.

Having righted the boat without support from the Rescue Boat Dan them demonstrated capable seamanship by partly dropping his mainsail and sailing into the beach under reduced canvass to retire and record a DNS.

The start line between the Holland Haven cliff top clubhouse and the ODM allowed the fast cats the luxury of approaching on a beam reach with a flooding tide helping to control their approach speed which ensured a close start to those ready to take advantage.

Crazy broad reach

Pete Boxer with Brian Allen racing together for the first time in a Dart 18 gunned the line under the bows of Rob Mitchell’s Dart 16 in the closing seconds and both cats bore off together on the first crazy broad reach out towards the seaward mark.

Hitting the swell line at full speed the cats seemed to fairly take off at times. In a flurry of spray newcomer Jordan Mills crewing for Rob Mitchell for the first time had to discover the perils of trapezing balancing on the edge of the boat held only by a 4mm wire from the top of the mast in a baptism of fire.

Severity of the conditions

The severity of the conditions was only truly appreciated once the cats were headed out to sea and it was certainly no disgrace to retire from this race. Rob and Cathy Mitchell in their Dart 16 as well as Ian Wright and Maria in their Dart 18 both took sensible decisions to retire soon after the race began.

Meanwhile the lead cats had gybed at the seaward mark and were enjoying the downwind ride off to the Pier. Long swells and gusts reaching force 5 kept required fast reactions from crews to prevent nosediving.

Mark & George Venables led the Hurricanes in hot pursuit of the leading Darts but Boxer and Allen seemed to ride an endless wave along the coast and remained the trailblazers out of grasp building up a sizeable lead.

Tacking at the Pier buoy

Tacking at the Pier buoy and heading back upwind the racing style switched from crude boat speed to more subtle tactics.Faced with the choice to remain inshore with reduced tidal flow or to free-off and sail out to the stronger winds Mitchell and Mills chose to pinch along the coast in their Dart 16 and would reverse the fortunes of the leading cats.

Robert Mitchel and Jordan Mills - Butlins Cup 2018

Picture above: - Robert Mitchell teamed up with newcomer Jordan Mills and takes first place.

Boxer and Venables swapped tacks along the coast but were surprised to see the distinctive yellow Dart 16 steadily clawing back their advantage.

Perhaps it was this loss of concentration that caused Mark and George to capsize their Hurricane just 100m from the finish line and the conditions to eventually force them to retire.

Problems of their own

Larry Foxon and Mike Rolfe sailing the second Hurricane had problems of their own. It must have been a severe gust that caused the rig to overpower the hulls and in a near pitchpole Mike was thrown around the front still on the trap wire causing the 3rd cat to capsize and go onto retire.

Many thanks to safety team and Race officers...

Neil Warn and Alan Griffiths in the club’s rescue boat were kept busy supervising safety in these challenging conditions.

Butlins Cup Race Officers - Mike & Sue Suffield


The Race Officers at this stage shortened the race to just one lap and despite claiming both start and finish line honours Boxer & Allen were resoundingly beaten on handicap with Rob Mitchell and Jordan Mills with a well-deserved outright win.


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