Autumn Leaf 1 - Race Report - October 2016

The Autumn Leaf race series began last Sunday at Clacton Sailing Club giving the impression that the season is drawing to a close.

Robert & Toby Mitchel - Autumn Leaf 2016

Picture above: Father & Son, Robert and Toby Mitchel

The fine weather continues however to challenge that assumption and racing was again held under unbroken blue skies and mild temperatures with a solid force 4 offshore winds keeping the seas flat.

Five teams

Five catamaran teams gathered to prepare their craft with the colourful Dart 16 becoming increasingly popular this year.

Pete Boxer and Eilish Dempsey borrowed their sons 16 for this event and went on to claim the first win but not without a battle.

Racing amongst the regulars is getting increasingly tight with a lot of focus on making a good start.

Over the line early

Brian Allen teamed-up this week with experienced crew Matt Burrell but their enthusiasm found them seconds early at the line with the flooding Spring tide carrying them 'over early' forcing them to re-start.

Mike Rolf and Larry Foxon - Autumn Leaf 2016

Picture above: Mike Rolf with team mate Larry Foxon

Rob Mitchell after dabbling last week with a crew reverted again to sailing his yellow Dart 16 single handed and started close on the heels of Boxer & Dempsey chasing them along the beach to the windward mark.

Hurricane 5.9

Larry Foxon and Mike Rolfe in the Hurricane 5.9 knew they would have their hands full in this more powerful cat but nevertheless appeared to hold nothing back as they chased, caught and overtook the Dart 16s to round the windward mark in first place.

Neil Warn - Autumn Leaf 2016

Picture above: Saftey cover - Neil Warn with Race officer Martin Chivers

Strong gusts

With gusts of stronger winds chasing across the surface the cats made the bare away transition at the mark accelerating out to sea on broad reaches with the crews rapidly adjusting the settings of the sails to match the new apparent wind.

Larry & Mike chose to sail a higher but faster downwind course, survived the gybe and laid the seaward mark in first position.

Brian Allen and Matt Burell - Autumn Leaf 2016

Picture above: Teaming up, Brian Allen and Matt Burrel

Mitchell meanwhile was racing hard always close on the tail of Boxer & Dempsey and looking for any opportunity to pass as both boats hardened-up heading back inshore.

Rob Mitchell finally decided he wasn't going to win the pinching dual and tacked-off onto starboard.

The 'other' Rob Mitchell this week sailing with his son Toby and distinguished by a pair of grey hulls had chased the leaders out of the blocks and could benefit from seeing how and where the others struggled with the conditions.

Rigging failure

High speed sailing in these powerful boats has a way of finding weakness in equipment or preparation and Rob Mitchells race was over in the yellow 16 when his jib halyard broke. Despite struggling to roller reef and to carry on he eventually had to withdraw out of fear of causing more damage.

Robert Mitchel - Autumn Leaf 2016

Picture above: Hanging lose - Robert Mitchel

From the ODM the boats sailed back out to the seaward mark then beam reached off towards Frinton before heading back to cross the start line, effectively sailing an upwind triangle followed by a downwind triangle for the first of 3 laps.


Larry and Mike on the Hurricane were caught in a vicious gust on the 2nd lap and we're unable to stop the 18' cat from capsizing. The pair were able to right the boat without support but we're also forced to retire after suffering a broken centre board

Eilish and Pete Boxer - Autumn Leaf 2016

Picture above: Winners - Eilish and Pete Boxer

Pitch pole

Another gust hit Allen and Burrell nearly causing them to pitch pole burying the bows up to the mast. Despite pushing hard they were unable to catch Boxer and had to settle for second place.

Father and son team Mitchell revelled in the conditions and sailed a competent race to come in 3rd.


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