Frostbite Flask - Race Report - November 2016

The Frostbite Flask as the last scheduled race of the season was held last Sunday at Clacton Sailing Club in brisk north-westerly winds that brought the first real cold snap of the winter.

Crews gather on the beach - Frostbite Flask 2016

Icy start

Despite sailors having to clear ice from their boat such was the enthusiasm to continue racing this year that Martin Chivers as Race Officer decided to split this event into two short courses raced back-to-back.

Pete Boxer & Eilish Dempsey were awarded first place overall in their Dart 18 after finishing the races with a 2nd and a 1st.

Compact Course

The compact course made the most of the conditions with the catamarans hardly able to settle down before the next manoeuvre was required.

Judgement of lay lines was critical in the flooding tide and mistakes in these fast craft cost many boat lengths as positions changed throughout.

Rob and Larry team up

Rob Mitchell with Larry Foxon as guest crew this week on his infamous yellow Dart 16 was first over the start line in both races.

With the line set on a beam reach without any bias Pete Boxer & Eilish Dempsey back on their Dart 18 and Mark and George Venables on their Dart 16 were both able to blast past to leeward.

Larry Foxen and Robert Mitchel - Frostbite Flask 2016

Picture above: Larry Foxon admires teamate Robert Mitchell's hat

Within a minute the cats rounded the windward mark and bore off out on the first downwind leg out to sea.

Catamarans like other fast sailing boats ride downwind on a series of board reaches steering on the edge of the apparent wind window.


Putting in the first gybe the wild ride really began as the waves and wind strength increased dramatically; Dan Brzezinski having teamed-up with Matt Burrell on the other Dart 18 twice came within a whisker of pitch-poling as the bows caught and buried before shrugging off the water and racing forward again.

They would go onto collect a 4th and 2nd place giving them 3rd overall.

Hardening-up tightly round the Seaward buoy to head back upwind became a physical challenge in the steep waves with winds touching force 6.

The first beat back into the ODM required good judgement from the helmsmen. Rob Mitchell tacked slightly early on the first lap hoping to challenge the Venables but then needed to put in 2 more tacks as the tide failed to pull them sufficiently upwind.

Equipment failure

It wouldn't be until the windward leg on the second lap that Mark Venables would make the mistake of tacking into Robs water and have to give way eventually dropping down to 3rd place. Equipment failure meant they could not make the start of the second race and recorded a DNS.

The course headed back out to sea from the ODM requiring a downwind / upwind sausage to complete the first to two laps.

Mark and George Venables - Frostbite Flask 2016

Picture above: Father and Son, Mark and George Venables before the race

By the end of the second race the boats that remained were dialling into perfect lay lines with the manoeuvres starting to feel like muscle memories.

The demanding Seaward harden-up manoeuvre was completed a total of 8 times and everyone had their stories of being on the very edge of control offshore.


Brian Allan was the most determined but unlucky sailor of the day. Sailing single-handed he capsized his Dart 16 inside the 5 minute warning signal of the first race but went on to self-right the boat unaided before rescue boat could reach him.

Undeterred he beached the boat and reefed the main before re-joining the race only to lose the jib sheets which proved impossible to re-tie whilst keeping control of the boat.

Brian Allen - Frostbite Flask 2016

Picture above: Brain Allen competes sailing single handed

Unable to tack Brian persisted but was forced a long way downwind having to gybe 270 degrees each time to make headway upwind.

With the handicaps calculated Rob Mitchell and Pete Boxer each had a first and second place with the difference between the good spirited rivals split on combined times.

Pete and Eilish win - Frostbite Flask 2016

Picture above: 'Vice Commodore' Martin Chivers presents Eilish Dempsey and Pete Boxer with the 'Frostbite Flask' for there win

The silver 'Frostbite Flask' was first presented by Phil Stanton as Commodore on 1975 prompted the sailors to toast the end of an exciting and successful race season.


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