Nick Craig and Alan Roberts representing the Merlin Rocket class are the overnight leaders of the 2013 Topper Sailboats-supported-Endeavour Championship.
Craig, who has won the event five times in the past, is now well on the way to making history with six wins if he and Roberts can repeat today's stunning performance on the racecourse, in the final three races tomorrow.
The leading duo accumulated just four points from the first five races. The only race the team failed to win was the opening race of the day, which was won by Christian Birrell and Richard Anderton (Fireball).
Sailing Topper Xenons, the 25-strong fleet of champions endured a testing day on the water in a light to moderate east-nor-easterly breeze and strong tidal stream. Racing took place at the mouth of the River Roach a few miles downriver from the host club, the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, and although the wind was rather shifty at times, the race officers set some good, courses and managed to keep a steady stream of races flowing all day.
Craig commenting on the conditions said: "As Endeavour Trophy races go, today was really tough particularly as I am not a fan of light winds. This, combined with the tide, and tough competition, made it exceptionally tricky. Although we've done well today, there's a long way to go yet and I am certainly not counting on anything."
Jasper Barnham and Graham Sexton (2000) sailed an equally impressive series of races today and, although they didn't win a race, their consistent set of results, which includes three second places, puts them in second place overall. They finished third last year and are naturally keen to repeat/improve their performance. Barnham said: "Last year we surprised everybody, including ourselves. But there is no denying that the Endeavour is tough. You have to take one race at a time and let the results sort themselves out. Nick [Craig] is very talented so we think the only way to give ourselves a chance, is to break his legs tonight. No, seriously, it's going to be windy tomorrow and Nick will just love it. We'll love it too, but not sure we'll go any better."
Former Endeavour Champion crew – Christian Birrell – and Richard Anderton (Fireball) started the day well with a first place in race one, after a nail-biting race-long battle and beat Craig/Roberts by just a couple of seconds on the line. Although they managed a second place in race three, an eighth and a ninth to count drops them down the rankings to third place with 20pts overall.
One team who were relieved this morning to find a dramatic drop in wind strength after yesterday's howling gale, were 13-year-old Elliott Wells and 15-year-old Jake Todd (RS Feva). At just 108kgs all up, they sailed consistently and finished the day with an impressive set of results including a sixth place in race three.
Chatting as he sailed in, Wells commented: "It is a great experience to be here, to meet new people, and race against some of the country's top sailors. Jake [Todd] is doing a good job as crew. The conditions were perfect for us this afternoon. We struggled a bit in the first race when it was up to 7kts but as it dropped we were able to flatten the boat and sail well."
The plan is to run the final three of the eight-race series tomorrow (Sunday, 13 October) starting at 1030. This is however, subject to change depending on the weather situation. The forecast is for rain and strong to gale force cyclonic winds across East Anglia, which could potentially disrupt the final day's racing.
Results after Day 1: (five races, 1 discard)
1st Merlin Rocket - Nick Craig and Alan Roberts, 4pts
2nd 2000 - Jasper Barnham and Graham Sexton, 9pts
3rd Fireball - Christian Birrell and Richard Anderton, 20pts
4th RS200 - Matt Mee and Emma Norris, 21pts
5th Miracle - Sam Mettam and Martyn Lewis, 22pts
6th Solo - Charlie Cumbley and Pete Cumming, 29pts
Report - Sue Pelling