Barton Broad plays host to thrills and spills as Sprite lifts the big prize

There were windy conditions for Norfolk Punt Club's River Cruiser Open. From left, Catspaw, Melinda,

There were windy conditions for Norfolk Punt Club's River Cruiser Open. From left, Catspaw, Melinda, Dryad and Matilda. Picture: Fan Tubbs - Credit: Archant

Despite the windy forecast, a near-record 15 yachts turned out for the Norfolk Punt Club river cruiser open event at Barton Broad over the weekend.

The event, like many others over the weekend, was characterised by strong winds and punctuated with a smattering of breakages, gear failures and a little surprise for some on Sunday.

However, none of this detracted from otherwise splendid weather, warm temperatures and a friendly atmosphere on and off the water.

The first race enjoyed a near-perfect SSW wind direction, meaning the officer of the day could set some good beats.

Twelve boats crossed the start line and the now blustery conditions preyed on Amaryllis first (Chris Tuckett) when her gaff jaws parted. Next was the all-new Stellar, sailed by Tim Frary, whose gooseneck went. Others simply felt they were over-powered and retired, meaning only eight boats crossed the finish line.

Alchemy (Dr. Richard Smith) was first on handicap, with Mystery (Matt and Jo Ford) second and Wanderer (Tom Barker) third. The fan went up a notch for the second race and of the nine starters, only seven finished, with the new skipper of Sprite, Mark Elson, clocking up his first victory, with Catspaw (Brian Wilkins) second and Alchemy third.

Sunday morning dawned warmer and brighter than forecast and, although the wind blew up again, it was noticeably kinder than Saturday.

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The slightly different course sprang a surprise on a number of boats, when they hit the bottom close to the Pleasure Island and a despondent Mystery ran fully aground and had to retire.

It transpired some of the shallow water marker buoys had moved in the wind, allowing hard-bottomed shoals to prey on the unwary! Another win by Sprite left just a point between her and Alchemy, who came second ahead of Catspaw.

This 1-2-3 was repeated in the final race, giving a delighted Elson the White Horse Trophy for overall winner and the Barton Broad Cruiser Challenge Trophy for slower handicap boats. Alchemy was runner-up, with Wanderer third, a result of getting a consistent four third places out of four.

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