Nick Craig takes a dominant win at Cookham Reach OK Open
Saturday June 12th saw a welcome return to competitive sailing for both visiting and club sailors at the Cookham Reach Sailing Club OK Open. For many, this was their first competition for almost two years and for CRSC, it was the first Open meeting held since July 2019.
Eight sailors from clubs all over the UK visited Cookham to sail alongside five club’s OK sailors in the 2021 Cookham Reach Sailing Club OK Open, a round of the HD Sails Inland Series. Winds were very light (around 5-7) from the north-west which necessitated a remote start line which was located upstream of the Cookham bend. The course was set by Race Officer Dave Phillips and AODs Marius van Wyngaardt, Clive Church and Martin Church. It consisted of a B buoy passed to starboard located about 75m upstream of the start line, an A buoy located just below Andrew’s Beach, also passed to starboard. The sailors then returned downstream passing the B buoy to starboard and a C buoy on the bend also passed to starboard.
After registration, a cup of tea and a catch up between friends who had not seen each for a long time, the sailors took to the water and sailed to the start. They jostled for positions as well as they could in the very light wind conditions with the majority of the sailors sticking to the Berkshire bank and three of the club’s sailors on the Buckinghamshire bank. From the start, it was initially closely matched between the two choices, but nearing the B buoy the Berkshire bank became the better option and these sailors pulled away. Nick Craig (OK 2232) took an early lead with Alan Robinson (OK 100), Chris Burrell (OK 2234), Edward Crichton (OK 2093), Sam Sparks (NZL598), Gareth Jones (OK 2115) and Andy Dalby (OK 14) behind. As they reached the A buoy, Nick had pulled out a good lead ahead of Alan, Chris, Ed and Andy which he continued to extend throughout the race. Most of the sailors were struggling with the light winds, particularly at the A buoy where the wind was almost non-existent for periods of the race and caused penalties for some after colliding with it trying to get round where the current was stronger than the wind. By the end of the race, Nick had pulled out a good lead and took the win with Alan Robinson second and Chris Burrell third. Gareth Jones was the lead CRSC boat home in seventh.
For the second race, the A buoy was brought down the course to shorten it and hopefully put it into an area of the river with more wind. This time, all the sailors chose the Berkshire side of the river with some choosing to sit head to wind hugging the bank just below the start line waiting for the race start. On the sound of the starter’s horn, the fleet of OKs took off with James Long (OK 1990) very briefly leading ahead of Alan Robinson, Edward Crichton, Chris Burrell, Andy Dalby and Nick Craig with a light breeze allowing the sailors to sail straight up the course. As they neared the A buoy, that wind had shifted round and then disappeared and the sailors were searching for the slightest wind to get them round with lots of tacking.
Nick quickly took the lead ahead of Ed, Alan, Andy and Sam with a good battle going on between them through the race. Unfortunately, Andy had to retire on lap 3 leaving Ed, Alan and Sam Sparks to battle for the runners up spot behind a distant Nick. At the flag, Ed took second ahead of Alan.
After fish and chips and a first pint of draught Rebellion IPA for many months, the wind picked up slightly for the start of the 3rd race. Nick Craig and Sam Sparks (NZL598) of Queen Mary SC battled up to B buoy while the midstreamers got a nice lift to take them up the Berkshire bank in close pursuit. It was still a struggle around the Top mark and Andrew Boxer (OK 2196) came a cropper as did some others, but downwind was an excellent chance to make up places with some tense battles in midfleet.
Sam Sparks had to retire later on and Andy Dalby took over second with Ed Crichton in third while Gareth Jones kept up the pressure for best Cookham boat in sixth place ahead of Gary Adshead. Nick finished the race with a good lead over the rest of the fleet again.
Race 4 saw Nick stamp his authority on the day with a master class in light wind river sailing for a final win, but the battle for second was tense, with Ed Crichton taking the honours over Alan Robinson of Severn SC as the wind got even more fickle. Gary managed the Cookham fleet’s best result of the day in fifth just behind Andy Dalby of Burghfield.
The presentation took place in bright sunshine with tea and magnificent cakes as usual (supplied by Tricia Evison and Fiona Long), Mary Webb did a splendid job supplying the beer for the tailenders to cry into and Nick Craig strolled down memory lane reading names of OK sailors past on the trophy. He recalled his first trip to the club at the age of seventeen – he was second in the Enterprise Open to our magnificent Officer of the Day; Dave Phillips!
A great day and a big thank you to all our guests. Cookham loves OK’s!!