Over 20kts of biting cold wind made for an exciting day's racing on the River Medway at this weekend's Hoo Freezer dinghy event

The 33rd Hoo Freezer, sponsored by Singer & Friedlander and Hoo Marina was held over the weekend 21-22 February. Hoo Yacht Club, with assistance from Wilsonian Sailing Club, organises this annual premier winter sailing event. Other clubs on the Medway provide essential safety boat and medical cover, with the St John’s Ambulance and Coast Guard on standby.

A chilly light easterly welcomed the early arrivals for the Saturday practice race but by the midday start had increased to a north-easterly gusting to over 20 knots, providing thrills and spills for the 47 entries, several taking a swim on their way to the line. However, Neil Ashby/Roz Allen (RS800) stormed round the lapping course to claim line honours and lift the ‘Sun Wharf Cup’, while Chris Catt/Mark Heather (29ER) chased them all the way to claim second spot with Richard Stenhouse (Musto Skiff) third.

The wind strengthened overnight to a Force 5-6 northerly with gusts of over 35 knots being recorded in the occasional squalls. These hairy conditions took their toll; some deciding to stay safely ashore, while others gave up the struggle after numerous capsizes. The safety cover was kept fully occupied as they rescued crew and recovered boats. One crew had the misfortune of becoming trapped under their boat by the trapeze wire, happily vital assistance was given promptly and all ended well.

Of the 69 who signed-on, just 22 managed to master these demanding conditions to record a finish. As to be expected fast handicap boats claimed the top five places. David Hayes/Sean Dwyer (B14) led after the first lap with Stenhouse, Catt/Heather, Paul Cullen/Jon Ching (Fireball) and Ashby/Allen snapping at their heels. Stenhouse edged ahead on the next round and held position for line honours, the course being shortened to three laps, fourth on adjusted time. Catt/Heather finished close behind for runners-up spot, while Jon White/Alex Cruttenden (29er) had gradually worked their way through to claim third on corrected time with Hayes/Dwyer settling for fifth prize.

Cullen/Ching kept up sufficiently with the faster boats to secure victory and the ‘Hoo Freezer Cup’, though the margin was just 16 seconds on corrected time. Colette Blair, sailing her Laser Radial with ease showed the ‘big boys’ how to cope with these conditions, beating many of the faster boats on the water and picking-up sixth prize in the process.

To end an eventful weekend, on returning to shore, some found their cars under two/three feet of floodwater due to a high tidal surge.

The Race Officer’s prize for endeavour was awarded to Nick Miller/Tim Dowley who wrecked their Laser Stratos on Saturday but finished 20th on Sunday in a 420. The Mayor of Medway, Tony Golden, presented the prizes.

Overall Results

Hoo Freezer (Hoo Freezer Cup)

1st Fireball 14783 Paul Cullen/Jon Ching (Weir Wood SC)

2nd 29er 349 Chris Catt/mark Heather (Wilsonian SC)

3rd 29er 873 Jon White/Alex Cruttenden (Pevensey SC)

4th Musto Skiff 107 Richard Stenhouse (Rutland SC)

5th B14 767 David Hayes/Sean Dwyer

6th Laser Radial 174103 Colette Blair (Bewl Valley SC)

7th Osprey 665 Roger Kent/James Anderson (Mengeham Rythe SC)

8th Laser Radial 171716 Nick van Tienen (Stokes Bay SC)

9th Albacore 7425 Richard/David Thorpe (Maidenhead SC)

10th Musto Skiff 111 Grahame Oliver (Whitstable YC)

Saturday Practice Race (Sun Wharf Cup)

1st RS 800 838 Neil Ashby/Roz Allen (Wilsonian SC)

2nd Chris Catt/Mark Heather

3rd Richard Stenhouse

Highest placed club team:

Weir Wood SC

Paul Jenkins/Colin Hatton (RS 800), David Mason/Keith Payne (Fireball), Paul Cullen/Jon Ching (Fireball)

Highest placed class team:

Musto Skiff – Richard Stenhouse (Rutland SC), Kit Stenhouse (Rutland SC) Grahame Oliver (Whitstable YC)

First Youth Sailor (Hoo Marina Cup)

Jon White and Alex Cruttenden

Highest placed boat Saturday and Sunday combined: Gransden Marine Trophy

Chris Catt and Mark Heather

Race Officers Prize:

Nick Miller and Tim Dowley (Marconi SC)