SOUTHEND’s biggest yachting event takes place on Saturday and could throw up some surprises this year.

The annual Nore Race – which starts from the town’s pierhead – is organised by Benfleet Yacht Club and this year may see some new crews get their hands on the silverware.

Benfleet YC’s rear commodore Phil Bostock said he believed that the Dauntless Boat Yard-sponsored event would be special this time around.

He said: “Last year we had Windsong of Leigh, a Finesse 24, as overall winner of the yacht classes. Sadly Windsong’s skipper Peter Watkins has sold the boat so the way is clear for another winner to emerge.

“A strong contender is likely to be Golden Harvest.

“She’s a Westerly Centaur class boat owned and sailed by Derek Howlett. Derek was second last year. But even he will have some competition as there are several Westerly Centaurs entered into the race,” he added.

Bostock outlined the history of the event and stressed its importance to the town’s sailing community. “It’s been run for about 90 years – with a break for the war years.

“It is a bit of history that all local sailors can enjoy. Most entrants are from the Southend foreshore from Canvey to Shoebury – but we have a fair number from further away.

“Most of the visitors come from Suffolk, London and Kent,” he added.

One of the things that makes the Nore Race unique is that large yachts race alongside much smaller and lighter dinghies.

And the course is not decided until the day and depends upon the wind direction.

Former Benfleet YC commodore Rob Scriven said that whe’d love to win the Nore race this time around.

But he’s philosophical about his chances – despite being a former class winner.

He owns the Sun Odyssey 40 called ‘Rollercoaster’ which is a well known boat on the local scene. And he’ll be racing it this time around with family members and his regular crew.

He said: “The Nore race is special. But to some extent it comes down to the conditions on the day. Last year was a light wind race which meant that it suited the ‘slower’ boats (on handicap). We got around in three hours 35 minutes last year, but the eventual winner was a lot later... but made up the time on handicap.

“A proper force five breeze would suit us the most because of the way the handicap and tide works out.

“The day after the Nore is the Town Cup, which is another big trophy, and we’re hoping to be able to defend that title – so it will be a busy weekend for us.”

It is expected that in excess of 160 yachts and dinghies will make the start line and there is a big emphasis on the following weekend’s prizegiving evening on June 27.

Geoff Cook, the commodore of Benfleet YC, praised Dauntless Boat Yard manager Gareth Worters for all his help with the race each year.

And Cook said: “The band ‘Plan C’ will be with us again at the prize-giving and the evening is usually brilliant.”