What a fantastic summer we have had so far – at least weather-wise. Sun and warmth in abundance and when mixed with some good wind – PERFECT for sailing. For me, it was good to be back at the lake after missing most of the season thus far due to family and personal holidays (This retirement guff is so tough! Ed) and the two Thursdays for which I was available the wind was forecast to be just a little bit too exuberant for safe sailing and hence day sailing and Races 5 and 7 of the Spring Series were cancelled.
So, once the volunteers had got the fleet ready and they had been briefed by the Session Manager, the early arrivals were helped to get out on the water to test the Race Course which had been set in a figure-of-eight shape (as has become the custom this season). With a strong NNW wind, the START/FINISH Line had been set from Buoy K to a red flag on a buoy in line with the Race Hut. The intention, when the course was set, was that, after the Start, it would allow a good Beat up to the first Mark – Buoy C – to be rounded to port so as to head off on a Broad Reach to the second Mark – Buoy B – which was to be rounded to port to start a mix of a Reach and a Run along the lake from West to East towards the third Mark – Buoy D – which would be passed to Starboard and then a short Run downwind to the fourth Mark – Buoy J – which was also to be passed to starboard before starting the long Beat back to the windward Mark – Buoy C – (taking care to pass through the Start/Finish Gate on each lap). Well that was the cunning plan.
However, Chipstead being Chipstead, once the Race got underway and the 9 entrants got spread out along the course, the wind direction on the water was so variable that at times the view from the Race Hut showed close-hauled dinghies Beating into the wind on different legs of the course simultaneously! And the wind indicator on the clubhouse roof was mostly reporting a consistent NNW wind! From reports I heard after the Race, it was very clearly tricky and no sooner than a helm thought that he/she had set the sails right for the prevailing wind on any particular tack, another boat’s speed through the water would show them that the wind had shifted and they needed to adjust. At times this meant that Kim in her 303 was outpacing the faster classes. And to further frustrate the race helms, at times the otherwise strong breeze faltered completely and left them going nowhere whilst they watched competitors sailing away from them or catching them up…..and then the wind would return and battle would recommence.
So, with these conditions in mind, all credit to our Racers who fought the wind as well as each other. And here I must apologise (An error? Yes, unusual as it may sound!) that the Race Officials managed to “lose” Mike Blatchford in his Liberty #188 “Pink Lady” for a whole Lap. One moment he was there, playing snakes and ladders with David Mason in his 2.4m and Martin Norman in his Martin #126, and then he was off our radar. The explanation? An equipment failure? No – he must have been sailing so fast or so far in front of the leading pack that we just missed him. (Clearly a Specsavers advert in the offing here! Ed).
Here are some pix that show the three front runners and Kim Sparkes in her 303 #9 and Louise Mc Sweeney in her Liberty #2162 and John Hancock and his crew, Alan Harris, in the Venture. With the wind conditions as described above, the whole fleet did extremely well to remain competitive and complete the Race. Finally, Louise thought that the jib boom from her Liberty had fallen into the lake and one of the Commandos went to look for it – see final photo! Actually, she had sailed the whole race with it being dragged through the water beside the hull!
The result – after careful scrutineering and discussions with the leading helms – was:
1. Mike Blatchford (Liberty)
2. Kim Sparkes (303)
3. Martin Newman (Martin)
4. David Mason (2.4m)
5. Steve Farmer (303)
6. Fay Watson and crew John Douglas (303)
7. Louise McSweeney (Liberty)
8. Peter Wagner (2.4m)
9. John Hancock and crew Alan Harris (Venture)
Do also look at the Overall Series Results on the website. Well done to those of you who have already qualified for the Spring Series by racing in 5 races.