When I arrived at Chipstead at 8.45 to help rig and launch all the boats which Steve had asked the volunteers to prepare, there was the same degree of wind as had been the case on Guanabara Bay in Rio on Wednesday! There was insufficient to hold the final Medal Races of the AMAZING SAILING OLYMPICS. I wasn’t totally surprised since Wind Guru for the club had said 3 to 5 knots! So I was delighted that some wind started to blow by the time clients were arriving at 10am and got on the water, even though I was concerned that there might not be sufficient wind later in the morning for any WS Racers and their crews, who wanted to race, to get round the course more than once.
But the wind gods produced just enough of a NE blow by 11.25 to get boats off the Start Line at Mark A, for a beat up to Mark D, followed by run downwind around Mark K, and a final run back down the lake to Mark A. We had a fantastic entry of 15 boats on the water ready to do battle: 1 Hansa 2.3, 6 double-handed 303s, 2 single-handed 303s, 2 Libertys, 2 2.4s and 2 Martins!! Despite my exhortations to each Class to get close to the Start Line in the minute before their start time, only a few of the boats managed to maximise their sailing time on the course. Too many boats did not cross the Start Line for quite some time after their Class’ start whistle had been blasted! Even in light winds, a 303 can sail a few hundred yards in a minute and that is how much advantage you are giving to your competitors if you do not work hard in the moments before your Class’ start. Lisa and her crew, Nick, managed to be first out of the starting blocks and were in hot pursuit of Ann as they rounded the windward Mark D, but then tried to slope off for a quick cuppa in the clubhouse before returning to do battle once half the 303 fleet had gone past Mark K. It was great to see her fight back to be second 303 at the finish!
I noticed that some of the Crews who had been asked to support WS Racing Helms were new to the current Race Series – so here is a big welcome to Mark’s crew, John, to Fay’s crew Alan , to Lisa’s crew, Nick, and to William’s crew, Bruce. And James and Tony were back to crew for John and Sam respectively. Thank you all, as always. Having said that, one “crew” I spoke to during the race told me in no uncertain terms that his objective was to “beat Bruce.” I assumed that was the Helm’s objective also?
The race saw lots of hard work put in by all the helms and crews in some tricky conditions with the wind not only varying in strength but also (as is normal for Chipstead) in its direction. The prevailing wind was NE but there were prolonged gusty shifts that had the wind backing to the North which (for those Helms who picked them up quickly) delivered nearly a straight line tack from Mark A to Mark D. I have put the record of each boat’s position during the race in the normal schematic at the end of this report. Well done to John Hancock and his crew James for holding on and eventually splitting Mike’s Martin and David’s 2.4. Brian Mac fought hard to gain a solid 4th place – and this probably accounted for me finding him on the lake in the afternoon, fast asleep at the tiller, with his boat going gently around and around! Exhausting stuff this racing! Ann’s performance, coming in 7th, was a notable improvement over her (unreported) 12th place last week. Apologies Ann, I will try to ensure your finishing place is prominently displayed in future! But trying to get in the way of bigger boats is tough!!
My final comment is to commend some of you for being so gentlemanly/womanly out on the water! I witnessed a number of collisions around Mark A and (I was told on the QT) some boats did not round Mark K on the downwind leg of the course, but these incidents did not result in shouting and official protests but rather(I surmise) a resigned – “It may be me in the wrong next time, so best to keep quiet”. But, on a serious note, sailing cannot work without rules – two prime ones being not to hit other boats, and to sail the set course – so please don’t be shy about asking the question of your fellow Helms! In as nice a way as you wish… which is often determined about the attitude of the boat in the wrong!
Again I am indebted to that eagle-eyed stalwart of the WS Racing group, Bob Fisher, for sharing his diary entry about what went on before, during and after, and on and off the water of Longford Lake, on race day!!
Bob’s journal records:
Today didn’t get off to a flier. At 8.45 am I decided to have a quick nap while I awaited Steve’s arrival. Two things occurred, my quick nap turned into a full blown snooze and Steve’s mobile phone decided it wasn’t going to work today. We eventually managed to meet up, but by now we were running too late to visit the sweet shop. It had become apparent that Mars Bars were no longer the bribe of choice since several of the volunteers had said they did not like them. So it seemed more exotic fare was required. One volunteer, who shall remain nameless, had requested sultanas and although keen to please I wasn’t happy with the currant exchange rate (boom boom).
Our delayed start meant we arrived slightly later than usual and as we approached the car park, I glanced to the pontoon just in time to see The Red Rocket and Kermit departing. Both were double-handed and I wondered if that would have increased the bribe required.
I was interested to see a film crew on site, no doubt wanting to interview me following my dramatic 5th place the previous week and maybe offer a part in a new blockbuster? But no, despite several attempts to photobomb the shoot, we were swiftly dispatched to the pontoon to select our chariots of water. Steve got there first and decided he liked a boat called ‘Lover’. As he departed into a very gentle breeze his stern turned around and it became apparent that Lover was in fact Keelover. Not known for being a winner, Steve had once again selected a lemon. With no Mars Bars available, I was next in line and a yellow 303 was pulled into place by the two man pit crew both of who answered to ‘John’. One of the John’s decided the yellow boat (never did get its name) needed some attention from the pit crew. At Brands Hatch and Silverstone I have seen pit crews turn around vehicles in seconds. Alas that was not the case with my yellow boat, which received a very prolonged, detailed attention from the two Johns.
Now I don’t wish to be called a ‘grass’ but….. during the boarding process, I noticed a number of very dubious items being smuggled aboard some boats. E.G. Mike Blatchford had managed to stow a full size paddle up his trouser leg and Mark Cayzer was carrying what appeared to be a Kalashnikov. Now I, more than most people, appreciate how important this racing has become to people, but surely this behaviour is a step too far?
I myself has stowed a wet sponge in case Peter W decided to return from his lengthy break in Cornwall and I might have to defend myself. Unfortunately, I forgot about this “special item” and sat on it when I got into my lemon – it also added considerable weight to my craft and affected my streamlining and ultimately probably cost me victory. Plus I sailed the whole race in wet pants!!
As we circled around waiting to start at Mark A, James very kindly pointed out that my outrider (Ed. ??) was loose. Initial reaction was to check my jeans to ensure I wasn’t improperly dressed, but I eventually got his meaning and corrected it accordingly. As the 15 craft (great turnout) circled near to Mark A, the usual game of coarse (sic) chinese whispers ensued. Luckily no one listened to Farmer who was suggesting the Start was at the other end of the lake. Confusion did occur when Captain Bligh appeared, shouting “water”‘ and “avast ye, ye swabs”. Personally I thought her reference to another boat’s helm and crew as “Bilge rats” was a little strong but there you go. As we lined up at the Start it suddenly became a little breezy and Bligh and the good ship bathtub (her Hansa 2.3) made full use of her 5 minute early starting handicap and hared up the lake towards the windward Mark D. The fleet of double-handed 303s weren’t so lucky and more than a number of them struggled over the line (I know, I was in the midst of them). By the time the single-handed 303s started, the wind was negligible. Having completed one unwanted 360, I found myself circling again and as I lined up to limp across the start, I found Steve in the ‘Lover’ stationary on the start line and bang slap in front of my boat. By the time the wind filled in and we got away, the Liberties had joined the race.
Having already highlighted the use of engines in the 2.4s, there had been further calls for drugs testing. One obvious target is Brian who has suddenly discovered very good form. It has been suggested that dope testing dogs be utilised to identify performance enhancing drugs. I was going to suggest using my Labrador “Oscar” but he turned out just to be a dopey dog rather than a dope dog. Mike Blatchford’s very small puppy was declared too dangerous (viz. his attack on Mike reported last week) and Mike Coleman’s Beast of Bromley too scary. I may have to interview Daisy or Gip for the position! Anyway with no dope testing available Brian got off to an excellent start and he overtook nearly all the other 303s in front of him.
As last week, Bligh managed to maintain her lead for a good while. Most boats seemed to make good progress especially Mike Blatchford’s Martin which was making strange water slapping noises as it powered by me. Next came the two 2.4 s . Peter W gave me his usual smile (which I read as ‘got you again’) and was rewarded by a broadside from the not-so-wet sponge.
A number of important personal battles were taking place around the course, but none more important than the battle for 10th and 11th place where Fisher and Farmer were nip and tuck. As we passed Mark D for the second time, I was able to force the Lover wide to get past and subsequently claim victory.
As regards the final rankings, I understood that Brian had done well again. I spoke with his pit team but was blanked with a ‘We know nothing’. Mike “Paddle” Blatchford was rumoured to have won, but at what cost to his reputation, I ask you? After last week feigning injury (viz. the reported dog attack), Mike must be flirting with disciplinary action in the not too distant future. Not sure where Mark Cayzer finished but he looked very happy, shooting Sailability volunteers after the race with his water powered Kalashnikov (Ed. Did this happen?)
The usual lively debrief followed, including laying out the pros and cons of Liquorice-all-sorts to replace Mars Bars. No film offers were made, although I think I saw Fleur making an attempt at stardom.
In summary another great day at Chipstead. Thanks to all the Sailability team for their care and attention and most importantly their great senses of humour.
Final Result: 1. Mike Blatchford; 2. John Hancock/James; 3. David Mason; 4. Brian Mac; 5. Peter W; 6. Lisa Holland/Nick; 7. Ann Frewer; 8. William/Bruce; 9. Sam / Tony; 10. Bob; 11. Steve; 12. Bill Garry; 13. Fay Watson/Alan; 14. Mark Cayzer/ John; 15. Andy Wallace