Last Thursday (Oct 15) began as a drizzly, cold day with little breeze but, since gusts up to 20 mph had been forecast for later in the morning, the Session manager asked that sails be reefed when we set up the dinghies. However, once the first WS clients arrived it began to warm up and the NNE wind started to gain in strength to about 10 mph.
The Race Course (START/FINISH = K:Pontoon; then D; B; K) was set on the Race Board at 10am and the WS Racers, who arrived early for the morning session, had plenty of time to practice and enjoy free sailing on the lake prior to the Race. By noon, there were 6 Access 303s, 2 Liberties and a single Martin milling around the Start line as the first whistle blast sounded (indicating 5 minutes to the 303 Start).
Brian Mac was perfectly positioned as the 303 Start whistle sounded and he led Ann Frewer, Fay Watson and Avril Sleeman, a newcomer to WS and WS Racing (WELCOME Avril – Ed.) across the line to start the first leg up to the first Mark (Buoy D). As always, knowing the Sailing Rules can give you an advantage – especially on the Start Line! And yesterday, there was a perfect example when Bob who sensibly was starting on a Starboard Tack (and hence he could have held his course whilst all boats on Port Tack MUST tack or go round behind him) acted the gentleman by slowing and changing direction to enable Steve to sail straight across his bows!!
The Beat up to the first Mark, Buoy D, was made tricky because of the direction of the wind and the effect of the trees on the north bank. This meant that the WS Racers who kept closer to the south bank made better progress. And therefore, Steve, having crossed the Start Line in 5th place, rounded the first Mark in 3rd place, following Brian and Ann. Taking advantage of a favourable gust, Brian started to pull away, followed by Ann and the rest of the fleet on the Downwind leg towards the second Mark, Buoy B. The rest of the 303s started to bunch up as the wind quietened, especially on the north side of the lake, but by sailing their boats into the middle of the lake, Bob, Avril and Fay managed to get the best of the wind and were closing in on the Mark in 2nd, 3rd and 4th place. Bob went round clear and headed off to the next mark whilst Avril called for Water (Mark-Room) from Fay who moved across to let her round the Mark on the inside. However, this manoeuvre was disrupted when Ann, who had been caught up and was furthest away from the Mark, collided with Fay who subsequently hit Avril. This should have resulted in somebody making a 360 penalty turn and, in view of uncertainty, probably everyone could have done that! Please remember the most important Sailing Rule is to keep clear of and hence avoid collision with/damage to other boats (even if you/the helm think you have right-of-way!)
LESSON: There is a key Rule intended to enable two or more boats that are close to one another to round or pass a Mark without damage or injury in a fair, orderly, and predictable way that preserves the order of the boats that was established before they reached the Mark. So if two or more boats are all on Starboard Tack, have an overlap on the boat on their outside when entering the 3 boat length zone around the Mark, and want to gybe around a leeward (downwind) mark, the outside boats are required by Rule 18.2(b) to give the inside boats mark-room. And since on this occasion the WS Racers are all on starboard tack, the outside boats are required by Rule 11 to keep clear of those inside them. As a result, the inside boat is in the driver’s seat and is therefore entitled to make a tactical approach and rounding of the mark (rather than just make a seamanlike approach and rounding of the mark). NB. This LESSON was extracted from a lengthy article which can be read in Sailing World about the new Mark-Room Rules
The Liberty (+ 3 minutes) and Martin (+ 8 minutes) classes had started by the time Brain Mac and Bob had rounded Buoy B ahead of the rest of the 303 fleet, so Peter, Kim and Mark could see their quarry and the only question was “Could they use the extra power at their disposal to catch them?”
All the classes seemed to enjoy the Reach between Buoys B and K and made best use of the wind coming down/across the middle of the lake. So by the end of the first lap, Brian was in 1st place leading Steve who had sailed a storming leg from B to K and went up to 2nd place, ahead of Ann, Fay, Avril and Bob, Some distance behind but closing gradually Peter and Kim in their Liberties and Mark in his Martin were chasing down the pack of 303s.
The upwind leg from Mark K to Mark D and the downwind leg from Mark D to Mark B proved just as much a challenge to the Racers on the second lap as they had done earlier in the Race and, other than Brian continuing to extend his lead, this resulted in places being swapped among the 303 fleet as the helms either caught or lost the available wind which was at times gusting to 15 mph. Possibly due to the fluctuating wind, the Liberties and the Martin were not catching the 303s as quickly as their PY rating expects. So by the end of the second lap, Brian had a commanding lead over Avril (possibly now getting her crew, Rick, to work a bit harder!) who had forged into 2nd place, ahead of Fay (and her crew, James) in 3rd, Steve 4th, Ann 5th and Bob 6th. Peter W had nearly caught up the 303 back-markers in his Liberty in 7th, ahead of Kim and Mark.
The last lap saw a complete change around in fortunes, with Brian Mac deciding to run aground, in the shallow water between the Pontoon and the beach, rather than tack off towards Mark D and certain victory. By the time the stand-by boat had dragged him back into deep water and even with a stalwart fight to get back on terms, Brian came in 6th! In the opposite direction, Ann who had fallen back to 5th after 2 laps, sailed a great final lap to come 1st – for the second week running! (Brava Ann – Ed) getting in just in front of our newcomer Avril who was chased all the way home by Steve, Fay and Bob and a little ahead of Brian Mac who still beat the Liberties and Martin.
In summary, although the wind’s behaviour on the lake when blowing from NNE does not make for the easiest of sailing, the WS Race #11 showed that resilience to keep sailing, whatever is happening around you and wherever you are on the lake, pays dividends. Well done to all of you!
Result: 1 Ann; 2 Avril; 3 Steve; 4 Fay; 5 Bob; 6 Brian Mac; 7 Kim; 8 Mark; 9 Peter