Apologies for the lateness of this Race Report which I’m writing on the Wednesday following the Race because I left Sevenoaks immediately after the WS session last Thursday to drive to the famous Spa-Francorchamps car racing circuit in Belgium for their annual Classic Car Racing weekend. I was the co-pilot and navigator in a drophead 1968 3.8 litre straight-six E-Type Jaguar and we traveled in company with a similarly specified fixed head 1967 E-Type. Two beautiful and very valuable cars which behaved impeccably throughout the 500 mile trip which was driven as much as possible along A and B roads.
Being away at the weekend meant that I was going to miss out on the excitement of the final races in the 2017 America’s Cup. However, I did hear that, although the USA had made some effective improvements in their boat’s speed during the 5 day rest period since the initial 4 races, NZ’s amazingly talented 26 year old skipper Peter Burling was turning the screw with some good starts and more wins! I watched the final race upon my return to celebrate with the NZ team. Everything they did over the last 3 years was superlative and they deserved their victory!! The USA’s failure tells us that money alone is NOT enough and maybe it is more difficult to question yourself if you are used to winning. They spent 3 years believing in and perfecting the use of their chosen foil design and sail handling philosophies, then had 5 days to jettison those beliefs and implement the NZ approach – bar the cycle-powered pressurising of the hydraulic system. Of course that proved to be an impossible ask – even for the hugely experienced campaigner – 40 year old Aussie – Jimmy Spithill.
However, back to reporting on Race 10 which was sailed in some unexpectedly brisk wind conditions, following 30 minutes of torrential rain accompanied by lots of loud thunder and bright lightning. This severe thunderstorm was forecast and led the Session Safety Manager, John King, to delay the start of sailing by those who had turned up at 10 am. It was not until just before 11 am that conditions were deemed safe enough to allow sailing to begin and most of the eleven WS Racers were quick to get on the water.
The course had been set and in view of there being a Westerly wind, the Start Line was set between the Race Hut flag pole and a flag on the water, with the first leg being a Beat into the wind up to the windward Mark A, and after tacking round that Mark to starboard, starting the first of two Downwind legs with a Gybe around Mark C before continuing downwind to the leeward Mark D which had to be rounded to starboard before Tacking and staring the short beat up-wind to go through a Gate set up on between Mark K and the Start/Finish flag on the water.
The bad weather had a knock-on effect on getting everybody into their boats and so there was a 5 minute delay to starting the Race. However, when the Start Gong sounded there were six boats very well positioned to start racing. Most of them were aiming to start on Starboard-tack at the mid-lake end of the Start Line , which should enable them to have a useful initial Tack across the lake. But, as the result of some helms sailing closer to the wind, the windward boats were (quite correctly – within the rules of sailing) forced to tack away onto Port tacks. However, this leading group of the fleet moved up the lake smoothly, despite an increase in the wind strength and gustiness. Mark A was rounded first by Peter Gregory’s 2.4m and Mike Blatchford’s Martin, The boats in the next part of the fleet all crossed the Start Line reasonably soon after the Gong and then began to get strung out on the first leg, possibly due to difficulty in handling the extra wind strength and shifts in wind direction.
No sooner than a fixed order of boats seemed to be emerging, using our bird’s eye-view view from the race hut, a helm would find themself in some extra wind or spot a wind shift and hence improve their VMG (…we might as well learn from the America’s Cup commentators!) Bravo, that’s the standard we’re aiming for at WS!! Ed. and make ground on the boats around them. Of course the normal challenges of boat-handling and knowing the sailing rules also played their part in gaining or losing water to other WS Racers. An example of the later played itself out as, from the race hut, we saw a Martin and a 2.4m running down, at the front of a group of boats, towards Mark D. For no apparent reason, the Martin over shot the lay line for the Mark and ended up having to Tack and subsequently lost four places and a lot of time. After the race, I asked Mike Blatchford what had happened and he said that “I had to get out of the way of the 2.4m which was coming up behind and alongside me.” Here is a Key Learning Point: The sailing rules are very clear that on a run downwind, OVERTAKING BOATS must KEEP CLEAR of boats in front if they catch them up and wish to pass. Remember also the boats behind you on a run are WINDWARD boats and hence must KEEP CLEAR. So the Martin should have held its course and ensured that it sailed above the lay line so that it could ensure it had the inside line to tack around Mark D in first place!! Know the Sailing Rules to win. Ed.
Generally there was a lot of changing of positions on the water during the race but it was in the last 300 yards of the race that there was one exceptional piece of quick thinking which enabled Peter Wagner to gain a place by overtaking David Mason (who had rounded Mark D well clear of Peter) and succeed in finishing 12 seconds ahead of David. Peter, who had followed David around Mark D, quickly assessed that the wind direction was taking David away from the Finish Line, so Peter decided to tack immediately onto a starboard Tack and head straight for the Finish Line. David had also decided to tack but just too late. Peter managed to get clear air and enough room to make a further tack, he was home in front of the boat that he had trailed for most of the race. It was very exciting to watch from the race hut as this dramatic finish unfolded on the water. Great effort by both helms.
The final results are shown below and if any helms are in any doubt as to where the “magic formula” has placed them, please do ask to see how the final placings are calculated and how close you are to boats in front of you. For example, there was just 1 second per lap between Steve Farmer and Fay Watson and 2 seconds per lap between Fay and Peter Wagner!!
Well done to all the helms for completing Race 10 and a big thank you to the volunteer crews and Alan Cayzer who assisted me in the Race Hut. Until tomorrow….
1. Kim Sparkes 303; 2. Ann Frewer 2.3; 3. Steve Farmer 303; 4. Fay Watson and James Thomas 303; 5. Peter Wagner 2.4m; 6. David Mason 2.4; 7. Bob Fisher 303; 8. Peter Gregory 2.4m; 9. Mike Blatchford Martin; 10. Brian Mac Liberty; 11. Mark Cayzer and Daniel.