“Sailors like wind!” I hear you cry – but maybe not after seeing the dramatic pitchpole last Tuesday by the NZ  Team Emirates  skipper when he found that 24 knots of wind was just too much to handle as he managed to bear away and start the chase from the head to wind position he had been forced into by Ben Ainslie in his Land Rover BAR boat before he was able to accelerate away to cross the Start Line at 25 knots and increase his boat’s speed to 40 Knots. And he was half way to the first race mark on the Great Sound of Main Island Bermuda when the NZ boat rose high on its foils before its race-ending nose dive! Nevertheless in the mere 14 knots of wind today, the 26 year old Peter Burling proved his cool and resilience and beat Ben’s Land Rover BAR team in the semi-final by 5 wins to 2. A brilliant effort by the Kiwis who – for me – have been the stand out boat of the challengers so far. But the Artemis Swedish boat is coming up fast.  Today it has edged ahead of Softbank Japan by winning 3 races on the trot – the last one as a result of a favourable umpiring decision for Artemis; (Key Learning Point – Ed: the umpire agreed that Artemis was not given enough room to tack round the Mark by the Japanese boat when Artemis was the inside boat within the 3 X boat length circle of the Mark!! All amazing stuff which I hope some of you WS Racers will have been able to watch.

Well there was plenty of wind to welcome the 7 Racers who turned up at Longford Lake in Chipstead today. The SSW wind was blowing at around 20 knots, gusting towards 30 knots, and due to the high trees around the lake, it was arriving from a variety of directions  – backing to the S and veering as far as WNW. This made life very tricky for all the helms and crews out on the water.

The course was set and shown on the Race Board and repeated verbally over the Race tannoy immediately before the race so that nobody would set off for the wrong first Mark! The course was a beat from the Start Line to Mark A at the western end of the lake, tacking and leaving it to starboard to set up for the run down towards Mark C which the fleet gybed around before continuing to run down to Mark D, and after tacking round that Mark, they had to beat back up towards the Start Line gate which they then had to pass through each lap.

The whole fleet got away to a good start, even the Martin 126 that honestly came back to cross the Start Line within the Gate (Thank you Brian Mac! Ed), before battling its way up to the windward Mark and then literally flying downwind to Mark C and, after a quick gybe to correct their sail angle in front of the wind, down to the leeward Mark D, where helms split into two camps – Camp A: who tacked immediately and began beating up to the Start Gate on port tack and Camp B: who rounded the Mark and then tightened up on the wind to cross the lake towards the boat park before tacking back on a lay line to the Start Gate – some boats needed a another tack, but some did not, hence saving time!!

As the race unfolded, the view from the Race Hut was a marvellous spectacle with boats, sails pulled tight in, heeling over as they got buffeted by the gusty wind and others, going in the opposite directions, flying along with billowing sails as they planed  downwind.  All in all great fun to watch and, I hope, fun to be part of on the water. Well done to you all and thanks to the WS volunteers who helped as crews on some of the boats and to Fleur Bryant who was out on the water in the Commando encouraging everyone and giving help to those who needed it.

Also many thanks to Chris Wagner and Alan Cayzer who have assisted Mike Coleman and myself in the Race Hut – so that we can get the correct lap times for each boat as it crosses the Start/Finish Gate!

At the end of 30 hard sailed minutes, everyone finished and the Final Result was:

  1. Kim Sparkes (303); 2.  Mike Blatchford (Martin) 18 seconds per lap behind the leader; 3. David Mason (2.4m) 47 secs; 4. Brain Mac and his crew John Douglas (Martin) 58 secs; 5. Mark Cayzer and his crew James Thomas (303) 59 secs; 6. Fay Watson and her crew Mike Coleman (303) 1 min 2 sec; 7. Peter Wagner (2.4m) 1 min 20 sec; 8. Nigel Lamb and crew Paul (Venture) 2 min 7 secs.


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