In recent weeks the challenge for WS Racers has been to complete at least a single lap of the course set because there hasn’t been very much assistance from the wind. Well this week the challenge was the same but, rather there being too little wind, the Racers had to contend with a strong and very gusty wind arriving from a variety of directions but mainly the SW, which required competence, bravery and resilience to keep their boats moving forward. The strength of the wind, with gusts approaching 30 knots, meant that the Trustees did not make a final decision to allow the race to take place until around 1030.

Martin Norman, Mark Cayzer and Peter Wagner had arrived at the lake shortly after 10am, keen to battle the elements. They were able to get out on the lake after the Trustees’ decision and were  joined by Fay Watson, David Mason, Louise McSweeney, Jake Jones, Sophie Absalom, Kim Sparkes and Malcolm Hill.  Due to the conditions, the Session Manager, Steve Thomas, ensured that some Helms were paired up with experienced crews, namely Tim Phillips, Mike Coleman, Tony Merrick, Mike McKenzie and Helen Fairfax. Thanks to them for enabling our keen Racers to take to the water and enter Race #8 of the Summer Series.

The first boat out on the water was Wealden Sailability’s new Drascombe Longboat. This was her first outing with WS Clients aboard and she looked magnificent – as can be this seen here:

The star of the Start was Jake who hit the line in his 303 #2 as the gong sounded and he quickly had a substantial lead over a chasing pack comprising Martin (Martin #125), Fay (303 #9), Malcolm (Martin # 126), Peter (2.4m #108) and Sophie (303 #1). He managed to continue making the pace beating into a very hard SW wind as those behind him battled the wind and each other up to the windward Mark A. Here are two photos showing Jake (blue sail) absolutely flying away from the fleet after the Start (Well done Jake! Ed)…..

Just after the three minute Start gong had sounded, David Mason (2.4m #109) had an altercation with another  dinghy(Unidentified apparently! Ed)  during the  pre-start melee up and down the start line, and this resulted in some damage to David’s  boat. John King was quickly on the scene in the safety boat and was able to get David’s boat to the pontoon with words that David thought were “I think that’s the end of your racing today!” The countdown for the Start of the Race continued whilst the damage was assessed. The Race started!! Fortunately for David, Steve Thomas managed to rig up a temporary solution to his boat’s problem and he joined the race – starting a few minutes late. Maybe it was just brilliant sailing or more good fortune, but the angle of the wind enabled David to sail just two tacks from the port end of the start line to the first mark (Buoy A) and as can be seen from this sequence of photos, he came into the mark on a starboard tack (hence having right of way) and squeezed himself in front of Malcolm, Mark, Jake and Kim, to round the first mark in second place.

It was a shame that the tough sailing conditions meant that Sophie (303 #1), crew Helen, was not enjoying herself and decided to retire (Great effort Sophie. And a good call to retire if the racing is no longer enjoyable! Ed).    With the wind remaining strong as they rounded the second mark (Buoy B), Martin Newman and David Mason started the downwind leg towards the Leeward mark (Buoy D) with Martin in the lead and David a little way behind.  Martin managed to maintain his advantage and stayed ahead around the Leeward Mark D. But, by the time the two leaders had battled their way into the wind, back up to Mark A, David had overhauled Martin to round the Windward Mark first and appeared to be pulling out a good lead. There were lots of individual duels going on across the lake and personal ones.  Jake and Mark sailed  their 303s around the course in their own ways but coming together at the Windward Mark, it could be seen how equal they were. And as the race progressed they were mixing it with the leaders and back marker. And Louise McSweeney on her own in 303 #5 was finding the conditions were making it very difficult to set the sails so that she wasn’t either being knocked over by the gusts or getting stuck in irons and blown backwards.  The result was that she was caught by the leaders  on their second lap after they rounded the Leeward mark and set out  to beat into the wind again. (Nevertheless Louise stuck to her guns and finished the Race – bravissima! Ed).

All the time, Kim Sparkes had been sailing in her usual under-the-radar style and could be seen pulling ahead of the other 303s and getting close to Malcolm in his Martin and Peter Wagner in his 2.4m so it was no surprise to us in the Race Hut that once the lap times had been calculated and despite the fact that the Race Controller saw fit to ask Kim to sail one more lap than the other 303s (After the Race, Kim said that  her final lap had really tested her resolve since she was very tired. What spirit. Ed), Kim won the Race ahead of Martin who had stayed close enough on the water to David’s 2.4m and was thus placed second. The rest of the results are shown below.

After the Race, all the WS Racers were congratulated on their brave and sterling performances. A senior sailor was heard to say that many members of Chipstead Sailing Club would not have ventured out in such windy conditions.  (What a commendation! Well done to you all. Ed)

Results of Race Summer Series #8

  1. Kim Sparkes (303S)
  2. Martin Newman (Martin)
  3. David Mason (2.4m)
  4. Jake Jones  and crew Mike Mckenzie (303D)
  5. Mark Cayzer and crew Mike Coleman (303D)
  6. Malcolm Hill and crew Tim Phillips (Martin)
  7. Fay Watson and crew Tony Merrick (303D)
  8. Peter Wagner (2.4m)
  9. Louise McSweeney (303S)

Sophie Absolom and crew Helen Fairfax (303D) retired.


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