Everyone associated with Wealden Sailaibility has looked forward to this day for nearly eighteen months (Yes, really. Since October 31st 2019). Of course the first five months was the expected Winter break when the fleet, the pontoons and the foreshore is checked over carefully and repaired or upgraded as required. Then just as you and we were all getting ready for the 2020 Season, the first Lockdown was announced and every initiative and activity had to stop. Since then a huge amount of work has been done behind the scenes (or, since we are sailors, “Under the surface”? Ed) by the Trustees to work out how “WS could function in a socially distanced world?” Yesterday was the culmination of all their and the volunteers’ efforts to be ready to safely and legally welcome sailors back onto the water at Chipstead. Thank you – all of you!!
Since mid-March, everyone who has participated in WS Races has been contacted and told about the situation and the Trustees’ plans to start asap. Some of you Racers were keen as mustard to get out on the water, whilst others were more cautious. Eventually ten sailors were invited to attend the inaugural sailing session and race on 13th May. Due to late opportunities for medical attention and concern that it was still too cold, it was left to a stalwart eight and their families and carers to arrive at a drizzle swept Chipstead Lake by 10.30am. (Hooray and many thanks to you for coming to support the small group of volunteers who had been at the lake since 8.30am staring at a nearly flat calm lake wondering how many sailors would brave what was a rather uninviting scene . Ed)
It was lovely to greet the sailors who had accepted an invitation to sail and for them to greet each other….
After a brief chat amongst these sailors, they decided that they would like to get out on the water and race. So the volunteers rigged and launched the necessary boats and the sailors got into them….
The wind had been forecast to blowing from the East at a perfect (for first day back) 8 knots with gusts to 14 knots. The course had been set with that wind direction in mind allowing a beat from the Start Line (stretching out into the lake in front of the Race Hut) up to Mark D which had been dragged towards the southerly bank of the Donald King Reach. But In reality there was a gentle 4 knots blowing from the South East which resulted in nearly being able to reach to the first Mark on a single tack. As can be seen in this short video….
After rounding Mark D to port, the course took the fleet westward and downwind to round Mark C before heading for Mark B after which the fleet had to harden up their sails to reach across to Mark A and then tacking around to start sailing back to the Start/Finish Line. Or at least that was the theory when the Race started at 11.25am but by the time the racers had got round to Mark B they found that the wind had veered from the expected East to South East and then South! If the wind had been consistent, that would have meant the leg from Mark B to Mark A was a straightforward reach but instead it became a tricky beat. As you all know Chipstead’s wind is not consistent, so rounding Mark A was difficult and some sailors who got the approach right made good progress at the expense of others who rounded Mark B in front of them. (Welcome back to chaos Racers! Ed).
After lots of encouragement over the Tannoy from the Race Hut, the fleet was well bunched up on the Start line ready for the 3-2-1 Minute count down to the Start. The video shows the early leaders and Derek Preston (Liberty Sail #24) was able to stretch his lead down to Mark B but then he inexplicably sailed off course (Was he on a sight seeing tour of our beautiful waterfall? Ed) which enabled those following him to beat him around Mark A, not least the other Liberty helm Martin Norman (Liberty #25). And Martin led the Race across the Finish line for the first time and was followed by Derek who was chased hard all the way home by Kim Sparkes (303 #4).
Trevor Monk (303 #6), Mark Cayzer (303 #7) with his dad crewing, and Tom Phillips (303 #8), were all sailing well and battling the wind shifts as they ocurred. This meant that these three were swapping places throughut the race…..
But it was not until the leg from Mark D to Mark C on the second lap that Tom was able to overhaul Mark, having passed Trevor earlier.
Despite the drizzle and the lack of wind, all the Racers said that they had enjoyed their sail as had Rachel and Imogen who had opted for the luxury of a sail on The Pride of Peppenbury, WS’s beautiful Longboat, togther with Brigitte who had brought them and Tom to Chipstead.
The final Result after applying the PY handicapping for each class (303 Double handed; 303 Single handed; Liberty) was:
- Martin Norman Liberty – Sail #25
- Kim Sparkes 303S – Sail # 4
- Derek Preston Liberty – Sail #24
- Tom Phillips 303S – Sail #8
- Trevor Monk 303S – Sail #6
- Mark Cayzer and Alan Cayzer 303D – Sail #7
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this Race Report and seeing the photos of your friends will inspire you to contact Steve Thomas and Peter Ashwell so that you are invited you to the next Thursday Sailing Session. Bravo all of you sailors!!