Last weekend saw 16 travellers join 9 local boats at Seasalter Sailing Club for the first summer season event of the Sprint 15 fleet – the 2015 Southern Area Championship. Forecasts during the week had indicated a reasonably steady F4 North easterly for the weekend; however by Friday it was clear that Saturday would see the top end of F6 for the duration of racing.
Not deterred 23 boats made ready on Saturday morning in relatively bright and dry conditions but, with several days of NE winds a significant swell had built with onshore wave break in the 29-32mph winds. To minimise start delays a rhomboid course was set using an extension of the club start line between the beach and an offshore mark.
A clean start was made with all boats making a long easterly beat along the shoreline before tacking out to the offshore windward mark. The following offshore broad reach back westwards was across the swell and was to prove challenging. Luckily the winds were relatively steady but for some boats getting caught by a gust coincident with a wave front required intense activity to maintain speed and prevent pitch pole. This then led to a gybe onto the run with a following sea and then a reach back to the inshore hardening mark and finish line.
From the first leg 2018(Grattage), 1938(Dutch) and 1838(Rob Finch) started to pull away from the fleet and by the end of the first lap Grattage was well clear ahead and Finch was trailing Dutch by several boat lengths. 2015(Chatfield) and 1980(Hollis) pulled head of the following group with 1953(Tillyer) in hot pursuit. 2007(Holmberg), 1714(Groom), 1921(Healey) and 1871(Burrows) remained in close contact as the race progressed and a close battle was had by 1918(Pegum) and 1890(Jon Finch) just behind them.
By the third lap a number of boats made tactical decisions to tack offshore after the club line rather than follow the shoreline beat. With a strong downwind tide flow and wave action this was to prove a key factor in changing the fleet order. Hollis caught up with Rob Finch and a close tussle continued throughout the race and in the 4th lap Healey overtook Holmberg and Groom
In the latter laps the leaders lapped 1644(Shields), 1343(Mark Bunyan), who was in Sprint mode, and 923(Wilkinson). Rob Finch dropped back and 1714(Groom) joined Hollis and Tillyer in chasing the leaders. Grattage and Dutch came in several minutes ahead of the others with Hollis, Tillyer, Groom and Rob Finch following in close procession.
Unfortunately newcomer 1406(Joe Baker), in his first ever race on a Sprint 15, and 1289(Andy Bunyan) missed out the inshore hardening mark on lap 2 and did not finish. 1594(Stephen) retired in the early laps and Mark Bunyan capsized and subsequently retired with 1978(Holmes) retiring with a broken batten.
Race 2 started with 20 boats and Grattage and Dutch again pulled ahead with Tillyer, Rob Finch and Hollis all in close action and a second group tussle between Holmberg, Chatfield and 2004(Goldstone). Again choice of tacking on the beat was critical and with a slack tide in the opening laps the choices were more even. Grattage made the choice of tacking offshore and back again half way to the mark – avoiding the shore break and the windier conditions further out – and others followed on subsequent laps. By the end of the second lap Grattage lapped 1634(Mills) who had capsized at the gybe mark. In the following group Rob Finch pulled out a short lead over Hollis and they both overtook Tillyer. Meanwhile Pegum also capsized on the gybe and Baker, missed out the hardening mark!
Although it looked like the order would remain similar to race 1 Dutch capsized and the end of the run on the last lap, having had both rudders flick up, this allowed Rob Finch and Hollis to catch up and pass him. Grattage was clear ahead by 3 minutes and Rob Finch 2nd; Dutch fought back for 3rd and beat Hollis into 4th. Tillyer, Jon Finch and Burrows led the rest of the fleet home.
The boats returned ashore with much help from the SSC beach team to lift them away from the breakers. General view, great course, great time but all very tired!
Sunday morning saw cold and cloudy conditions and F3-F4 Northerly winds, forecast to veer eastward and drop in the afternoon. A similar course was set and as the start approached the sun came out to warm the fleet as 23 boats started race 3 in winds of 10-12mph. Tillyer led Grattage to the windward mark beating along the shore with Dutch following. Groom tried tacking after the start line but lost out in the tidal flow and lessening winds. Healey and Jon Finch were followed by Hollis and Baker. However the wind dropped and the last six boats were left struggling to make the windward mark against the tide.
Grattage overtook Tillyer only to lose out at the end of the run by pointing too high above the mark. Meanwhile Dutch was being chased closely by Healey and Hollis. Most of the rest of the fleet was in close proximity and 10 boats rounded the gybe and hardening marks in very close quarters – with commendable giving of water rights! Tillyer took an early tack on the beat leaving the others along the shoreline and lost out to Grattage; Healey passed Dutch with Hollis close behind being chased by Jon Finch. The third lap saw a reversal with Grattage tacking early on the beat in a wind shift from N to NE. However the shift was short lived and Tillyer and Healey made up the gap. Meanwhile whilst there was a big gap back to the bulk of the fleet they were in close contention with the tail-enders catching up in clean air.
With winds dropping to 4-5mph after the third lap started, and a slack tide the large course led to the fleet drawing out. Grattage led Tillyer and Healey to the finish with Hollis leading Jon Finch and Dutch in. 1742(John Bainbridge) had fought clear of the rest and followed Dutch home.
With continuing light winds the course was made smaller and the race 4 start sequence was commenced on the ebb flow. In the close competition for the line Dutch and Baker were over at the start and had to await the fleet getting away to return. With the light winds the race was to prove the closest of the weekend. Tillyer, Goldstone, Healey and Grattage were a tight group followed by Holmberg, Hollis, Groom and Pegum in a similar group. 1991(Darley) and Dutch retired in the first lap which saw Tillyer ahead of Goldstone at the line. On the second lap Tillyer got good speed on the offshore reach overtaking Grattage and Goldstone and although all tight at the gybe mark he maintained a lead.
On the 3rd, final, lap beat Grattage again tacked early but was still beaten to the windward mark by Tillyer. The fleet had split into a number of different tack points and this resulted in closing them up so that virtually every boat was in close contention with another through the final legs. Tillyer led Grattage to the line with Holmberg following but Healey bore away towards the line. Holmberg responded but Healey had enough speed to pass leeward of Holmberg to take 3rd place by 2 seconds. Pegum led Goldstone with Wilkinson leading Goldstone.
A weekend with conditions for all, a tired fleet made ashore. Paul Grattage took 1st place and the Southern Area Championship cup with Chris Tillyer 2nd and Kevin Dutch 3rd. Mark Bunyan was awarded the Sport mode trophy.
Windsport International continued their excellent support of the fleet with Paul Chatfield (2015) bringing the Windsport spares trailer to Seasalter for the weekend. In addition Windsport are graciously providing a prize at each Sprint 15 TT event of a free sail training weekend at their site. Erling Holmberg held a draw for the Seasalter event competitors and Paul Grattage was the lucky winner!
As usual Seasalter members turned out in force to help with the event and between 30 and 40 members helped out with the race management, patrol boats and catering. Special mention goes to the beach team for helping ensure everyone got afloat and back ashore in the breaking seas.
As Race Officer, my thanks to all, good to hear the course was enjoyed – although the rapid wind drop made the race 3 course too large. Perhaps the best accolade is – “can you sort out the tide times for next year’s event as soon as possible”.
Commodore, Seasalter SC
Full Series Results available here