Thirteen Dart 15 travellers joined the one local sailor at Rutland for our May TT as part of the wider Rutland Cat Open comprising six fleets and nearly 70 boats.
After a long, wet spring, competitors were finally greeted with two days of sunshine with a very fresh breeze from the north or north east. Champagne sailing conditions with a very healthy breeze, plenty of gusts and some tricky shifts across the weekend allowing many competitors to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory over the six races.
The six fleets were split into two courses with the cats with flappy sails doing upwind/downwind on one course and the Dart 18s, Catapults and Dart 15s on a separate course with a mix of trapezoid courses for us and some creative upwind/downwind action for the Dart 18s between marks 2 and 3. Yep, we were confused too but it largely seemed to work. However, on day 1, the two courses were overlapped with the fast course windward and spreader marks located just above and to the right of our committee boat and start line.
As such, fourteen Dart 15s lined up on starboard for their start and were a little bewildered when several Nacras and A Class threaded the needle through the fleet upwind and then, having gone round the two marks, popped their kites and came back for another go. Conversely, the Nacras were probably a bit surprised to clear their spreader mark, pop the kite and find themselves pointing at a committee boat and a row of fourteen boats lined up on starboard watching an A Class sail the wrong way through their start line ten second before the start gun.
But, as ever, the fleets adapted to this new reality and cracked on with the task in hand without any collisions. Local sailor Steve Sawford quickly showed the way heading left in the strong breeze and setting a pretty early lead. He was chased hard by Liam Thom (Shanklin), Angus Cook (NDYC), Jon Pearse (Marconi) and Jason Clarke (Marconi). Steve had a convincing lead for lap one and into lap two. On the second beat, however, Liam and Angus split from Steve and headed right. On this occasion, it paid and they managed to overhaul the previous lead. When the race was finished early at mark 3 on the second lap – Liam had taken the lead, followed by Angus, then Steve, Jon and Jason.
Race two was underway without undue delay. Steve again shot off the start line with Liam and Angus in hot pursuit. Some of the fleet took the opportunity to tack off right early and see if they could pick up an advantage from the gusts coming down the right hand side of the lake and it definitely resulted in some change of positions. By the end of lap two, Steve had held onto his lead and sailed to the finish mark expecting the race to conclude after two laps. But there was no blue flag flying on the committee boat so everyone hedged their bets by following Steve round the finish mark as it also cleared mark 4 and then everyone set off for another lap. After the final lap, Steve took a convincing win followed by Liam, Jenny Ball (Marconi), Jason and Jon.
Another quick turnaround and race three was underway. The front of fleet shot off left in the normal manner. But a group of sailors tacked off right and were first into the windward mark led by Nigel James (Marconi), Dave Clarke (Marconi) and Derek James (Draycote). Those who had gone far left such as Steve and Liam found themselves definitely mid fleet. The downwind leg proved to be equally tactical with some of the fleet gybing off early to try and escape the relative shelter of the north shore sooner. This allowed Jason, Angus and Jenny to catch up with the fleet leaders. Jason led into the second upwind leg but this leg again proved to be decisive with Angus and Jenny heading further right and picking up a different lane. A close fought battle saw Jenny finally manage to take the win from Angus – meanwhile Liam had done a sterling job to work his way back up to third, with Derek fourth and Steve fifth.
The fleet headed in after a tricky day of racing with everything still to play for. Rutland laid on a great BBQ dinner (with pudding!) and live music allowing all the different cat fleets to catch up with each other following an interesting day of racing.
Day two saw another sunny day and slightly less breeze to start with which made the sunshine warmer! The wind had shifted slightly further to the north and after a discussion between the Dart 15 fleet rep and the Race Officer, there was a better degree of separation between the Fast Course and ours – much to everyone’s relief.
The breeze had built nicely by the start of race 4 but it was already clearly coming through in shifts and gusts which would make racing interesting. The fleet set off and this time about half decided to tack right early as this looked potentially more favourable. For most of the leg, it paid off but on the final approach to the windward mark, the wind shifted and headed those coming in on starboard whilst those who had gone left found themselves reaching into the mark, led by Steve and Derek. The downwind leg saw the fleet split and then regroup with positions largely unchanged and on the next upwind leg, the fleet went right or up the middle with Liam managing to edge in front of Steve by the windward mark. By the end of the race, Liam held on to the win with Steve in second, Derek in third, Jason in fourth and Scott Wilcox (Stewartby) in fifth with the longest boat name in the fleet (Baby Dart doo doo doo doo doo doo).
The race officer managed another impressively quick turnround and race 5 was underway. The shifty gusty conditions continued, if anything with more pronounced shifts, which made picking the right way up the beat even more challenging. Steve and Liam were having their own battle out in front, with Jason, Jon Pearse (Marconi), Angus and Jenny chasing them and each other in the pack behind. By the final lap, Jason had managed to get into a clear third position within sight of the two leaders. Steve and Liam set off on the final downwind leg, pushing each other hard and perhaps not noticing that Jason had gybed off to the left side of the run. Either way, they unwisely did not cover him and Jason rounded mark three just in front of them and went on to take the win with Liam second, Steve third and Jenny fourth.
The final race got underway promptly and this time with the strongest gusts of the weekend coming through just to make everyone work even harder. The shifts continued to be quite large at times so whilst the fleet generally stayed to the right of the course, competitors were tacking on some of the shifts causing the fleet to be more spread out across the upwind leg. Additionally, whilst gybing early at mark two had in the majority of cases proved a slightly better, the stronger gusts made a straightline course to mark three more favourable. Steve had another strong start but following an upwind split, Jason and Angus managed to overtake and get in front on the second beat. Steve, Liam, Jenny and Jon chased hard but Jason’s lead was unassailable and he went on to take a convincing win, followed by Angus, Steve, Jenny and Liam.
The fleet headed home after an energetic two days of racing and a stark reminder that racing on a lake is all about calling the shifts and gusts correctly.
After some close racing and four different race winners, Liam took the win with Steve in second and Jason moving up to third. Thank you to Rutland for hosting the Cat Open which required considerable effort to enable six fleets and sixty plus boats to get all six races in over the weekend.
Report and pictures by Jenny Ball
Full Series Results available here