Hot competition in the variable conditions shook up the status quo.
With a forecast of variable (5-10 mph) winds and sunshine, a pleasant day was on the cards for the nineteen entries to the first Dart 15 TT of the Winter Series.
In time honoured tradition Brian Finch greeted the visitors at the gate and soon after boats were rigged and ready to go. Race Officer Richard Hargreaves then gave his normally concise race briefing whilst multi tasking preparing the after race soup and serving the bacon sarnies.
Just prior to the race the 2 minute silence was observed then the start sequence commenced.
Right from the off the favourites led the way with Jason Clarke (Marconi) heading the fleet followed by Liam Thom (Shanklin) and Jenny Ball (Marconi) with Yvonne Pike (Shanklin) and George Love (Carsington) biting at their heels. On lap two, the upwind leg shifts played their tricks and Yvonne managed to get in front of Jenny and then led the charge after Jason and Liam. As they passed through the gate for the last lap Jason was sailing so fast he was out on his own and Liam was lying a comfortable second. The next four places however, led by Yvonne, were being hotly contested but a split on the beat with Liam and Jenny going right which put Jenny back in third place with tight competition amongst those who had stayed left. Race one ended Jason, Liam, Jenny, George, Scott Wilcox (Stewartby), Yvonne, Jeremy Franklin (Draycote).
As the racers approached the start, a new sailor whilst trying to keep clear, managed to go into irons in front of the line close to the committee boat. Seconds before the gun he had drifted onto port exactly where the bulk of the approaching boats were headed. Minor chaos ensued and there were a few winners a few losers as a result. George, well placed for a good start and hoping for another top placing was well and truly stuffed! By the time they had sorted themselves out George was lying a solid last. George kindly took the opportunity to sail the course with the newcomer and offer some guidance and assistance through to the end of the race, despite remaining in last place himself – what a very sportsmanlike thing to do. It was admirable how he and the other boats caught up in the chaos took the situation in their stride and the good nature and understanding displayed is a proud trait of our Dart 15 class racing.
At the first mark Scott briefly headed the way but soon lost the lead on the downwind leg where Jason was going particularly fast and by the end of the lap Jason led followed by Jeremy, Liam, Scott, Jenny, Ray Gall (Carsington) and David Clarke (Marconi). Lap two commenced and it was all change on the beat as Jason took a shift and stayed right only to find a hole costing him six places, leaving Jeremy heading the way. Meanwhile, Jenny went up the middle with Derek James (Draycote) gaining two and three places respectively. Jeremy held on to the lead right to the end but Liam tacked early after mark four and managed to just pip Jeremy on the line. Going through the line and heading into the final lap the positions were Jeremy, Liam, Jenny, Scott, Derek and Jason. The downwind was particularly close with the front group varying their route but at the mark the placing remained. As the finish approached however, Jeremy who had led for most of the race had Liam hot on his heals and as they tacked for the line, Liam accelerated out of the turn a little faster and just pipped Jeremy for line honours with Jenny third followed by Scott, Derek, Jason, David Clarke (Marconi).
The wind was swinging north and continually dropping throughout the race, creating yet different conditions again.
The main contenders got off to a good start and most stayed left on the beat and at the first mark Liam headed the way followed by Nigel James (Marconi) and Scott who were neck and neck down the next to legs where Scott just nipped inside at the downwind mark. At the end of the lap these three had managed to create a bit of space between them and the rest of the fleet as the wind continued to drop. The following batch were however fighting for every inch and as they finished lap one Jenny was fourth followed by Jason, Yvonne, Andy Bunyan (Stewartby). As the wind became fickle the beat on the last lap created a number of encouraging or disheartening changes in the mid fleet. The most notable being Derek moving up 8 places, Mark Patten (Stewartby) gaining 5 places whilst Yvonne dropped 5 places. By the finish Jason had overhauled Jenny creating the final placing of Liam, Scott, Nigel, Jason, Jenny, Derek, George, Jon Pearse (Marconi).
Report by Scott Wilcox
Full Series Results available here