The second event of the Dart 15 Winter Series took place at Rutland Water on Sunday 10th December. Despite the 50 knot winds on the Saturday, there was a weather window in the forecast for Sunday which encouraged ten competitors to turn up and take part in the event.
The schedule was for three back to back races and, following a briefing from the Race Officer, the fleet set off in time for the scheduled 11am start. All the competitors were clutching a map showing the location of the club race marks which are many, varied and can be confusing to visitors. And also apparently the local sailor Steve Sawford who confessed he was also not sure which mark was which! So the Race Officer kindly stationed a safety boat at the first two marks to give the fleet a helping hand. The breeze was much lighter than the forecast suggested, but certainly enough to race in. The rain forecast, unfortunately, proved completely correct with rain falling steadily across race one and two although thankfully the temperatures were milder than the preceding three week cold snap.
The first race got away with a clear port hand bias, courtesy of the wind shifting and the fleet set off to find mark 18, then 14, then 11 and then 10. Jason Clarke (Marconi) got a characteristically good start with Steve Sawford (Rutland) close on his heels and Jenny Ball (Marconi) and Jan Elfring (Draycote) all following on port. Jason rounded the windward mark first but Steve just brushed the mark causing him to have to do a turn on the next leg, letting Jenny and Jan through. Having found mark 14 over towards Normanton Church, Jason led the way across to marks 11 and 10 and then back through the start finish gate. Jenny managed to edge past Jason on the second beat down to mark 18 and across to 14. Here the wind was particularly fickle as the mark was just off the lee shore. Jason managed to pick up an extra puff on the downwind leg to reach the third mark in front of Jenny and held on for the rest of the lap to take the win with Jenny in second and Steve had worked his way up to take third, with Jan fourth and Jeremy Franklin (Draycote) in fifth.
The Race Officer reset the start line and course to the now prevailing wind direction, although there were still plenty of shifts to contend with. The wind had also reduced further and so the course was shortened with mark 14 now being the windward mark, followed by a run to mark 12 and then across to mark 10 before coming back through the finish line. This time the fleet all started on starboard and began the fairly slow procession towards the first mark. There was a wide split across the fleet as competitors opted to tack off onto port at different times, all hoping to pick up an extra zephyr or lift that might give them an advantage. It was a difficult call as the mark was under the lee of the shore so picking the “least worst” route into it was a challenge and at various points, different competitors looked like they would round in front. In the end, Jason reached the mark first with Steve, Jeremy and Jon Pearse (Marconi) close behind. On the broad reach to the next mark, Jenny, Jan and Derek James (Draycote) managed to get an extra breath of wind which carried them underneath Steve, Jon and Jeremy who were just a boat length or two closer to the lee shore. Jan rounded the next mark in second place with Jenny close behind and Steve and Derek catching up. The Race Officer shortened the course as Jason reached the final mark of lap one and he went on to take the win. Jenny ducked to get inside Jan ahead of the final mark of the course and a very close, if slow, five way race took place on the final leg. In the end, Steve got a slight lift which enabled him to cross the line without tacking and take second place, with Jenny in third, Derek in fourth, Jon in fifth and Jan in sixth place.
Race three saw the same start line and course coinciding with the rain easing up and some definitely stronger puffs of wind heading across the lake at long last. Jason and Jon got a strong start mid line with Steve up at the Committee Boat end. All three tacked onto port fairly early as the breeze looked to be slightly stronger coming across from the right hand side of the course. Jenny stood on further to the left and although the wind was slightly softer, there was more of a lift into the mark. As with race two, it became clear that the pivotal point was the impact of the light and fluky breeze at the windward mark under the lee shore, even though the breeze out in the lake was much fresher. Jason looked like he would romp round the mark into a clear lead until he sailed into the shadow of the shore. He still managed to round the mark in front, but Jenny had managed to pick up second place with Steve in third. As the rest of the fleet came round the mark in a bunch, there was some slight contact and turns duly done. On the run from the second to the third mark, Jenny got an extra puff which enabled her to round the third mark just ahead of Jason. The fleet were then able to lay the committee boat without tacking and enjoyed a strong enough breeze to even do a little hiking out! Jenny stayed right followed by Steve, whilst Jason tacked off to the left. The same tricky conditions prevailed as they closed in at the windward mark, with Jenny managing to ghost round without an extra tack and with Steve managing to just get in front of Jason. The battle continued to be close fought for the third and final lap but Jenny managed to hold on to take the win with Steve in second and Jason in third. An equally close fought battle among the fleet behind them saw Derek take another fourth place with Jeremy in fifth and Christophe Clarke (Marconi) in sixth.
The fleet headed in having completed three competitive races in a variety of breeze courtesy of the Race Management team who ran a great event in less than easy conditions. And whilst the breeze may not have been as exciting as the forecast suggested, we were fortunate not to have had the very strong winds from the day before which would have cancelled it outright!
Report and pictures by Jenny Ball.
Full Series Results available here