Although the Sprint 15 fleet managed to hold both its Nationals and Sport Nationals in 2020, the Summer and Winter Series had been lost to lockdown. Undaunted, we planned a full Summer and Winter Series for 2021 in partnership with our amazing host clubs. We then marked time through the winter lockdown, forensically studied government guidance and the excellent information provided by the RYA and waited to see what the 2021 Summer Series would bring. Pretty much everything as it turned out!
Whilst the safety of our competitors and host clubs was paramount – we were determined not to lose events if there was any way we could adapt to make them happen safely. So for our first event in April at Stone, we moved the date, changed it from a weekend event to a one day regatta and ensured everything took place outdoors or online with all kinds of protocols in place to keep people socially distanced. We were rewarded with champagne sailing conditions – cold but sunny, F3-4 and an excellent turnout of 25 boats. The local fleets at Stone, Thorpe Bay and Brightlingsea had turned out in force together with an armada of thirteen boats sailing down from neighbouring Marconi. It was also great to welcome Keith Chidwick from the other side of London too! The three races saw close battles between locals Geoff Tindale, Skip Atkins, National Champion Chris Tillyer from Thorpe Bay and Jenny Ball and David Ball from Marconi. In the end, Jenny snuck three bullets to win the event with Geoff second, David third and Chris fourth.
For our May event – we made a return to the Stokes Bay Cat Open after a gap of several years. For many Cat Fleets, this was going to be the first regatta in a long time and a wide range of fleets signed up to take part. Unfortunately, 50 knot winds lashed the UK on the Friday, the Dartford Bridge was closed, the M25 ground to a halt along its entire length and some competitors were put off making the journey with the weekend forecast very marginal. Undeterred, forty cat competitors including 12 Sprint 15s made the trip and Stokes Bay did a fantastic job of putting on a successful Cat Open, despite Covid requirements and the weather. In the event, three races took place on the Saturday across the full spectrum of conditions. Race one was sailed in medium breezes, Race two in soft and shifty conditions and Race three was a proper blast! The tide at Stokes Bay is quite a consideration and the fleet all learned that following local sailor Paul Grattage was not always a good idea, whereas following Chris Tillyer taking alternate flyers on whether to go left or right up the course could put you at the front! Racing was eventually cancelled on Sunday due to the strong winds and two F18s went out for a wobbly blast which only went to prove that the Race Officer’s call was correct. Despite Paul’s dodgy tidal tactics – he won the overall event with Chris in second and Jenny third. The other stand out from this event was being able to have a Saturday evening meal in the clubhouse with good sailing friends – something we had all missed very much.
June saw our National Championships at WPNSA – a fantastic event which is subject to a separate report.
Our next Summer TT was a one day event at Draycote in July. The forecast and conditions could not have been more different with a maximum of 5 knots and shifting wind directions. And we all know how much Sprint 15 sailors moan if its anything less than twelve knots and with shifts of anything more than 0 degrees. Nevertheless, twelve Sprint 15 sailors turned up to see how much they could drift in various directions over the course of four hours. The forecast turned out to be correct and the Race Officer is to be highly commended for delivering four races. And challenging as the conditions were, the fleet are also to be commended on properly sailing four races. The regatta turned out to be primarily a battle between Liam Thom, Steve Sawford and Paul Craft although their relative boat “speeds” may simply be due to the hot air generated by all their chatter on the way round the course. After four races, Liam had drifted sufficiently quickly to take the win with Steve in second and Paul third.
We avoided holding an event during the school holiday period – partly because many clubs were rightly focusing high summer events for their own members and partly because UK staycations were a thing and as sailing clubs are generally in nice places, booking accommodation nearby was virtually impossible. Our Sport Nationals were held at Yaverland and Shanklin at the end of the holiday period in early September – another fantastic event also the subject of a separate report.
So our next Summer TT took place on the first weekend of October. Its been a few years since the fleet had been to Carsington and it was nice that our Northern Championships could be genuinely somewhere north. After a mild and sunny September, Carsington lived up to all the northern weather stereotypes with rain all day on Saturday and decidedly fresh (cold) breeze both days. But nineteen boats turned out and it was great to see a number of first time visitors along with three local newcomers to the fleet – Sam Wood, Nick Pulman and Russell Briggs entering their first TT. It was also the first TT for a young crew, John Ball, sailing with dad David from Marconi. Unfortunately, the cold rain got too much for him on day one, so they very sensibly came in and went off sight seeing instead.
The gusty conditions made for really interesting racing with Paul Craft (Worthing) and Hector Bunclark (NDYC) port hand flyers to varying degrees of success, plenty of capsizes including our Chair, our Treasurer and Jason Clarke from Marconi (twice), a walkabout windward mark on the Sunday and plenty of changes at the front of the fleet. In the end, two bullets on the Sunday gave Jenny the overall win, with Hector second, Ed Tuite Dalton (Draycote) third and Jan Elfring (Draycote) posting some impressive results to come fourth.
Our final TT and Inland Championships took place at the Grafham Cat Open on the last weekend of October. Always a popular event with the fleet, this year saw an amazing entry of thirty eight Sprint 15s – by far the largest fleet at the event and our biggest TT turnout of the year. True to historical form, the forecast was for very strong winds across the weekend together with cold temperatures and rain. Our race officers were Nigel and Fiona Denchfield who proceeded with the three planned races on Saturday afternoon in a decent 15 knot breeze, increasing during race two as the dark clouds rolled across the lake. It was close racing and quite a mixed bag at the front of the fleet with three different race winners – Chris Tillyer, (Thorpe Bay), Stuart Snell, (Grafham) and Steve Sawford (Rutland) and with Mark Aldridge (Grafham), Liam Thom (Shanklin), Ed Tuite Dalton (Draycote) regularly making up the top four. Jason Clarke (Marconi) also put in a stellar race one performance coming second.
Unfortunately, the weather gods were not so kind on the Sunday and with thirty knot plus gusts across the lake, the event organisers regretfully decided to cancel racing for the day. On the basis of the three races on Saturday – Steve Sawford had earned a comfortable Inland Championship win, with Mark Aldridge in second place, Ed Tuite Dalton in third and Liam Thom in fourth. The youth trophy was won by Abbie Clarke from Stone who completed all three races, despite the breezy conditions.
Overall, it was a fantastic Summer Series. With event entries ranging from 12 to 38 – we had a total of 54 competitors take part during the series representing 17 different sailing clubs. Thirteen sailors completed the qualifying three events and shout out to Nigel James, Jon Pearse and Jenny Ball from Marconi who competed in all five events. Also special mention to the younger members of our fleet – Jemma Clarke, Jason Clarke (Marconi) and Hector Bunclark (NDYC) who have turned out in force and continue to go from strength to strength. All of these stats are an improvement on the 2019 Summer Series so showing a positive trend that will hopefully continue next year.
We’d like to extend a huge thanks to our host clubs – Stone SC, Stokes Bay, Draycote, Carsington and Grafham Water without whom none of this would have been possible. We are looking forward to visiting several of these clubs again next year!
Pictures by Paula Maas, Pauline Love and Nigel Denchfield
Final Results Summary:
Overall TT Series Top 5 Places: 1st Jenny Ball (Marconi Sailing Club) 5 Pts , 2nd Liam Thom (Shanklin Sailing Club) 9 Pts, 3rd Chris Tillyer (Thorpe Bay Yacht Club) 11 Pts, 4th Ed Tuite Dalton (Draycote Water Sailing Club) 11 Pts, 5th Jon Pearse (Marconi Sailing Club) 19 Pts
Una and Two-Up Fleet Top 3 Places: 1st Jenny Ball (Marconi Sailing Club) 5 Pts, 2nd Liam Thom (Shanklin Sailing Club) 9 Pts, 3rd Chris Tillyer (Thorpe Bay Yacht Club) 11 Pts
Southern Champion: Paul Grattage (East Down Yacht Club)
Northern Champion: Jenny Ball (Marconi Sailing Club)
Inland Champion: Steve Sawford (Rutland Water Sailing Club)
Full Series Results are available here
Total Number of Individual Competitors who attended at least one event: 54