Queen Mary Winter Handicap 18 February 2001

Location: Queen Mary Sailing Club.

On Sunday February 18th, The Dart 15 Association held the penultimate event of their Winter Series at Queen Mary Sailing Club. This was the first time for the 15's at Queen Mary, and despite the country wide forecast for high pressure and light winds, the fleet still made a great effort to turn out, with 17 entries coming from all over the country. It speaks volumes for the strength of Dart 15 sailing, when people are prepared to travel from as far afield as Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, or Beaver S.C. in the north, or Brightlingsea, and Minnis Bay, all for a one day event in the middle of February, QMSC were very appreciative of all the competitors.

Just as the forecasters had predicted, the day was pleasantly warm with a light wind. Race officer Brian Humphrey set a square course and a planned start for 10.45. But as soon as the fleet set sail for the start line on the far side of the reservoir, the light wind dropped away to almost nothing. With most of the fleet stranded, the race officer wisely postponed until the fleet could re-assemble. This was to be light wind racing at it's trickiest. As the fleet bunched on the line at the start, Steve Petts from Grafham and Gordon Goldstone from QMSC were called OCS and had to return, whilst the rest sailed off, with a mix of port and starboard tackers, everyone trying desperately to find any puff of wind.

The race progressed with the boats on the starboard side of the course seeming to have a small advantage, Ron Sawford, Chris Black and Henry Clark sailing with his eleven year old son Oliver soon pulled out a slight gap from the pack, but Mark Aldridge, Alan Wellman and Steve Sawford were close behind. On the other side of the course, Bob Carter was clawing his way back from a bad start and Paul Smith, (a well known light wind specialist), was beavering away to good effect. Further back Erling Holmberg was having a close race with Steve Petts and Phil Howden, and again on the port side of the course, Carl Blenkinsop was just ahead of Gordon Goldstone and Simon Northrop, with Fred Daborn and Michele Fisher in close company.

The fickle wind was causing problems for every one, concentration was absolutely vital in the difficult conditions. As the shortened race finish approached, Paul Smith managed to get tantalisingly close to the leaders, but it was Ron Sawford, sailing in Sprint mode who crossed the line first, just ahead of Chris Black and Henry Clark. Paul Smith came in 4th with Bob Carter just managing to get in front of Mark Aldridge. In the final analysis, this actually made Chris Black the race winner on corrected time, with Ron Sawford pushed back to equal 4th.

The 2nd race of the day was scheduled for the afternoon, but unfortunately over lunchtime the wind died away to nothing. The Dart 15 fleet held a vote and with great sadness decided that sailing had finished for the day. The only remaining task, to haul the catamarans out of the water, a job made surprisingly easy with QMSC's new powerwinch.

It was a great shame for club and competitors alike to have the day finish like this, yet it had still been a good day, especially for young Oliver Clark who helped his dad to an overall 2nd place. At the prize giving he was heard negotiating for a substantial increase in pocket money, on this showing he deserves it.

Gordon Goldstone.

Overall Results
1st Chris Black Grafham
2nd Henry and Oliver Clark Swanage
3rd Paul Smith Beaver
4th Ron Sawford Rutland
4th Bob Carter Grafham
6th Mark Aldridge Grafham

Sprint Results
1st Ron Sawford Rutland
2nd Carl Blenkinsop Queen Mary
3rd Michele Fisher Queen Mary

Ladies winner : Michele Fisher