Event Report by: Steve Willis, Photos by: Steve Willis, Bob Carter and Dean Abra.
The Sprint 15 TT fleet returned to Seasalter Sailing Club on the north Kent coast over the weekend of 14/15 July for the first time since 2000. Over the last few years the SSC Sprint 15 has increased steadily and now has one of the larger class fleets in the UK – with 17 boats amongst its fleet of dinghies and catamarans.
As the first boats arrived on the Friday afternoon the weather forecasts for the weekend continued to change. Nick Dewhirst was not going to be able to attend from Whitstable and he had kindly lent one of his boats to Steve Tunnacliffe so that son Ben could use his father’s boat. The Halifax duo arrived just after midnight to find that Kevin Dutch and Joan Willis had collected the boat from Whitstable and that Martin Searle and Kevin had assembled it ready for the off.
On the Saturday morning the weather forecasts changed nearly by the hour and the helms of 20 Sprint 15s gathered for the first briefing of the weekend. 12 had travelled and 8 of the SSC boats were to join them. With the winds predicted to shift from SW to NW and even NE and to gust to F7 what course were we going to have?
With the club facing north, winds from SE to NW give near flat water at Seasalter. The sea wall protects sailing inshore for about ½ a mile from the club westwards but then the open marshes and Swale estuary across to the Isle of Sheppey are wide open to the full force of the wind. The RRO, Frank Avery, chose to set a starboard rounding trapezoid course along the north facing shoreline using the club finishing pole as the inner starting mark with a long start line to an offshore buoy.
Progress on the windward leg was to include leaving both the club pole and two intermediate marks to starboard, forcing some good tactical sailing to stay within the bounds of the shoreline and the marks. The first reach was across the open water area then running eastwards and reaching back to the shore for rounding to make the windward leg again.
For the first race the winds stayed initially SW – W at F4-5 and at the start the majority chose a starboard start from the outer marker. 5 or 6 chose to stay close to the club pole on port. The tight beat from starboard and the lower winds (due to the sea wall) for those on starboard gave neither group much advantage but over the first lap Frank Sandells(1986) took a clear lead over Erling Holmberg(1959) and Stewart Pegum(1918) closely followed by Kevin Dutch(1938). The long beat and then the first fast reach in the main brunt of the wind took their toll on the rest of the fleet that split mainly into two groups.
James Hurst(565), led Gordon Goldstone(2004), Les Hurrell-Smith(1397) and John Long(1133) in the following group in close competition with each other. Meanwhile further back Joan Willis(842) managed her first ever pitch-pole on a Sprint 15 right in front of Eric Sales(1868) and dropped several places just after the gybe mark. The second reach back to the leeward mark of the beat was also a fast one but towards its end the funnelling effect of the sea wall on the wind with the incoming tide made some have to bear away just before the mark and this was to provide the second capsize of the day, Cedric Clemerson(1201).
Choice of tacks to make the windward leg were to prove crucial with 3 marks to pass before the windward buoy. Tacking well inshore to make a close haul beat was hampered by the shadowing effect of the sea wall and those that chose to tack in and out of the marks began to find advantage. Over the second lap Holmberg overtook Sandells but Dutch, having kept offshore passed Pegum and Sandells to move up to second place. Meanwhile the second group saw Goldstone moving up to pass Hurst with Hurrell-Smith keeping the pressure on the pair, with only 15 seconds between them.
On the third, and final, lap these two groups maintained their close action. However Dutch continued his gain on the leader and in the final leg to the finish pole half way up the beat managed to pull away to make the line first by 15 seconds in front of Holmberg. Sandells led Pegum home to take third and fourth.
With a change in wind direction the offshore buoys were re-positioned and for the start of the second race more boats chose the port start. This time there was a clear advantage and the lead port boats passed well ahead of the starboard starters. Dutch got a flying start and led Holmberg, Sandells and Steve Willis(756) into the windward mark. This group was followed by another tight knit group comprising Pegum, Ben Tunnacliffe(1821), Steve Tunnacliffe(1343) Ben Saunders(252) and Gordon Goldstone(2004). Through the first lap positions changed and it was not until the second rounding of the windward mark that Willis tried to turn inside of Pegum and hit the mark – losing 3 places while doing his penalty. As the race progressed Dutch drew out a long lead and, having lapped the last two boats finished nearly 3 minutes ahead of the chase.
Holmberg in close second broke the joint on his tiller extension in front of the club, came ashore and borrowed one from John Dutch and resumed the race. Ben Tunnacliffe took a capsize in front of the club letting father Steve and Pegum come through but nothing was stopping Holmberg and he came through, despite his pitstop, to finish a clear 3rd behind Dutch and Sandells.
In the early hours of Sunday morning a thunderstorm woke those camping but by morning the skies had cleared and the winds had moved a full 180 degrees to SSE and dropped to F2. The course chosen for the day was the same layout but sailed port rounding. From the start, sailing into the incoming tide, the light winds led to major problems in reaching the windward mark and gaining sufficient windward clearance to round it. Boats that sailed inshore reached out to the mark on starboard but struggled with the tide. Steve Willis dropped from 4th to 20th at this mark by getting totally in irons.
By the end of a long 30 minute first lap Dutch and Saunders had pulled out a substantial lead on Long followed by Goldstone, Ben Tunnacliffe, Holmberg and Alex Varnava(1800) well ahead of the rest. The second lap was not to prove any easier and Goldstone dropped out of the running to finish 8th. However Long managed to make better way and overtook Saunders to take 2nd . Holmberg and Ben Tunnacliffe had their own battle with Holmberg taking the lead and coming 4th with Ben 5th.
For the last race the course marks were drawn in and the intermediate buoys removed from the course. In addition as the race started the wind started to fill in a bit. However, the majority of boats starting on starboard and sailing up across the line were confronted with a near stationary group of four boats on port that could not turn away. This completely re-arranged the order and by the windward mark a group of 7 boats had left a clear gap behind them. This included Dutch, Goldstone, Long, Pegum, Willis and the Tunnacliffe duo. By the downwind leg the gap had not widened and choice of course on that leg led to further changes within the first group with Dutch and Willis lagging. However onto the second reach and the strength of the now strong ebb tide was not noticed at first by the leaders who aimed too close to the mark.
By the end of the lap all seven boats were near together and Dutch, having sailed further downwind from the mark came through to finish the lap in 1st place but only just ahead of Pegum followed by Long. Steve Tunnacliffe led Goldstone and Ben with Willis trailing behind. The second lap saw Goldstone together with Ben Tunnacliffe moving up on Dutch but the group stayed tight. The rest of the fleet was in hot pursuit and Sandells was moving up to join the first group but was it close enough.
Then at the downwind mark Long touched the mark. To the final mark before the beat to the finish and Goldstone held the lead over Ben Tunnacliffe with Dutch at his stern and they would finish in this order. Steve Tunnacliffe followed for 4th ahead of Long but in the final leg Long had to take his penalty and racing was so close that this let Willis, Sandells and Pegum through leaving Long in 8th place only yards from the finish line.
The event finished with Kevin Dutch(1938) 1st, Erling Holmberg(1959) 2nd and Frank Sandells (1986) 3rd. Martin Searle(1331) was the only Sport mode entry but had not found his form, especially missing the first race start line by over a minute due to mis-setting his stop watch, he finished 13th overall.
After the last race a stiff steady breeze came up and a number of boats enjoyed a half hour of high speed reaching before the water went away. At the prizegiving the draw for the Association sponsers’, Windsport International, vouchers was held and awarded to Martin Searle (£15), John Holmes(£10) and Frank Sandells(£5).
The highlight of the weekend, apart from the good sailing, was the visit paid by Bob Carter and George Stephen to watch Sunday’s racing and meet with those present. Their dedicated work for the Association enables us to have such events and it is good to see Bob up and getting fitter again.
A great weekend and, hopefully, a venue to re-visited in 2008. Many thanks to all at SSC for their work and their hospitality.
Article by: Martin Searle
Before a proper report is posted I thought I'd put the view from the back of the fleet, and it was a good view! (slight tongue in cheek mode engage):
Nick Dewhirst lent Ben\Steve Tunnacliffe his boat for the weekend and Kevin and I spent a good hour putting on a very tight fitting trampoline to it on Friday evening
Early on Saturday morning Steve and Ben Tunnacliffe arrived from Halifax, at a couple of minutes past midnight. Kevin D. and I stayed at the club to welcome them. After some gentle ribbing from me (my mum's from Lancashire) about accents, flat caps, whippets and such like I left the club and went home.
On arriving back at the club at 9.30, the visitors were getting setup for the 11.45 first race start. After saying "hello" to some familar faces, I set about rigging up my boat in Sport mode rig, since I sailed at ODC in sport mode I decided to keep my series going, in a total non pot hunterish kind of way of course. It transpired my fleet was a fleet of one after Alex Varnava decided to go Una mode. The wind was doing a lovely Arthur Daley impersonation and was between Force 4 and 7 at times.
Race 1: I missed the 5 minute start signal so had to set my watch for the 4 but just before the signal someone sailed in front of me and obscured the lights so I didn't know when it went on, and thus started my watch anyhow. After dwardling about 4-600 yds from the line for what seemed a minute or two, I decided to get setup for the start and low and behold I glanced at the watch and found it was just 20 seconds to go, nuts! But after starting a couple of minutes late it would be a good challenge to see how far up the fleet I could go.
Meanwhile at the front of the fleet Kevin Dutch, Erling Holmberg and Frank Sandells were battling it out for the lead, after each lap the lead changed. Kevin apparently took the win, followed by Erling, Frank and Stewart Pegum from Queen Mary.
Now to the important bit: I was laughing on the first run as Joan Willis, my clubmate from Seasalter, pitchpoled for the first time ever and I passed her whilst she was righting the boat. Cedric Clemerson also felt a desire for a nice refreshing swim during the race, it was quite warm so its understandable, he went over at the end of the reach near the mark and I managed to squeeze past between him and the mark.
The wind was sort of off and on, during the off bits I didn't need the trapeeze and during the on bits I did!, in the end I said to hell with this trapeezing marlarky and lent out instead. I managed to get too 11th or 12th on the water and then was murdered by the handicap dropped to 18th place!, but I consoled myself with 1st in fleet. ;-).
Race 2: In between race 1 and 2 I decided to go and zoom around doing a bit of reaching practice to see what was wrong with the boat, the driver of course being infaliable.
My start this time was much better, but at the wrong end!, but a favourable windshift saw me actually get quite a good first beat into the windward mark. After the usual suspects I was about 10th on the water with a clump of boats in front as my first victims! including our beloved Treasurer Gordon Goldstone.
At the front of the fleet Kevin Dutch got away and was last seen zooming off towards the horizon with Erling in pursuit.
I by this time had passed the clump including Gordon and was just starting to battle with Ben and Steve Tunnacliffe. By judicious use of the trapeeze I managed to get past Ben and sail into clear air. On the penultimate lap, in 6th or so, I saw a boat on the beach, it was Erlings, he had broken the joint at the end of his tiller extension and needed to make a pit stop from 2nd to snaffle a replacement extension, John Dutch gave him his he re-joined in 3rd a 100 yrds or so ahead of me in the pack for 4th after Frank passed him.
So the finishing order was Kevin, Frank, Erling, Steve T. The handicap knocked me back to 12th, but better than 18th!
What must be said about these races was that they were all very close in the una fleet so everyone had some decent racing whatever their finishing place.
So to the evening. We had a nice buffet provided by the resident 'Galley Slaves' (ducks!) afterwards we had the usual drinks and played Giant Jenga, had to make a few 'adjustments' to the tower to prevent me from knocking it over (as per usual). I of course celebrated my two fleet victories with a couple of cokes from the bar. After most of the visitors retired to their beds by 10.00!, saying they were tired I decided to relocate to the Kings Hall in Herne Bay and salsa danced the night away with some rather tasty totty.
Sunday: Apparently 'it' decided to create a thunder and lightning storm in the early hours of Sunday morning, I awoke to the end few moments of it at home. Thought briefly about the folks camping in the field and wondered if they were having a damp time of it, like I had at Netley with a leaky tent!
Arrived at the club and delivered my excuse for my duff performance on Saturday, it was of course my lack of forestay tension, it was all too loose. I tightened it up by about 3 inches. Today was contrasting to Saturday the wind was much lighter, about 8-15 mph (and falling) really not my preferred strength and sport mode rig was going to get slaughtered on Handicap, oh well. George Stephen and Bob Carter both arrived at the club to have a chat and watch the shenanigans on the water and it was good to see Bob back on his feet again.
Race 3: Kevin Dutch, John Long and Ben Saunders (a local Seasalter Sailor) managed to get a good start in very light wind and they found all the best puffs and got away from the fleet. Me, I started so so again and was left with trying to get past a large clump of boats, amongst whom was Frank. After struggling around the first lap I had managed to get into some clear air and encountered Gordon Goldstone and Alex Varnava struggling upwind near the windward mark, everytime they tacked they tacked into a header! and calmly sailed past them on a lift.
During the race the wind gradually filled in, finally we were all able to sail properly once more, this was of course bad news for me and the handicap problem. I finished about 6th on the water again but dropped too 10th on Handicap (best result of the weekend).
At the front it was Kevin, John Long, Ben S., Erling.
Race 4: This race was similar too race 3 and my memory is a little vague on it. Steve Willis managed to get his best result of the event a 5th. Erling and I went up the first beat on the wrong side of the course and lost out big time, teach me to follow him! back to catch up mode for me. The wind built steadily during this short race
Interesting things were happening at the front apparently, didn't know it at the time though, Kev... oops... Gordon Goldstone won, Ben Tunnacliffe was 2nd and 3rd was Kevin Dutch.
But the best bit by far was the post race blasting, it had built up to about a F4, most of the local sailors just reached back and forth having a whale of a time. The visitors meanwhile had to lug their boats over the seawall etc etc.
At the prize giving: Frank Sandells placed 3rd overall and drew my name out of the hat for the Windsport Vouchers for the £15 prize so I didn't walk away empty handed. Erling got 2nd and drew local sailor John Holmes (sailing John Postlethwaites old boat) for the £10 voucher and finally Kevin Dutch won and drew Frank Sandells for the £5 voucher. The winners got a glass mug and some 'vin de vanquer' Wine\Vinegar.
Suprisingly I didn't get a prize for my 1st in sport fleet, disgraceful ;-)
Now who said SPIN was dead ;-).
Full Series Results available here
Windsport Voucher Winners: