Sprint 15 - Southern Area Championship 2013 – Seasalter SC June 22/23
Strong winds had been forecast for the weekend and it was not surprising to see a reducedfleet arriving on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Saturday morning saw 13 visitors and 6 home helms looking over the sea wall at flat water but WSW winds 25mph gusting SW into the low 30s. No question of Sport mode and not a jib was to be seen so no PY discussion.The forecast for the day was for SW F5-6 gusting 7 veering to W – cross offshore.
In order to keep the fleet close inshore a trapezoid clockwise course was set for Races 1 & 2 with an extended start line across the club tower line half way up the windward leg. The first mark led to a broad reach out to the gybe mark offshore with a run and then close reach back to the inshore beat. With the winds favouring SW the fleet kept to the shoreline end of the line for a port start.
With most of the fleet shy of the line Kevin Dutch (1938) was only followed closely by Paul Grattage (458) both within inches of the line at the gun, they were hotly pursued by local helms Ian Mills (1634) and Robin Wilkinson (424) but these two were too far offshore to match the speed of following boats closer inshore. 40 seconds later at the windward mark saw Grattage just ahead of Dutch with Liam Thom (1957), Robert Finch (1838), Nick Dewhirst (2006) and Stewart Pegum (1918) in hot pursuit.
The offshore gybe mark led into an area of cross chop to the leeward mark and with helms already on the rear beam the waves created a substantial seesaw effect with bows constantly dipping. The fleet started to spread out into groups with Dutch and Grattage clear ahead of Thom and Rob Finch who were chased by Jon Finch (1890) and Dewhirst as the first following group. With only seconds between the leaders Grattage managed to pull pass Dutch on the beat to the end of the first lap only to have the lead taken back by Dutch on the same leg on the next lap. Andy Bunyan (1289) retired on lap 1 with George Stephen (1594) following him ashore on lap 3 and Derek Darley (1991) on lap 4.
There was little change in the race order until the end of lap 4 but there was a close tussle between the Finch brothers and Thom for the next three places - by now Dutch and Grattage were steadily lapping the tail enders. The winds backed SW rather than W as the race progressed, changing the close reach back inshore into a beat and this opened up the opportunity for some tactical sailing on that leg. The choice of a long beat into the shore on starboard (and then a long beat along the sea wall) or a quick tack and port beat back towards the club before a tack onto starboard again to come into the mark.
Squall conditions were building and ashore windspeeds reached 41mph and the wave height on the broad reach and downwind legs was becoming a significant problem to keeping a steady speed. Rob Finch dropped back with Dewhirst and Erling Holmberg (2007) passing him. Mills in 12th at the end of the first lap made steady progress through the fleet but got caught out at the leeward end of the course and a capsize dropped him from 8th place to 14th on lap 5. Stephen Roberts (1910) held steady midfield only to pull his back at the end of lap 5 and retired ashore, Dutch took 1st from Grattage by 6 seconds with Thom, Dewhirst and Jon Finch following nearly 5 minutes later – the early finishers missing the worst of the building gusts. The remainder of the fleet struggled to maintain steady speed and dropped behind. John Bainbridge (1742) capsized on the second to last leg (and his mainsail dropped off its hook) and retired leaving John Holmes (1978) and Mills to lead Tony Alexander (1406), new to the class and on his first event, to be the last three to complete the course.
A challenging race for both helms and boats. With gusts and wave chop still building the race team decided to give everyone the rest of the day off and to aim for 3 races on the Sunday - when gusts were expected to be 8-10 mph less. With the Manston air show only 30 minutes away a number of the fleet made the trip there – but found it difficult to stand looking upwards at the aircraft without being blown over by the gusts !
After an evening in the club for a meal and post mortem drink, and a windy night for those in tents, Sunday morning dawned with promising conditions WSW F4 gusting 25mph before the start. Stephen Roberts decided to give his back a rest and stay ashore but Mark Bunyan (1343) and Martin Searle (1331) decided to join in. In order to mitigate the problems with offshore chop a similar course was set but anticlockwise – using a dog leg start from the extended club line to the windward mark. Two back to back races were planned, with a third to follow after a shore break.
As the start took place the winds again rose gusting 32mph at the club, and clearly more offshore. With most boats close inshore for the start Dutch and Grattage were having trouble with rudders grounding just shy of the line but made it away clean with Rob Finch, Stephen and Holmberg in pursuit. Holmes had decided on a lone starboard start from the offshore end of the line but with the gusts veering SW was left in irons, crossing the line well behind.
Searle made the first mark but after suffering his main drop off its hook and battens come loose retired ashore.
Thom, Dewhirst, Pegum and Mark Bunyan made a lead chasing group for the first stages of the first lap but Dewhirst pulled ahead to join the first group finishing the first lap neck and neck with Rob Finch and ahead of Holmberg. On the reach to the shore Wilkinson nosedived and went overboard, to be reunited with his boat by the patrol boats and retire. Both Bainbridge and Stephen also retired.
With 12 boats left in the fleet Grattage and Dutch again pulled steadily away from the rest with seconds between them and changing the lead several times, however on the 4th lap Grattage managed to pull ahead to clear water and led the way home by 30 seconds to a shortened finish. A dark squall was appearing over the sailing area from the 3rd lap onwards and again winds and seas were rising making steady sailing all but impossible. Dewhirst pulled ahead of Rob Finch and Holmberg to take third. Thom managed to make ground steadily from 9th on the first lap and overhauled Jon Finch and Pegum to take 6th. Although 6th on the first lap Mills dropped to 9th and led the remaining boats safely home.
With the squall set in, a break ashore was called for 45 minutes to review the weather and get everyone a hot drink. With skies lightening it was decided to change to a triangular course with the same start as the previous race. The winds had apparently eased and the fleet, now of 14 boats, made afloat. In relatively steady winds Mills, on port, made a flyer from the line to be clear ahead of Dewhirst and Rob Finch at the first mark. Grattage and Dutch had tried a starboard start from offshore but Grattage had started too far inshore to make it pay. Dutch led Grattage on Rob Finch’s stern.
Mills held the lead through the leeward legs and onto the first long beat but Dutch and Grattage overhauled Dewhirst and Rob Finch and tactical sailing on the beat saw all four overtake Mills to finish the first lap in close pairs. With winds and seas worsening again it decided to shorten the race to two laps. Seven boats retired during the second lap after several capsizes. Dutch maintained his lead over Grattage through the second lap with both pulling ahead of the fleet to take 1st and 2nd. From the first beat the battle for 3rd and 4th in the race was between Dewhirst and Rob Finch who remained within boat lengths apart until Finch capsized and retired. Jon Finch made steady progress to overhaul Mills with Holmes completing the finish.
A challenging weekend in winds well above those forecast particularly the gust / average wind ratio. Some minor collision damage and a few broken battens but proof that the Sprint 15 is a very versatile boat which can be both fun and challenging in a range of conditions.With southerly / westerly winds Seasalter enjoys relatively flat shallow waters that enable strong wind sailing to be undertaken with care.
Off the water Seasalter members continued their assistance of tuning and checking boat alignment and over the course of the weekend 6 visitors boats were checked with work mainly required on rudders and pintels to sort out defects that affect performance. Four visitors have expressed an interest in sailing at SSC for further tutoring in our Mentor/Buddy system and we will be pleased to see them join in our raining and racing, two boats have been left at the club to start that next week.
With near 50% of SSC members helping with the racing, shore line, galley and bar as well as watching the sailing we are pleased to have received compliments from many of the visitors and look forward to seeing everyone again. We would like to thank everyone who came and took part.
Overall results based on three races sailed with one discard as listed. Kevin Dutch (SSC) took the Southern National Championship Cup and SSC TT 1st Trophy with Paul Grattage (Shanklin) and Nick Dewhirst (Whitstable) taking the 2nd and 3rd place SSC TT Trophies.
In recognition of their sterling efforts in the Saturday race all entrants were presented with a SSC Force 8 Certificate of completion or competition - most of the happy band are in the group photo. Some 300 photos were taken by our photographers ashore and afloat and these will be uploaded to the SSC and Sprint 15 websites once we have them collated.
Rear Commodore, Sailing, SSC
Full Individual race results are available at: http://www.seasaltersc.org.uk/racing/series.php?series=117
Full Series Results available here