All week, the forecast had been grim! High pressure. Little cloud cover! High's of 28'c! Sun splitting the rocks! Not the conditions your average '15 sailor hopes for. Fortunately, the latest instalment of the travelling circus that is the Sprint 15 Summer Series had arrived in Thorpe Bay.
Thorpe Bay Yacht Club (TBYC), a thriving club a few miles outside Southend, Essex, with a resident Sprint fleet of 36 boats, put out 22 home boats to welcome 15 visitors to the July TT making an impressive 37 racing fleet, thought to be the largest ever TT turnout. The extensive sailing area is tidal, making for interesting racing.
Saturday 6th July started clear, with a light but steady easterly and a strong expectation that the sea breeze would kick, boosting sailing conditions.
Race 1 was a solo demonstration by Paul Grattage [Shanklin] who led from start to finish, although closely pursued by George Stephenson [Queen Mary] who ran within a minute of his times throughout the race. Kevin Dutch [Seasalter] ran a close third for most of the race, but slowed on the last lap to allow Howard Hawkes [TBYC], Rob Bailey [TBYC] and Gary Sverdloff [TBYC] to pip him at the post.
Colin Rigg & Mike Taylor [Both TBYC] - OCS.
Chairman Nick Dewhurst [Whitstable] for not reading the NOR, showing up late and wanting to stop and chat with the competitors as he sailed through the racing fleet.
Race 2 was conducted in rising winds as the sea breezes continued to build steadily. As for race 1, it was a closely contested affair, but this time Thomas Sandal [Grafham] led from start to finish with Paul Grattage just trailing. George Love [Carsington] ended lap 1 in 3rd , but slipped down to 4th when he was unable to keep out Stuart Snell [Grafham].
George Love [Carsington] 4th place, showing there’s life in the old dog yet.
Race 3 was attempted on an outgoing tide in the best breezes of the day. The fleets 'youthful exuberance' exerted itself and resulted in a general recall. R.O. Alan Willis & assistants immediately retook control of events with the 'I' flag displayed on the restart. The race restarted cleanly (if you ignore the 7 boats pinged for starting violations) and led to a three way tussle between messrs Grattage, Snell & Sandal who finished in that order.
Despite 3 back to back races in scorching sunshine, a number of sailors were heard to say they wanted another lap. In itself a tribute the excellent job done by the race officer and his crew throughout the day
George Love [Carsington], Paul Craft [Worthing], Gordon Goldstone [Queen Mary], Martin Ellis, Gary Burrows, Jim Bowie, Nick Cotgrove [All TBYC] - OCS
Many of the visitors enjoyed free camping on the lawns in front of the clubhouse with their non-sailing companions making use of the beach the large sunny balcony overlooking the sea. This was also the location for Saturday evening meal and social. Drinks were consumed by many well into the night, particularly the visitors [allegedly].
Sunday 7th started hazy with a patchy Northerly at approx 6mph. Again, hopes were high that the sea breeze would bring a boost to sailing conditions. Thorpe Bay didn't disappoint.
Race 4 was postponed for half an hour to allow the committee boat to get on station [and the competitors to re-fuel with a full English]. On commencement of racing, a wind shift hit the starters just as they crossed the start line, causing anyone unable to bear away or tack onto port to stall badly. No surprise that Stuart Snell and Paul Grattage exchanged places over the three lap race to finish first and second, with local sailor Steve Healy coming in an excellent third.
Paul Craft [Worthing] 4th.
New entrant to the fleet Jim Bowie [TBYC] 5th
Dis-honourable mentions: Tales of getting Kevin Dutch drunk so he'd be off his game may have been true as he was unable to start this race.
Race 5 came about all too soon and with the cleanest of starts, competition recommenced with Messrs Grattage, Sandell & Snell making for the horizon (and making the rest of us look very ordinary in the process). The wind had veered to an easterly and increased in speed to 15 mph. This also saw an increase in wave size whilst beating and the opportunity to overtaking downwind by surfing the waves. Eager to demonstrate the extent to which the wind had built up, Keith Persin [TBYC] ensured his entry in the race report by being the sole person to capsize during the weekend. Well done Keith.
Paul Craft [Worthing] 4th place again, showing Sundays in Thorpe Bays are the best (in his opinion).
In conclusion, the weekend finished with Paul Grattage [Shanklin] 1st on 6 points with some fantastically consistent sailing from Stuart Snell [Grafham] 2nd on 8 points and Thomas Sandal [Grafham] 3rd on 13.
Best local boats were Steve Healy 4th, Howard Hawkes 6th, Martyn Ellis 8th and a fantastic 10th place for Gary Sverdloff.
An efficient results service not only had the results printed out by the time competitors reached the bar for the inevitable post-sailing post-mortem, but also had them published on-line as well. All-in-all a wonderful weekend of sailing and a great practice event for the 2014 Sprint 15 Nationals to be held at TBYC. Our thanks to R.O. Alan Willis & his assistants, the staff and members of Thorpe Bay Yacht Club for hosting this event and extending a warm welcome to all.
Full Series Results available here