It was with some trepidation that the Sprint 15s gathered at Grafham on the weekend of 26/27 October for the Inland Championships and the last of the Summer Traveller series. The forecast was for strong winds leading up to an 80mph storm (St Jude) on Sunday night. Never the less an impressive 40 Sprint 15 sailors signed up for an exciting weekends sailing. The forecast on Saturday (18mph SW winds with gusts up to 30mph) looked sailable so Grafham played their trump card which was to bring one of the Sunday races forward to sail 4 races back to back on Saturday leaving just 2 races for Sunday (as the Sunday forecast was for strengthening winds).
The Sprint 15s sailed on Course Bravo with the Dart 18s and the medium handicap fleet and sailed a rectangular course with tight reaches. Race officer, Peter Saxton, got the proceedings off on time and in race one, Kevin Dutch took an early lead from Simon Farthing and Paul Grattage. At the end of the first lap Dutch capsized on a gust and Grattage took the lead. The big wind shifts on the gusts made sizeable gains possible on the upwind legs but Grattage maintained the lead while the chasing pack of David Ball, Steve Sawford, Mark Aldridge and Dutch jostled for position. At the end of 4 laps it was still Grattage at the gun followed by heavy wind merchant, M Aldridge, David Ball and A Class tourist Bob Fletcher. The strong wind took it’s toll and Liam Thom’s mast came down and 10 boats failed to finish. Race 2 followed quickly which caught out a few who had returned for minor repairs and replacement battens but the wind had moderated a little. M Aldridge rounded the windward mark ahead of National Champion, Stuart Snell, David Groom and Thomas Sandal. Snell was finding the lighter wind much more to his liking and took the lead on the first run by bearing away much harder than Aldridge and quickly built up a large lead which was never challenged. Grattage worked his way up to take second at the finish after 3 laps, from Sandal, M Aldridge, Dutch and Sawford. Once again the next race (#3) followed quickly and Grattage took an early lead from Farthing, Sandal and Robert Finch who was enjoying the strong wind which gave him the edge over his lighter brother Jon. Farthing and Paul Craft hounded down Grattage on the second beat by sailing up the middle of the course and Snell also slipped by Grattage. Farthing led the charge for the next 2 laps but sadly Craft had to retire with a broken mast leaving second place to Snell followed by a throng of boats jostling for position. On the last run Snell had taken the lead but anxious to protect his position from the chasing Sandal he misjudged the rounding of the last mark and hit it forcing a penalty turn. Sandal got caught by a gust and capsized breaking 4 battens in the process and this left R Finch (who could not believe his luck) to take his first ever gun at a Sprint 15 traveller meeting. D Ball took second from Farthing, Grattage and Sawford. In race 4 once again M Aldridge took an early lead and led the fleet around for 3 laps whilst being chased predominantly by Farthing, Grattage and Snell. On the final run Snell took the lead and made no mistakes this time to take the gun from M Aldridge, Farthing, Grattage and D Ball.
The fleet retired to the bar exhausted after some 5 hours and 4 races on the water.
On Sunday the wind strength had further increased and while it was still just about sailable it was forecast to build through the day so the Race Committee met with the Class reps and decided to cancel racing for the day. Thus an early prize giving was held which enabled the travellers to head home before storm St Jude arrived.
In a very tight finish youth won over experience and Shanklin traveller, Paul Grattage, took the Inland Championship trophy by a point from Stuart Snell and Mark Aldridge.
This event concluded the Summer Traveller series but the Winter Traveller series kicks off at Stewartby next weekend on 2 November.
Full Series Results available here