An impressive fleet of 29 Sprint 15s attended the Inland Championships at Grafham on the weekend of 17-18 October. With a near perfect Saturday forecast for catamaran racing the fleet was rearing to go and they were not disappointed. With a Northerly F4 breeze gusting to F5 the Race Officer, Nigel Denchfield, set a trapezoidal course with good length reaches that the fleet so enjoy. On Saturday there were 3 races run back to back and in the first race Thomas Sandal in his first sail of the year, took an early lead from Ed Tuite-Dalton, Paul Craft and Mark Aldridge. Sandal and Tuite-Dalton lead the charge for nearly 2 laps but Steve Sawford and Jim Bowie were working their way through the fleet. After 3 laps Sandal held on to take the gun but Sawford and Bowie were second and third pushing Tuite-Dalton down to finish fourth. The second race followed quickly and once again Sandal lead from start to finish. This time he was being chased by Paul Craft, Dave Ball, Frank Sandells (the prodigal grub guru) and Kevin Kirby who were in close proximity to one-another and frequently changing places. During this race the biggest gust of the day was recorded at 27mph and caused the only Sprint 15 capsize of the weekend. At the end of the 3 lap race Sandal once again took the gun and Kirby won the battle for second from Stuart Snell, Craft, Sawford and David Ball. The course just needed slight adjustment and the race 3 followed quickly. Ex National Champion, Snell was getting into the groove and was straight into lead followed by Craft, David Groom and Kirby. After a couple of laps the leading 3 boats of Snell, Kirby and Craft stretched out a big lead from the chasing pack where it seemed fatigue was taking it’s toll of those that were out of practice (shape?). Sandal was seen “strap hanging on the shrouds” after his stellar performance in the first 2 races. Kirby and Snell were dicing for the lead with Snell taking the advantage on the upwind leg but Kirby prospered on the downwind leg. An F18 from the adjacent course carved up the leaders on the run but fortunately no contact occurred. The fleet were surprised when (as can happen in average lap time events) the back half of the fleet were finished after 3 laps whilst the leaders did a fourth lap. At the finish Kirby took the gun from Snell, Craft, Sawford and Liam Thom. The slick race management resulted in 3 races being completed in less than 200 minutes and Kirby was the narrow overnight leader from Sawford and Sandal with all to play for on Sunday.
Sunday was a very different day with much less wind (6-8mph) and mist although the wind was still from the North.
Once again there were 3 races back to back but it was the light wind experts of Snell and Bowie who took the first 2 places in both race 4 and race 5. The minor places were taken by a combination of Sawford, Thom, Sandal and Erling Holmberg but over-night leader Kirby had a couple of bad races so the effect of the changing conditions was to close up the position at the top and a number of helms were still in contention after 5 races. The conditions cleared little for the final race and Sandal got a second wind and led from the start hotly pursued by Kirby and Ball and Snell. Sandal, Kirby and Snell settled down in the top 3 paces and held stations to the end of the 4 lap race. These 3 were some way ahead but behind there was another tight group of boats and Jenny Ball did enough to get her best result of the weekend by taking 4th place from the others in this group.
So at the end of the weekend Snell became Inland Champion from Sandal who was second, 2 points behind. Bowie and Sawford were third and fourth both on 20 points.
This event concluded the Sprint 15 Summer Traveller series but the Winter Traveller series kicks off at Stewartby on 7 November.
Pictures by Nick Champion - championmarinephotography.co.uk
Full Series Results available here