For the first time in many years the Sprint 15 fleet went to Stokes Bay over the weekend of the 5th and 6th September for their penultimate summer TT which was being held as part of the club’s annual Catamaran Open. Twelve Sprints attended and joined the assorted Spitfires, Vortices and slow and fast handicap catamaran fleets. There was a noteworthy contingent of seven Sprints from Shanklin Sailing Club taking part two of which had sailed over to the event from the far side of the Isle of Wight rather than trouble Wightlink.
Unfortunately the forecast was spot on for Day One with light northerlies. This reduced the options available to the Race Officer in terms of course setting and length. It also seemingly caused difficulties in course laying allowing sufficient time for the Sprint fleet to admire the scenery and all the other competitors even before they watched them all start before them at five minute intervals. Race One began in light winds and the beat was so enjoyable that the first two Sprints, sailed by Stuart Snell and Stuart Pierce, missed out the wing mark forcing them to sail it all over again! Their mistake allowed Paul Grattage, David Groom and Liam Thom through into first to third, positions they held to the end. The wind suddenly picked up substantially meaning the lead boat completed the course (which could only be once around to accord with the sailing instructions) in under 12 minutes. Just after the finish of Race One a mini tsunami, tidal anomaly or large container ship, created a huge wave allowing many to get airborne prior to crashing down like an out of control foiling cat if they wanted to or not.
The next two races took place in lighter airs and, whilst still short, provided enjoyable racing with many place changes on the beats but generally a more processional feel on the runs. The key need being spot the wind and avoid the holes. Paul Grattage won with Stuart Snell in second, having benefitted from someone to follow round, and Liam Thom in third. Race Three was similar although now he knew the way Stuart Snell won followed by Jim Bowie and the Paul Grattage; a result Paul discarded at the end of the event.
Shortly after starting all these races much fun was had avoiding the seaborne and airborne spinnaker-flying catamarans as they screamed downwind to get to their gybe marks which were set close to the start line. The trick was start on starboard, stay on starboard and, if in doubt, shout very loudly.
Entertainment that night was very good with a curry available in the clubhouse and a band laid on playing tunes at a sensible volume that even the older element of the Sprint 15 fleet could recognise. During the course of the evening most of the remaining spots for the free Windsport sponsored Sprint 15 training weekend were drawn to the joy of some and the despair of those the lucky few who had won such a prized ticket can already regularly beat.
Day Two was unfortunately again just as forecast although the warm conditions and sun were to be welcomed. The wind had however shifted allowing long courses to be set running east to west along the shoreline with the beat straight into the tide that would be running eastward at various rates of knots all day. Race Four started on time and the Sprints had the benefit of being able to learn from all the other fleets which way to go up the beat. Unfortunately, due to the tide, the racetrack was very one sided with a long slow beat towards and then along the shore and a very long slow run back mid channel with the tide. The first race took over an hour and was won by Paul Grattage followed by Stuart Snell and then a continuously improving Jim Bowie who had somehow gained loads of places on the runs.
After a short postponement, racing got underway for Race Five but, in full accordance with the sailing instructions, the Race Officer decided to start the Sprint 15s ahead of the slow handicap fleet a fact that caught many Sprint sailors napping. In fact those few who started on time, especially the three doing a port flyer led off the line by David Groom, found the start remarkably easy. Good progress was made by all towards the windward mark, beating against the tide led by Paul Grattage closely chased by Stuart Snell with the remainder of the fleet following some time later. Thomas Beasley used his immense light wind speed to catch up and indeed overhaul some of the lead boats; a success only emulated in part by fellow Shanklin member Erling Holmberg. The front of the fleet were getting near to the lay line when a rib cut across them displaying the N flag as it had been, they verbally advised, decided to abandon racing as there was no wind. It is fair to say this was not a popular decision for some, notably the top three! Following an easy tide-assisted run back to the club house, the competitors recovered their boats and decided what to do. For many in the Sprint and other fleets this involved calling it a day and packing the boats away but a hopeful few held on as the wind swung and filled in from the south. However it was not to be and racing was abandoned for good leaving the Solent to the foiling foiling moths and other dinghies out there having fun.
In first place overall was Paul Grattage followed by Stuart Snell and Jim Bowie who just pipped Liam Thom into third place. First youth was Thomas Beasley showing he will be a force to be reckoned with in the future and special mention to Mike Gough for attending his first ever Sprint event and for coming all the way down from Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club. The next large cat open is the traditional end of season do at Grafham in October where normally a good turnout of Sprints can be expected to enjoy the separate, more flexible course and start line provided for the slower boats.
Thanks for Stokes Bay Sailing Club for the warm welcome and their on and off the water teams for the hard work and entertainment they provided and Rosie Snell for manning the Windsport support trailer. Unfortunately next year’s cat open clashes with the Sprint Nationals so the fleet will not be able to attend.
Full Series Results available here