Forty Sprint 15s arrived at Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli on the Saturday of the August Bank holiday weekend from all over the UK including South Island (The Isle of Wight), Devon, Dorset, Essex and Ooop North. Racing took place Sunday to Tuesday. The furthest flung competitor was Gabriel Kicks who had come in from Lantau Boat Club in Hong Kong. Attendance was unfortunately down from the expected 50-plus due to the date and the travel cost/time to reach the venue.
Most arrived to fight for space to unload and rig up amongst a host of RS Tera sailors, the accompanying ribs and motor homes and legions of supporting parents. Luckily the Teras all went racing in the middle of the day so sufficient space was annexed by the Sprints for boats and trailers.
For almost all of the Sprint competitors the recently constructed National Sailing Centre was new. In the face of the multitude of users present over most of the event It did manage to provide suitable landside facilities with an ambience and character strangely reminiscent of its opposite number in Weymouth. Luckily the old club house was still partly in use meaning the Sprint fleet had its own reserved changing rooms.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and windless. At the briefing it was announced that the course to be sailed and the location of the finishing line was different to normal. This caused some consternation as the fleet is so well established it can only really easily cope with the norm. Given they routinely get nothing the fleet had also been thrown by the handing out of free event sun caps, most in a tasteful shade of beige, provided by David Lloyd of WH Insurance Consultants (dinghyinsurance.com).
The Sprints launched and sailed round the corner so as to keep out of the way of the Terras. Launching was the normal Pwllheli low tide hike, firstly a marathon across the lengthy beach and then a wade through what felt like half a mile of shallow water until normal sailing could commence. This was of course having returned the launching wheels to above the distant high tide mark and slogged back to the boat.
On the water the practice race got off to a good start in a Force Four with the initial excitement being near to and around the windward mark that being set inshore had a significant variety of winds in terms of strength and direction to contend with. Most boats finished but, true to form, some c@@@ed up the finish despite the specific guidance given at the briefing and a few, including the report author, had been called OCS.
Race one commenced soon after with all the fleet enjoying what was near champagne conditions in the Bay with the fantastic backdrop of Snowdonia on display. It was full on upwind with a superb reach into the finish. The race was won by Sean and Sophia McKenna with David Ball second and Stuart Snell third. This was yet another unexpected event to cause confusion in the fleet given the normal race and event winners had not won. Race Two started soon after and in the excitement two boats capsized, one before and one just after the start. As with Race One, places could be gained by tacking on the shifts and choosing the right side of the beat but it was snakes and ladders near the top mark. Uncharacteristically one of the top place finishers, Thomas Sandal, failed to finish correctly first time round and lost stacks of places when he corrected the error. That night first four places were the McKennas, Paul Grattage, Stuart Snell and, to his and others surprise, David Groom.
That night roast dinner at the Club for many, as an alternative to a barbecue with the Terrors, although some missed out on dinner due to a communication error resulting in a trip down town for fish and chips. Post after dinner light refreshment, a thorough analysis of the day's happenings and in recognition of three back to back races to come on Monday the fleet retired to bed.
As per forecast Monday dawned sunny and windless and both fleets were sensibly kept on shore. In view of the time suddenly available the Class AGM was held at which point various matters, including the benefits or not of scrutineering what is a mostly one design class, were debated and the Nationals venues of 2017 and 18.
The Thorpe Bay event (to be held 17th to the 19th June 2017) should see a return to 70 plus boats.
Early afternoon a light, and at times, steady onshore breeze appeared so the Race Officer summoned the eager fleet, or at least the eager muesli-eating lightweight component of it. Battle commenced with, in all three races held that day, interesting and very different opinions on which way to go up the beat. The windward mark was always an exciting place to be with a stream of boats coming in on port to mix it in with the train on the starboard lay line occasionally with a boat using the mark as a convenient anchor. Many places were made or lost at this point with the mark, when it was not accompanied by an anchored boat having more than one boat polishing its side against it leading to a number of graceful pirouettes on the reaching leg to make up for such mostly unforced errors. Race winners were Team McKenna meaning they led again after day two followed by Grattage and Snell. This meant that, with the continuing exception of first place, the overall results showed the normal culprits in about the normal places.
That night, after the conventional three course Association Annual Dinner, limited drinking took place in wonderful peace and quiet post the departure of the Terrors. The limited drinking was this time caused by the forecast for what could be big Tuesday with an early start and two more races to get through.
Unfortunately for the full English breakfast eaters the day dawned not as big as hoped for but there was a decent steady wind in the Bay and meaningful waves in the new race area as just vacated by the Terrors. Their place had been taken by a small number of International Canoes (half catamarans really) practicing for their Nationals and Europeans. These are amazing machines with controllable everythings meaning the amount of string in any one boat is more than the Sprint fleet has in total.
The competitors were so eager to start Race Six that a general recall resulted and the Race Officer, sensibly, decided to use the Uniform Flag causing some debate amongst the fleet in terms of what does that mean? They soon got the hang of it with the competitors all hanging back with one minute to go before a last minute surge to the line. In fact both the starts were particularly keenly contested.
Unfortunately at this point two rigs fell down, one of which belonging to Paul Grattage. His Shanklin club mate and Team Captain, Erling Holmberg, showed how desperate he was that Shanklin won the Team Prize in that he lent Paul his own boat and took charge of the dismasted vessel. Paul gratefully used this fine machine for race six but showed the Sprint 15 liking for the familiar by sailing back to the beach and using one of Erling's shrouds to repair his own boat for the final race. The other dismasted competitor followed this example leaving Erling with no option but an early shower as his boat was now fit for nothing but use as a bench or garden ornament.
Racing was great fun in both these last two races in a steady Force Three with meaningful waves meaning both retaining boat speed upwind and maximizing surfing downwind was essential. This caused problems for some especially those more experienced in reservoir sailing. Options on the beat allowed place changing and the superb surfing conditions evident on the runs were to the delight of the heavyweights who can surf longer and faster than their less well endowed colleagues.
Race winners were Team McKenna and Paul Grattage with Kevin Kirby, Liam Thom and Stuart Snell picking up the minor placings. Paul was shown to have made the right choice in terms of boat as he won the final race by a country mile.
Overall it was a great event won by Team McKenna with Stuart Snell second, Paul Grattage third, Liam Thom fourth and Kevin Kirby fifth, David Ball sixth just beating his sister Jenny. In addition to all the main event winners special mention must be given to the following:
Report by David Groom
Click for: Full Results with all Sub-Competitions