The first of the 5 round Sprint 15 2016/2017 winter series got off to a flying start at Stewartby Sailing on the 5th November. 10 visitors and 6 local helms arrived early to a rather cool and windy morning.
After a short briefing from the race officer for the day Nigel Denchfield, proceedings got underway with the first of three back to back races.
After a clean start all boats were making the most of the 18-20kt wind to carry them quickly up the beat. But all too soon Andy Bunyan got caught out by a gust of wind and took an early bath as he capsized having sailed less than 100 meters. First to the windward mark was Paul Grattage, hotly followed by Steve Sawford, Stuart Snell and Rob Finch. Further back in the field a lot of tussling was going on as many boat descended on the mark at the same time but everybody got around without incident. Whilst going down the reach one of Derek James’ rudders decided to self destruct leading to his early retirement for him from the days proceedings.
Paul Grattage steadily pulled out his lead eventually catching up with the tail enders as he crossed the finish line in first position. The following pack fought it out to the end with lots of tussling for positions throughout the fleet, Steve Sawford and Stuart Snell coming home in 2nd and 3rd position respectively.
Minor course adjustments were promptly carried out by the race team and the 2nd race was soon got underway. As the start gun went off the individual recall was signaled but unsure who was over the line several helms turned back to restart their race. The wind was starting to get more boisterous with unpredictable gusts crossing the lake testing the skills of all the helms. Rob Finch, Steve Sawford and Jon Finch were first to reach the top of the course but Paul Grattage was hot on their heels despite having turned back to cross the line at the start. On the approach to the leeward mark Steve Sawford succumbed to the wind with a violent pitchpole, snapping his tiller as he was thrown into the water and out of the race. The hard charging fleet carried on relentless reveling in the conditions with plenty of hull flying action going on around the course. Paul Grattage was first to cross the line again closely followed by Stewartby sailors Jon and Rob Finch in 2nd and 3rd positions.
Yet again the race officer got the proceedings started for the 3rd race in record time. The wind intensity had stepped up and was now gusting into the mid 20’s. All through the fleet the helms were battling hard for positions. It all became too much for George Love who capsized on the last lap, shortly followed by Simon Miles (1st capsize in 5 years of Sprint 15 sailing) and Ed Tuite Dalton. Special mention must go to Stuart Snell who capsized, righted the boat which then proceeded to sail off on its own, quick action by the rescue crew pulled him from the water and then made a quick dash to return him to the craft before it reached the rapidly approaching shore.
Paul Grattage continued his domination of the days racing with a third win. Rob Finch and Jon Finch following close behind to seal their positions in the top 3 of the overall results, a fine result for both of the brothers especially considering their absence from the racing circuit for most of the year.
After a great but very tiring day sailing all the helms returned to the club house to be fed by the galley team of Commodore Gerry Howcroft ably assisted by Pat Strange. Prize giving kept to the Stewartby tradition of everybody going home with a prize of several bottles of beer.
Thanks must be given to the race officer along with his support team who did a fantastic job with running the racing and coming to the rescue of the helms when required.
The next round of the winter series will be held at Rutland sailing club on the 4th December.
Report by Andy Bunyan.
Pictures by Nigel Denchfield
Full Series Results available here