The Draycote Sprint 15 TT greeted us with a dull, grey and cold January morning and the water looked anything but inviting. As I dropped my sail off I was greeted by a beaming Derek James who enthusiastically informed me that there was an 11 knot wind forecast and it looked like we would have a good day. Ten of the growing Draycote fleet were lined up on the bank with a further 8 visitors intrepidly braving the weather, four of these heroes all the way from Shanklin SC on the Isle of Wight. Moving into the club house I was greeted with more smiling faces, from Sarah Tuite-Dalton who efficiently booked us all in and from Richard Knight who was taunting (a dieting) Ant Clay with a mouth-watering and freshly cooked hot egg sandwich. Ant looked smart and toasty, sporting his new winter-weight wetsuit, which, turned out to be just as well in the circumstances..
We received a quick briefing from our Flying 15 race officers, Tim and Richard who are by honorary members of the cat fleet these days due to their long and distinguished service. Because of the cold it was to be three, three lap races back-to-back and obviating the need to come in for lunch. The course was confirmed as a standard box, through the gate on each lap. Briefing completed it was down to the boats and onto the water.
Draycote has a massive water area and can easily sustain two large open meetings. We were sharing the lake with a large posse of RS Fevas and bunch of very young (and incredibly noisy) Optimists. We had been allocated the south-western area of the reservoir and with an 8 to 10 knot wind blowing from the south-east it meant that the start line had to be close to the western wall with little room for manoeuvre. A chilly half hour delay ensued while the rescue boats found and positioned an errant buoy. For the first start, close proximity to the wall involved most of the fleet coming in line-astern and hooking around the back of the Committee boat ready to cruise the line and waiting for the start gun. Some mistimed the approach and I saw Ed Tuite-Dalton execute a neat turn and then go off on port having reached the end of the line before the gun went off. Paul Grattage led the way on the first race but Ed somehow managed to round the windward mark second despite his poor start. Liam Thom then contrived to overtake him on the downward leg and the first race positions were Paul Grattage first, Liam second and Stuart Snell third.
The second race was pretty much a repeat of the first but the cold was starting to penetrate my dry-suit and I was beginning to lose contact with my feet! Draycote does have its advantages, but spectacular scenery is not amongst them. Consequently, it came as something of a welcome distraction at the end of the first lap to find one of our number capsized at the leeward buoy. Now, this was something of an accomplishment since the capsize had occurred at the end of a cheeky (but otherwise not particularly challenging) little close reach and very close to the leeward mark. I would not normally dwell on a capsize because, well, let’s face it, we all do it from time to time. Here at Draycote we all have our particular ways; I tend to take the long drop regularly having failed to un-cleat my mainsheet fast enough; Derek James takes the odd dunk; Phil Taylor has developed a sophisticated (and arguably impossible) method of exiting his boat over the transom whilst Jan Elfring has a habit of getting his capsizes out of the way before races begin and righting his boat at the speed of light. Richard Knight has developed ways of capsizing so diverse that he needs a catalogue to describe them. However, one thing you don’t ever see is Ant Clay standing on his trampoline, mast pointing down rather than up. So, it’s worth labouring the point here. Ant is an accomplished and skilful sailor and has not spent any time in the water since getting his boat “Double Trouble” four or five years ago. Consequently, having capsized it for the first time, he didn’t really know how to get it back up! The passing fleet, now having now to round both the mark and Ant, offered useful suggestions such as, “not there you fool!”, “Moron” and “get out of the way!”. As the middle-order local fleet hove into view to render “passing honours” the suggestions became more sympathetic. Jan yelled, “I know how to get it up fast!”. Ant momentarily contemplated this interesting (but otherwise useless) piece of information and yelled back, “using a little blue pill I suppose?”. Richard Knight kindly gave up his dual with Owen Jones and slowed down to offer Ant the benefit of his vast wealth of capsize experience. Owen charitably took the opportunity to leap a few places. The rest of us sailed on, but twenty five minutes later I was shocked to see Ant still trying to get the boat upright when the fleet passed on the second lap. By now he was attracting rescue boats like a magnet. It turns out that what we were actually witnessing was a smallish lump of Ant Clay on top of the boat, but with a much larger lump of unctuous Draycote clay sucking his mast into the lake bed! Ant eventually got the boat upright with the help of his personal fleet of rescue boats and wisely retired in a semi-frozen condition to a nice warm shower in the changing rooms. Asked for a comment for this article Ant responded, “The mud is sticky. The water is cold”. So true. Meanwhile, back at the coal-face, Paul Grattage won the second race with Stuart Snell second and Liam Thom third.
The third race saw Ed Tuite-Dalton get a good start, pointing low for clear air and boat-speed while Stuart Snell pointed high. Ed took the windward mark first but was overtaken by Paul Grattage and Liam Thom on the downward leg. The race involved close sailing with the wind picking up slightly towards the end. It was good to see Paul Craft back on the circuit and performing well although on the second lap, when he was in fourth position, he thought the race had finished and started to head for the club-house. Moments later he realised the race was not over and re-joined the fleet, hit the windward mark, did his turn and still managed to recover albeit several places down. Paul Grattage was first, Liam Thom second and Ed Tuite-Dalton third.
At the end of a very cold and grey January Draycote Day, the overall scores were Paul Grattage (Shanklin SC) first, Liam Thom (Shanklin SC) second and Stuart Snell (Graffam Water SC) third. Heartiest congratulations on a close-fought completion. As ever I should express our sincere thanks for Tim and Richard for taking the time to efficiently manage our TT and special thanks to all the visitors for coming so far and braving the cold to make our TT such a great success.
Full Series Results available here