28 Sprint 15s took part in the Inland Championships at the Grafham Cat Open which happily (after the storms of last year) took place on a sunny weekend in a force 2-3 light Southerly breeze. Marconi fielded a strong team of 9 boats, there were 4 boats from Grafham and both Shanklin and Thorpe Bay fielded teams of 3.
Each day there were 3 races back to back and on the Saturday race officer, Nigel Denchfield, got proceeding off to start on time. Jim Bowie raced to an early lead in race 1 closely followed by Kevin Kirby, Jenny Ball and George Love. Bowie led the fleet around for 2 laps until the end of the second run when both Jenny Ball and David Ball sailed by with superior downwind speed. J Ball opened out a big lead on the third lap and took the gun from D Ball and Bowie. Defending Inland Champion, Thomas Sandal (18th) was decidedly rusty after a year’s layoff and recently returned Carsington sailor, Ray Gall, had to retire with a rig failure. In the second race Ed Tuite Dalton was first to the windward mark chased by Liam Thom, Stuart Snell and Christian Mash. Thom took the lead on the second beat and Sandal, who had by now recovered his mojo, followed. Over the next 2 laps Thom and Sandal sailed away to take first and second from a distant Snell and D Ball. In the third race J Ball was first to the windward mark closely followed by D Ball and young Jason Clarke making it a Marconi 1,2,3. J Ball extended this lead and Sandal worked his way up to second. At the start of the 3 beat J Ball had some hundred metres lead and elected to take the LHS of the course while the chasing pack all went right and benefitted from a big lift. Hence Thom took the lead and subsequently the gun but J Ball salvaged second from Snell, Sandal and Jason Clark. So as the fleet headed to the bar on Saturday evening Thom was carrying a useful lead aided by J Ball not covering him on the last beat.
On the Sunday the conditions and wind direction were a replica of the previous day. Thom was over the line (U Flag) and had to retire from the race 4. The race was dominated by J Ball and Snell who were trading places at the front with J Ball having the edge upwind but could not hold Snell downwind, So each lap Ball led at the windward mark and Snell at the leeward mark. In the chasing pack D Ball, Sandal, Jon Pearse and Bowie were tousling for third place. After 2 laps Snell took the gun for the race from J Ball, Sandal and Bowie. Race 5 followed and there was a big lift at the start on starboard and Bowie made no mistakes, leading from start to finish and progressively opening up a huge lead before taking the gun. D Ball likewise retained second place throughout the race. Mash and Clarke, the younger, were also on a charge taking third and fourth places respectively giving the race a fresh look. So after 5 races the result was still very much in the balance as any one of 5 helms could win. On the first beat of race 6 the fleet split with 2 of the main protagonists sailing on opposite sides of the course – J Ball to the extreme left and Thom to the extreme right. They arrived at the windward mark together but Thom was on starboard and took the lead from Steve Healey, J Ball and Nigel James. Thom extended his lead on the run where he had a significant boat speed advantage. On the second beat Thom extended his lead further while D Ball and Bowie established themselves in second and third. The top 3 held these places for a third lap and to the gun. Snell and Mash caught back to take fourth and fifth.
Thus in the end Liam Thom was the clear winner from David Ball and Jenny Ball. The Youth trophy was retained by Jason Clarke who was often in the leading pack and was 8th overall. The other youth taking part, Rhys Atkins, also sailed well and was keeping up with many experienced sailors. For other results see below.
This event concluded the Summer Traveller series and the fleet move on to the Winter Traveller series which starts at Stewartby on 3 November.
Report by Bob Carter. Pictures by Jeremy Atkins and Nigel Denchfield.
Full Series Results available here