22 competitors took part in the first 2019 Sprint 15 Summer TT at Marconi SC on 6th and 7th April. We were also pleased to welcome back Nigel and Fiona Denchfield as guest Races Officers for the event.
Saturday dawned with a decent breeze, albeit with very murky weather conditions – but very welcome after the very strong winds experienced this winter.
With the tide running against us – we were in for a weekend of clear starts. Race 1 got underway at a good pace with half the fleet tacking into the bay to find the slacker tide – and the other half opting to go up the lay line in stronger tide, but with more constant wind. Paul Grattage headed inshore first and although he had to put in an extra two tacks, rounded the windward mark first. Jenny Ball and Liam Thom tacked when they ran out of water and fortunately, this turned out to be a good line to clear the mark. Others who stood on further in the bay found the breeze got a bit softer whilst those who had gone up the middle found they were putting in extra tacks to clear the mark against the tide – so there was all to play for on the upwind legs, whilst the downwind leg were more straightforward. Paul held his lead to win, with Jenny second, Liam third and David Ball in fourth in a pattern that would repeat itself. Jon Pearse, Jim Bowie and Gordon Deuce were close behind.
Race 2 got away swiftly with a similar pattern on the upwind leg. By the second lap, the front runners were opting to stay closer to the lay line, avoiding the softer winds right inshore and taking advantage of a slight lift off the shore about ten boat lengths from the windward mark. At the end of Race 2 Paul took first place, with Jenny second, Liam third and David fourth – followed by Jim, Steve Healy and Jon.
There was then a slight pause to re-lay the windward mark for Race 3, during which Geoff Tindale kept everyone entertained by capsizing and getting his mast stuck in the mud.
Race 3 was the legendary long distance race – a figure of eight course around Osea and Northey Islands. Following a short windward leg, the fleet turned at the mark and started the fetch up towards Maldon. The tide had started to turn so some of the fleet headed closer to the island but experienced more fickle wind so those who had stayed clear of the lee of the island fared better. By the end of Osea Island, Paul had created a solid lead which proved unassailable for the rest of the race. Behind him were Liam, David, Simon Hare, Gordon in the middle with Jenny, Jason Clarke and Kevin Kirby closer to shore.
The fleet then turned and ran down the back of Northey Island - Liam and Simon rounded the far end of the island and crossed the causeway behind Paul and followed by Jenny, David, Gordon and Steve Healy. A little further back, some fleet members got a bit brave about which side they were going to leave the Causeway markers. Andy Perks rudders bumped the causeway – and everyone around him laughed until theirs did the same. Keith Chidwick later complained Jenny’s briefing said they would definitely clear the causeway – until it was pointed out to him she meant if you aimed at the bit that actually had water over it.
The breeze had filled in nicely and was now against the tide, so conditions were a bit more choppy. The fleet stood on from the end of Northey Island and then cut across the channel to the other side of Osea Island – everyone carefully monitoring how others were faring on their different lay lines. Jenny tacked earlier at the end of Osea island, cutting the corner and catching up with Liam but with David, Steve and Gordon were catching up further out in the stronger tide and wind. Jenny put in another tack back out into the channel and just did enough to get ahead of Liam who followed in close pursuit all the way to the finish line. The final result was – you guessed it – Paul first, Jenny second, Liam third, David fourth with Gordon, Steve and Jim behind. Despite the race lasting over an hour, the fleet saw some remarkably close finishes.
The fleet waved goodbye to Abbie Clarke, Geoff Tindale and Rob Wilson who sailed back to their neighbouring home club at Stone and then headed in for a well deserved dinner with plenty of good racing to talk about and looking at the more promising wind forecast for Sunday morning which was finally showing a bit more than 2 knots.
On Sunday, there was indeed a decent breeze, albeit another grey and murky day. The Race team started laying the course but the wind unexpectedly died to nothing and with the typical Blackwater tide, the Race Officer decided to delay the start of the race and move the race course further out of the main channel. This proved to be wise as the wind filled back in again but from a slightly different direction which allowed the course to be set accordingly although a final shift at a minute to go made for an interesting start. A group of the fleet had opted for a port hand start whilst others started on starboard and then tacked off. The rain had caused everyone’s tell tales to stick to the sail making it tricky to find good boat speed in a light breeze against the tide. Jenny tacked first for the mark but it became clear she was not going to make it with the tide so the rest of the fleet stood on further. In the meantime, Steve Healy had headed straight up the middle of the river, tacked round the mark into a clear lead. Behind him, only David cleared the mark to go into a solid second place whilst even those who had stood on had to tack back one or more times and/or hit the mark. Paul, Liam, Jenny, Aaron Kirby, Jim, Kevin and Jon rounded in a bunch, although there were a few penalty turns to be done on the way to mark 2. Paul, Liam and Jenny set off in pursuit of Steve and David. On the penultimate lap, Liam and Jenny got a better breeze by standing further out. David tacked out to join them whilst Paul stood on – which allowed Liam and Jenny to move into second and third place with David and Paul fighting out a photo finish. But a great win for Steve. Newcomer, Abbie Clarke also fared well in the lighter breeze putting in an impressive 15th place behind fellow Stone sailor Rob Wilson and Shanklin’s Yvonne Pike – both of whom are also relative newcomers to the Sprint 15.
The Race Officer re-set the course to take account of the new wind direction for Race 5 and again the fleet opted for a mixture of port and starboard starts. Gordon, Jon and Jason got great starts at the pin end and with the windward mark now on the far side of the channel, off the Osea shore, the fleet split significantly up the beat. Those who took the left hand side of the course fared better over the tide but this was offset by coming into the mark on port and having to duck the incoming boats on starboard. However, some of those coming in on starboard had misjudged the tide and either had to double tack or risk bumping into the mark. Gordon took the early lead but the upwind legs became the defining elements of Race 5 with places changing each lap and at least three different leaders during the course of the race. On the final upwind leg, a lift enabled Jenny to get inside of Liam and Gordon and get to the mark on starboard as Paul came in on port. Jenny just about held on to take the race win with Paul second, Gordon third, Liam fourth and Steve fifth.
The fleet headed home after a great weekend of sailing! Big thanks go to the Race Officers, Race Committee and Support boat crews for setting up and delivering five great races in conditions that were cold, and at times, wet!
Abbie Clarke – winner of the New Comer Award – her first TT having only moved from a Topper to a Sprint 15 late last season!
Jason Clarke – Youth winner and 11th placed overall
Aaron Kirby – winner of the Chairman’s Award for driving over 6 and half hours to attend the event (and then back again)
Report by Jenny Ball. Pictures by Nigel Denchfield
Full Series Results available here