Sunday 12th December saw the second Sprint 15 Winter 2021/22 TT take place at Rutland. Rutland Winter TTs have been legendary for bitingly cold temperatures and icebergs floating in the lake. So it was a very pleasant surprise to arrive to mild winter temperatures, a bit of sun, a decent south westerly breeze and mercifully without the northerly force 6 – 7s that have aborted sailing for a number of us in recent weekends.
Twelve sailors rigged up although unfortunately only eleven could sail as Scott Wilcox from Stewartby discovered that he had left his dry suit hanging by the front door where he would not forget it. Even Jenny concurred it was not warm enough to go sailing in a woolly bear. We were pleased to welcome Mark Patten from Stewartby who has recently joined the fleet and was taking part in his first “away” TT.
In line with Rutland tradition, the course was written on a board on the back of the committee boat. This required the fleet to run the gauntlet of each other and the healthy fleet of local half-boats taking part in club racing to get close enough to the board to be able to read it. Rutland Race Officers must have nerves of steel.
Even having read it, the course was largely incomprehensible to the visitors who were surrounded by a maze of race marks, anyone of which could have been the marks of the course – although we did at least clock no. 11 exactly where the final turning mark should be behind the start/finish gate.
To add further interest, our fleet were the first start so we could not even follow the local club racers! But that was the right decision as it was a decent breeze and it was great both fleets to have a first lap clear of each other. So everyone held back and let the one and only local, Steve Sawford, set off the line first so he could lead the way. That’s everyone else’s story and they are sticking to it. Steve set off with Ed Tuite Dalton (Draycote), Peter Slater (Draycote) and Paul Craft (Worthing) in hot pursuit towards the windward mark no. 17 located in front of the club. Jenny Ball (Marconi) had a “second row” start so tacked off to the right to get clear air from both the fleet and the lee of the south shore. This proved to be a useful lesson for future laps as this put her back in the mix with the front of the fleet.
Having rounded the windward mark, the fleet continued to hold back so Steve could lead the way to the wing mark which was somewhere over to the eastern shore – followed by Ed and Paul. Having rounded the wing mark, the fleet had a better idea where the final mark no. 11 was, located behind the start/finish line. Once through the line, Ed, Paul and Peter stayed left whilst Steve and Jenny headed right. Steve came in to the windward mark with an extended lead followed by Ed and Paul and Jenny managed to just get in front of Peter. As Steve had done such a great job of showing everyone round the course, the fleet let him carry on to take the win, followed by Ed in second. Jenny managed a third, followed by Pete and Paul in fourth and fifth.
Either for their own amusement – or because the wind had filled in and a longer course was required – the Race team decided to change the course for race two. Cue much consternation from the fleet as the new marks, number 2 and 15 were not only a mystery to us, even Steve the local sailor did not seem so sure where they were. As if to re-enforce this, Steve was much slower off the start line than normal so Ed, Paul and Peter were on their own as they headed off to the windward mark (mercifully the same as race one). Steve and Jenny went to the right again and joined the front of the fleet at the windward mark. Once round the mark and with the fleet sailing blind, Jenny got out her laminated course map whilst Paul and Steve read out the numbers of the marks in the immediate vicinity so they could collectively figure out which one was number 2. In the meantime, Ed politely asked us them to hurry up as he was in the lead and would quite like to know which mark he should be going round next. With the mark duly found, Ed gybed round it first followed by a big bunch that included Steve, Paul, Jenny, George Love (Carsington), and Peter. The next mark no. 15 proved easier to locate being over by the striking Normanton Church and the downwind leg from 2 to 15 proved to be as tactical as the upwind leg. The fleet then had a screaming reach across to the final mark of the course – made even better as the breeze was now much stronger.
Ed continued to lead the fleet with both Paul and Steve snapping at his heels. Jenny finally got an opportunity to catch up when Steve had to pinch into the windward mark which allowed Jenny to catch him up and sneak through on the later downwind leg. Ed went on to take the win with Paul second, Jenny third, Steve fourth and Peter fifth.
Mercifully, the Race Team decided to stick with the same course for Race three so we all knew where we were supposed to be going. It was another strong start for Ed, Steve, Paul, Peter and also Derek James (Draycote). There continued to be a bit of a split in the fleet on the windward leg, with the right hand side still generally paying off. Also in race three, the downwind leg between no.2 and no.15 came into its own tactically with lots of changing positions on each lap. Some stood on after mark 2 before gybing. They planned to come in at a tighter faster angle and end up on the inside of those who gybed straight away and sailed a straight line to mark 15. But the gybe the mark and turn onto the reach was a tight one so coming in wide, coming out tight was favoured. Except when a laser gybe capsized right in front of Paul at the mark – in which case, come in wide, come out even wider was rapidly required.
On the final lap, after another split on the windward leg, Steve and Paul came out of the windward mark together with Ed and Jenny snapping at their heels. Paul gybed off first, Steve and Ed stood on and Jenny gybed to take the middle track between the two. It was all to play for and a betting person would not have called whether Paul/Jenny or Ed/Steve would get to the mark first. A few lengths from the mark, the luckiest gust of the day got Jenny to the mark just ahead of Ed/Steve and inside Paul to sneak from fourth to first place round the mark. Jenny held Paul off on the final two short legs to take the win – with Ed third, Steve fourth, Peter fifth and Derek in sixth. Ed had done enough in race one and two to take win the event – his second consecutive TT win this series!
The fleet headed in – pleased to have had both wind and sun and an excellent three races on the water.
Big thanks to Peter Ashworth and the Rutland team for hosting the event and a special thanks to the Race Officer and their team, who ran three great races very efficiently and provided a great day on the water.
Report by Jenny Ball
Full Series Results available here