The first Sprint 15 Summer TT for 2022 was hosted by Stone Sailing Club on the River Blackwater in Essex. An unusually consistent forecast of 25 – 29 knots for the Saturday deterred some travellers and the forecast proved to be entirely correct. Although it was wind with tide, winds of that strength still bring quite a lumpy short sea and this was no exception. Having reviewed the conditions, a majority of competitors decided not to take to the water.
The NOR scheduled three races on Saturday and two on Sunday but with a provision that the race schedule could be flexed across the two days if the conditions warranted it. There was a discussion with the race management team about different format options but in view of six boats declaring their intent to sail, the race team decided to press ahead with racing on the Saturday afternoon.
Race one started and the fleet got underway making their way out to the windward mark. Although the tide was officially against, them, the fleet made long boards across the channel to minimize tacking which was very difficult in the wind and waves. At mark two, local sailor Skip Atkins (Stone CS) fell off his boat during the bear away and his boat capsized some distance away from him. The safety boats got him back to his boat but unfortunately, a number of battens had been broken so Skip was obliged to retire. The other local sailor, Rob Wilson (Stone SC), also retired at the end of lap one.
Unfortunately, everyone on shore was in dry gear so were not able to safely get the trollies out through the surf to Skip and Rob for them to recover their boats safely. At this point, Tom Phipps from Windsport took Event Support to a whole new level by taking off his jeans and wading in to take Skip his trolley so the boat could be recovered. Meanwhile, the remaining four sailors completed a two lap race with Chris Tillyer (Thorpe Bay) taking the win, Jim Bowie (Thorpe Bay) taking second, Len Flynn (Thorpe Bay) taking third and Donald Sloan (Felixtowe Ferry) taking fourth place.
It is worth mentioning at this point that Len Flynn had, that same morning, taken delivery from Windsport of a brand new Sprint 15. And it is probably the only brand new Sprint 15 in our forty-four year history ever to be christened in conditions like that!
The four remaining competitors geared up for the second start – struggling to see and hear the visual and sound signals in the conditions. Chris led off the start line but had Jim on his heels for the whole race. For those spectating, it appeared that Jim would make a little ground on the upwind leg and Chris would gain back a little ground on the run, with nothing between them on the reaches. The positions remained unchanged across the two laps with Chris taking the win, Jim in second, Len in third and Donald in fourth.
At the end of race two, Donald called it a day and came ashore. Despite only three boats remaining, the race management team decided to press ahead with the third race. This followed the same pattern as the previous two races with Chris holding on to the lead all the way round, followed by Jim and Len. All three sailors came ashore for a well deserved rest after wrestling their boats around six laps in very lively conditions and managing to keep their boats and themselves all in one piece.
In the evening, competitors enjoyed an evening meal and social up in the bar accompanied by Skip and his guitar, now fully recovered from his swim.
Sunday morning’s forecast of 15 – 23 knots also proved to be pretty accurate although this time with wind over tide so still with a lumpy chop. Although the championship was wiped out for all who opted not to sail on Saturday – nine of those sailors joined in the Sunday races alongside five competitors from the day before – including Skip who was able to replace his broken battens and get back out on the water. A closely fought start saw Skip, David Ball (Marconi), Len, Jenny Ball (Marconi) and Jon Pearse (Marconi) closely bunched off the start line. Jenny managed to reach the windward mark first with David and Len close behind. The front of the fleet tacked at the mark expecting to reach to mark two, but then spotted that the second mark was even further upwind on the other side of the channel. A quick change of tactics required two further boards to reach the mark but with the tide giving a helpful push.
The run against the tide saw varying tactics – with some staying high out of the tide and then soaking down to the mark for the final stretch whilst David and one or two others took a straight line approach to see if wave surfing might give them an edge. A swift reach across the tide brought the fleet round for the second beat. At the end of lap two, Jenny held on to her lead to take the win, with Len in second, David in third, Chris in fourth and Jon in fifth.
Race two saw another close start with Chris, Skip, David, Jenny, Donald and Jason Clarke (Marconi) all bunched together. By now the wind had headed and the tide had gone out so the fleet had to decide whether they could hold the first beat long enough to then tack and lay mark two, without ending up on the soft Blackwater mud! Chris was in the lead at mark one and tacked off early. Jenny, David and some others held on to the last minute and then tacked. At the cross, Jenny was just in front of Chris and able to lay mark two in one tack, as was David. The pack was still close together at the start of the run but started to fan out a little by the end. On the second beat, Chris tacked off early again at mark one and Jenny again stood on. This time it did not pay and Jenny just got round mark two with Chris inches behind. A closely fought run saw Chris manage to sail under Jenny about half way down the leg and take the inside line to mark three. At the rounding, Jenny got a bit of extra acceleration and was able to pull back in front of Chris and hold him off to the finish with not much more than a boat length in it. Len followed in third having sailed another great race, Jason was fourth, Jon was a consistent fifth and Skip was sixth.
The fleet headed in after a great morning’s sailing – with the Marconi fleet sailing back to their home club, kindly accompanied by a Stone safety boat. After an eventful weekend, third place went to Jim Bowie (TBYC), second place to Len Flynn (TBYC) and with the clear overall winner being Chris Tillyer (TBYC).
Report by Jenny Ball
Full Series Results available here