The last regatta of the Windsport Catparts Sprint 15 Summer traveller series was held at Grafham Water Sailing Club on the weekend of 22-23 October, which was also the Inland Championships. There were 37 entries which comprised 10 from the home club and 27 travellers. This made the Sprint 15 fleet more than twice the size of any other fleet at the Grafham Cat Open.
On Saturday the weather was ideal – bright and sunny with a 15mph southerly wind gusting to 22mph on occasions. The Race Officer, Peter Saxton, set the preferred trapezoidal course with tight reaches and got proceedings underway on time. In race one Stuart Snell made no mistakes and lead from start to finish. The chasing pack of about 5 boats including Peter Slater, Mark Aldridge, Gordon Goldstone, Steve Sawford and Charles Watson were dueling for second place throughout. At the gun Snell won from Watson, M Aldridge, Sawford and Slater.
Race two followed a similar pattern. At the first windward mark it was Snell from Aldridge, Watson, Slater and Paul Craft, who has recently rejoined the fleet. The wind was bending and seemed to favour those who beat up the left side of the course. On the second lap Watson capsized from second place (not to be out done by Steve Roberts who had already taken a dip) and Erling Holmberg dropped his mast for the second time in one day! New to the fleet Andy Gregory, worked his way into the front runners after having to retire from the previous race with a broken tiller. The wind freshened towards the end of the race and George Love sailing Sport mode charged to the front but Snell was never far behind. At the gun it was Love who took line honours but Snell won on handicap from Love, Aldridge, Gregory and Sawford. Simon Farthing made no mistakes at the start of race three and went into an early lead. At the windward mark Aldridge had caught up but had to take a penalty turn in a port starboard incident with Farthing. Sawford and last year’s winner, Kevin Kirby, were in hot pursuit. By lap 3 Aldridge had caught up again and took the lead from Farthing who was fighting to keep the Father-in law (Snell) behind. Further back there was great rivalry between the Finch brothers (Jon and Robert) who never seemed to be more than 3 boats apart. At the gun it was Aldridge from Farthing who narrowly pipped Snell for second place. Kirby was 4th from Craft, Sawford and Slater. So the sailors retired to the bar tired after 3 good races with Snell in the lead from Aldridge by a point and Sawford in third place but it was all to sail for on Sunday.
Sunday was a little more overcast but the wind was still mild, and from the south and a little stronger than Saturday. In race four M Aldridge took an early lead from sportster Robert England who had been tuning his boat overnight – the mast angle was evidently the problem. Aldridge was enjoying the stonger wind and exploited the favoured left side of the course on the upwind legs, unlike some of the chasing pack. Snell plugged away to get 3rd place on the water closely followed by sportster Love and Gregory who was recovering from his earlier trial of the right side of the course. After 3 laps Aldridge took the gun from England but Snell had done enough to take second on handicap. England was 3rd from Gregory, Kirby and Sawford. In the last race M Aldridge went straight into the lead and at windward mark his son, Jacob Aldridge, made it a family affair by following dad in second place. Mark made no errors and led the race from start to finish. Snell worked his way up to second at the gun closely followed by the improving Frank Sandells but Jacob hung on take 4th for the Aldridge family.
Thus at the end of the day Mark Aldridge (3,1,1,1) won by the narrowest of margins from Stuart Snell (1,1,2,2) and with Steve Sawford a distant 3rd place. So Mark Aldridge is the new Inland Champion.
Sadly, the Grafham club suffered from acts of vandalism for the 3rd successive Catamaran Open which casts in doubt next year’s Cat Open and chose not to present prizes, understandably, keeping the prize money to offset the cost of the damage caused.
The Sprint 15 fleets held an impromptu prize giving in the car park with the Sprint 15 Association providing a few prizes (the class were very confident that their members had taken no part in the vandalism)
Full Series Results available here