The forecasts in the week leading up to the first event of the Sprint 15 summer traveller series left everyone guessing – everything from no wind to F5 appeared with strong possibility of heavy rain and thunder. Nevertheless the cool and overcast Saturday morning saw the arrival of 11 travellers joining 11 home boats ready for action.
Race 1 - With light winds from the W forecast to fill, but from variable direction, a square course was set using an extended start line from the race tower. At the start line for the first race the main body of the fleet chose to await the gun on port near the outer, northern, end of the line. However a group led by Dutch (1938) made their way along the line on starboard – ready for an inshore tack to get a good angle for the first mark. Unfortunately, for them, seconds before the start the wind shifted to SW and at the gun the port boats were away straight towards the first mark, stranding the starboard boats headed and in dirty wind.
The shift preceded the wind filling and it soon lifted to a steady F4 W-WSW and the fleet gained speed. Over the first lap newcomer, Roger Ackroyd (1715, Witham SC), found himself clear ahead of Holmberg (2007) with Snell (1982) and Dowling (1599) shadowing each other, seconds apart. The main body of the fleet was in close competition but clear air let the four leaders pull clear. Over the second lap Dowling lost ground, to let Snell join the two leaders, and found Dewhirst (2007) catching up close behind. The middle pack was splitting up and Craft (1267) was just ahead of Hollis (191), Dutch (1938) and Holmes(1978) all looking for room to tack from starboard.
As the fleet came to the last legs of the 3rd lap the winds dropped, as storm clouds passed south, and on the beat Snell managed to pass Ackroyd and Holmberg, only to go too far out on the inshore leg. Holmberg pinched higher and found a good line to the next mark taking the lead over Snell and Ackroyd. The choice of port or starboard tack from the leeward mark onto the beat was becoming crucial and Dutch overhauled Dowling and Craft hotly pursued by Dewhirst and Holmes – with only 7 seconds between the four. Then, taking a close in tack, Holmes managed to get to windward of the others and pull clear into 4th and maintain it through the next mark where Craft managed to call starboard on Dutch to round in 5th.
On the last lap Holmberg extended his lead on the run, to finish 1st, leaving Snell and Ackroyd. Ackroyd was leading at the turn onto short leg to the line but tacked too early, Snell came further inshore and gained a better angle to the line, pulling away to take 2nd over Ackroyd 3rd. Holmes and Craft followed and then Dutch was caught out on a wind shift, struggling to make the line with 3 tacks – letting Dowling through on the line for 6th.
Race 2 - After a shore break Race 2 saw the winds build to F4/5 from S/SSW soon after the start and Dutch pulled away from the line hotly pursued by Snell. The main fleet kept tight with Holmberg being closely followed by Turnbull (1259) and Holmes leading the pack. The first mark saw some close action but the beat back to the club and short leg to the line were to prove crucial again, especially on the strong eastwards ebb flow. The choice of port tack to the west proved advantageous – bows to the tide - and places were made over those who chose the apparently more direct starboard tack – drifting much further eastwards. During the 2nd lap it is clear some tactical decisions were thought out and the beat was evenly divided between starboard and port tacks with Ackroyd making the best gain from 14th to 8th. Dutch, Snell, Holmberg and Turnbull had established a clear lead from the others but Holmes was joined by Mills (1634), Hurst (565) with Ackroyd passing Dewhirst (2006) and Hollis to catch the group.
Lap 3 saw the leaders sort into their final positions with Dutch leading Snell and Turnbull overtaking Holmberg for 3rd place but it was no easy win for Dutch as Snell wind shadowed him on the run. All the way to the windward mark and onto the finishing leg to the line they were within metres, however in the last 200 metres Dutch managed to get to windward on the final reach and pulled away to take 1st. Meanwhile Holmes and Mills had lost out to Ackroyd and Hurst with Goldstone (2004) joining them. Ackroyd chased Holmberg to the line taking 5th.
Hurst (565) had his best ever result at SSC coming 6th just ahead of Goldstone (2004) - having stayed in 6-8th position the entire race. The following fleet finish was close with most of the rest of the fleet crossing the line in a two minute period and with a number of boats well overlapped on the line
Race 3 – The Sunday morning was heavily overcast with little wind prior to the start but forecast to fill. As the fleet prepared for the start an unfortunate collision occurred with Hare (1970) suffering a gybe that impaled a hull on Bainbridge’s (747) bow - both retired ashore for local helm John to help Simon patch the hole leaving 20 boats spread out along the line.
Three seconds before the gun Dutch drifted over the line and as the fleet sailed off he did penalty turns but did not return over the line – sailing away as OCS and out of the race. Snell led from the start followed by Holmberg, Craft and Goldstone. The light winds changed direction veering at times from S to NW and the course set was not suited to this unexpected variation - leading to several legs being runs or broad reaches that provided no opportunity for tactical sailing. The fleet rapidly became spread out and, as the previous day, the beat options provided the real tactical choices. Close behind Holmberg after the first lap Craft made the second lap count moving up to 2nd place and Snell, Craft and Holmberg seemed set to win drawing out a lead of nearly two minutes over the fleet by lap 3.
Finishing the first lap in 8th on lap 2 Ackroyd repeated his previous day’s charge and passed Goldstone and Holmes to get into 4th place - leaving them in close action with Holmes passing Goldstone on the 3rd lap. Over the first 4 laps Holmes maintained 5th place but Turnbull and Dowling lost out following problems at the gybe mark with Dewhirst, Hollis and Mills coming through.
As the first boats started the final lap the winds filled and over the lap strengthened from SSW. Snell was finishing to take 1st place in the lee of the sea wall as the fleet suddenly started to close up. Craft was leading Holmberg by 100 metres but Ackroyd had the better wind gain. Craft came through to take 2nd but Ackroyd passed Holmberg on the final run in to take 3rd place. On the first leg of the final lap Holmes, then clear of Goldstone, nearly capsized on the reach and then buried both bows to a near stall. Avoiding a pitchpole Holmes recovered and managed to hold a slender lead over Goldstone to the finish line, both clear of the rest of the fleet led by Hollis.
Race 4 - With a new course set the winds had lightened again for the start of the last race. The start saw the fleet splitting into beating and reaching groups heading for the first mark with the reaching boats tacking to head back into the mark on starboard. Unfortunately Hollis, pinching, was lead boat of the pack to the mark and did not make enough allowance for the ebb tide flow ending up stalled head to wind against the course side of the mark. A group of 5 following boats was caught in irons just as the starboard tack group arrived. The resulting melee changed the order with several boats having to stand off.
Dutch, Snell, Holmberg Turnbull and Dewhirst got clear as a F6 squall heralded the arrival of a steady F5 WSW/SW wind. With things speeding up and a good reach in the bay the windward leg was reached with virtually the entire fleet in contention. The wind direction and strength enabled helms to either beat on starboard right to the shoreline or tack at the final rounding buoy and beat on port along to the line. The close action was fast and furious as seen in the photographs. Unfortunately for Snell he made for the line not the rounding mark and went inside the mark, not realising for several hundred metres before returning to correct the error - leaving the others to get clear ahead. The mistake initially cost Snell dearly dropping him to 18th as the fleet order settled he started to overhaul boats steadily and regained 8th place by the end of the second lap.
As the leaders finished the third lap and turned to beat or close reach to the first mark the wind shifted again to due south giving them an ideal reach to the mark; but virtually stalling the main fleet on the southerly leg. Having struggled around to the line the wind then shifted back to SW and dropped to F4. With Dutch now clear ahead, Holmberg was being chased by Dewhirst who managed to get to windward with enough speed to get past and block Holmberg’s wind but it was to be short lived. Turnbull was keeping up several hundred metres behind but Snell was closing the gap quickly. Meanwhile in the mid fleet Burrows (1871) was pulling away from two boat tussles between Dowling and Hollis and Craft and Ackroyd being chased by Holmes and Mills.
The sudden arrival of a hailstorm as Dutch came to the finishing line then made us consider what else could come our way if not locusts. In the last lap Holmberg managed to retake Dewhirst for 2nd place with Snell rapidly gaining to take a very creditable 4th. Burrows, Turnbull, Ackroyd and Hollis fought to the line finishing in that order. Sales (1868) did not race and in worsening conditions Long (1133), Bunyan (1289) and Darley (1991) retired.
The results – With a first and two seconds to count Stuart Snell took first prize with Erling Holmberg taking 2nd. With one discard Kevin Dutch’s OCS meant that despite two first places his Race 1 7th dropped him to 3rd place.
Stuart Snell sailed Shearwaters at TT events at Seasalter more than 30 years ago and this was his first Sprint 15 TT at the club – a worthy winner and a great comeback to the club.
Special mention must also go to Roger Ackroyd (1715) coming 4th at his first Sprint 15 meeting having only attended the ‘beginners’ training weekend in March. Someone to watch out for – it must be all the tricky wind practice he gets amongst the tree lined shores where he normally sails (and skill !).
Despite all the wind and weather changes the SSC team hopes everyone enjoyed themselves and thanks them for coming along. We were pleased to see such a good turnout. There are those who do not feature in the top results but come regularly to TT events and each year we can see the improvements and it is a credit to the fleet as a whole how much advice and encouragement passes between members on and off the water.
It was a busy weekend for catamarans on the north Kent coast and we were especially pleased to see Katy and Brian Phipps with the Windsport International support trailer. Katy spent Saturday at SSC and they both popped in during the evening social. Thanks to you both for all your support and help.
My personal thanks to all the SSC members on the Race and Social side who helped make it a great weekend.
Interested in trying out a Sprint 15 ? – SSC welcomes new members and has an Open Day on 21st July. Visit the club website at www.seasaltersc.org.uk or the Sprint 15 Association website at www.sprint15.com
Full Race Results