Gull Pond Regatta, Falkland Islands Sailing Report

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Sidmouth’s James Salter, currently posted in the Falkland Islands in his work for the Met Office, won the Gull Pond Regatta in a borrowed wetsuit in a borrowed Pico dinghy.

Over the last few weeks there have been three attempts to hold Gull Pond Regatta – a regatta for the military that work at Mount Pleasant Complex, Falkland Islands. Sidmouth’s current and three time consecutive Regatta winner James Salter, of Sidmouth Sailing Club, donned the most retro longjohn wetsuit in the kit shed and took on the RAF sailing team in a Pico maxi regatta.

This is his account

“Attempt one was blow out, 30 knots gusting 40, with one gust of 42 knots seen – that’s Severe Gale 9! Bit breezy but the small fleet of experienced sailors were not put off (although many were), and attempted one ‘inverted P’ course race. A bit of a messy start by all after screaming around pre-race, even the Picos, normally a kid’s boat, were pretty wild to handle. After making the windward mark before anyone else started, I won the race by a lap in a two lap race, despite putting it in twice gybing on the first lap, no one else finished two laps. Unfortunately, due to the winds being a little extreme and only one proper finisher the race didn’t count, that made tearing apart hands to the point of bleeding on six fingers all the less worth it!

“Attempt two, it was still howling, 25 knots gusting 35-40 (gusting Gale Force 8). This time the race officer set a big triangle course to prevent too many gybing issues! This proved much more fun. Race 1 started with a good start by all, particularly James the Armourer (JtA) and Dean. The bear away proved challenging, Dean went over and JtA had trouble, I screamed off and took an instantly commanding lead. I took off downwind and pulled away from the fleet to win after two laps, Mark was second, Dean DSQ (didn’t got through the gate) and JtA DNF . There were times where I was the only sailor upright, with everyone else displaying their bright yellow hulls. With bleeding hands, again, I went in to the change a dodgy rudder and tape my hands up, with plenty of time to get back in the water before anyone else finished the race!

“Race 2 was much the same, I led start to finish, Mark finished, Dean had some real trouble and did not finish. James the Armourer didn’t make the start after a capsize pre-race. Turns out he managed to capsize and dig the top of his mast into a wreck on the bottom of the lake. Very stuck! So, at the end of day two, it was decided by the race officer that three races were needed to constitute a series, and day 1 didn’t count. They wouldn’t give me the trophy despite turning up in the club house with my Sidmouth Sailing Club tie.

“Day 3 of the ‘one day’ Regatta and it felt like this really was more of a series than a one off regatta. It was still 25 Knots (Force 6) and gusting 35, forecast was to drop in the late evening, four more quick two lap races scheduled. Race 3 (first of the day) was held on a good triangle course,with a mostly even start, a short beat and the fleet were off down wind. Dean had the pick of the starts, but was soon shown how to sail downwind in a blow by me, who overtook on the gybe. Dean took a nose dive to take a look at the fishes, Mark, currently in third had a mare at the wing mark and couldn’t turn for ages, James the Armourer may as well have left the boat in the shore and swum round, he was capsizing so much, even with his sail reefed. I won again.

“Race 4 was still windy, and I gave everyone a look in by trying to kill speed to time the start line and ended up with a massive nose dive, water up to the goose neck, helm hit the mast, fish saying ‘what’s going on’ and the race started.

Mark had a belting start and led for a lap. Dean was on the hit list and was only one boat length ahead of me at the Leeward mark. Up the beat my Met knowledge paid off, spotting a gusty shift and deciding to head left up the middle of the lake, and break away from the pack. This paid off big time, convincingly taking the lead from third place at the Leeward mark. I did enough on this first lap to go on and win the race, and was thinking that I really should have acquired some gloves like the other guys – finger tape was a significant improvement.

“Race 5 had a really competitive start, with a slight easing in the wind. Mark and Dean had a good battle up front from the start battling me down the first reach. Apparently Mark hadn’t done much racing and ‘Windward boat’ means nothing, he sailed straight into me, with no right of way and wouldn’t even get out of the way, let alone do any turns! This forced Mark, Dean and I to go down the second very broad reach three abreast. The lack of rule knowledge then hampered Mark and he didn’t know to call water on the other two boats, and didn’t make the mark. I managed to overtake Dean with some upwind speed and won by a margin less than I was accustomed to, less than a leg!

“Race 6, the final race of the Series/Regatta, I had won the regatta and was in for a victory lap in some considerably lighter winds – only 10 knots. This favoured James the Armourer who was much lighter, and finally took out the reef in his sail. It wasn’t enough. In a competitive race Dean won, after taking another great start, both James’s had a battle for two laps, bu I managed to pip him up the last beat to take second, and Mark struggled in the lighter winds and picked up fourth.

“Overall, it meant that I had won with five points and six bleeding fingers, but was a little disappointed not to clean up and discard a first place! Dean’s last race performance earnt him second overall, Mark was third and James (ta) really struggled with the strong winds being a little light in stature, but showed great endeavour to keep finishing.

“Once again I donned the Sidmouth Sailing Club tie (and polo shirt) for prize giving and this time they gave me the trophy! Big thanks to the race committee of Laurie and Dean, the Rescue boat team – Nick and the Other guy, and thanks for inviting me back to complete the series after winning the first few days!

Guaranteed International Travellers’ Trophy this year......”

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