Capsizing chaos at Sidmouth sailiors' start line

PUBLISHED: 10:00 31 July 2009 | UPDATED: 09:48 18 June 2010

Heather Martin, Oliver Salter, plus dolphins, off Sidmouth

Heather Martin, Oliver Salter, plus dolphins, off Sidmouth

Normal service was resumed at Sidmouth Sailing Club last week after a rather windy Laser Open.

Normal service was resumed at Sidmouth Sailing Club last week after a rather windy Laser Open. There were two club races on the usual Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon.

After the wind blowing south westerly for well over a week, there was a considerable swell running on Wednesday evening, making launching tricky, a bit of a challenge before racing even got under way.

With a start line pinned back really steep, the only place to start was right on the inside. With this in mind, most of the fleet were jostling for position inside the line, notably one duel with Ollie Salter and Heather Martin thinking they were pushing James Salter and Philippa Robb too far from the line, only for James and Philippa to gybe round and get a much better start! As always in a south westerly the first lap was crucial, whoever took an early lead was unlikely to be caught.

In the Scorpion fleet it was Ollie and Heather who got to the windward(ish) mark first, after sneaking up the inside after their bad start. This looked to be the end of the race as a competition, not helped by a shocking course - somehow the race management had managed to make a triangle where there was only one downwind leg.

The opportunity for the chasing pack came in the third lap when the windward(ish) mark was moved to make it an actual windward mark,

Ollie and Heather didn't see the move, James and Philippa did, allowing them to close the gap. You could say that Ollie and Heather weren't all that pleased with this move. As it happened it made no difference to the overall results, Ollie and Heather 1st, James and Philippa 2nd, Nick Jennings and Scott Tobin 3rd.

The Laser fleet looked as if it had been a lot more competitive at the front.

From what I saw, Chris Clapp (seemingly a Laser sailor now) battled all the way round with David Martin for first place.

In the end, David took the win with Chris in a close second, Bob Vine third.

Richard Patterson and John Jones were the only sailors in a Mirror and Topper, respectively, technically winning their 'fleets'.

By Saturday it was still blowing from the south west, so was still quite choppy, and it was blowing fairly hard - around a force 3. The race took a little while to get started after one or two inexperienced sailors had trouble staying upright pre-start.

This issue was finally resolved with a bit of musical boats, Laura Mitchell swapping from a rib into a Mirror and with Max Hayman vacating to rescue a novice Scorpion pairing.

When racing finally got under way, it looked like it was going to be a good race, until the race officer got involved, more on that later.

With a strong fleet of Scorpions it was all set up to be a very close race, and to cut to the chase it was, right from the start line. As usual Chris Clapp and Louise Cody had a good start and took an early lead, taking them round the windward mark first.

It was all tight right in behind them with Ollie and Heather in second, James and Barney in third.

All five crews took the option of not flying a kite down the first reach, mostly due to a set of inexperienced crews.

After close reaching, James and Barney overtook Ollie and Heather after a quick gybe pushing them into second, although this was quickly undone at the leeward mark when there was crewing mishap from the second placed boat.

This event caused Ollie and Heather to tack off in avoidance and also let Amy Hayman and Sam Gosling past. In all the confusion Ollie and Heather, along with James and Barney, missed the gate.

Despite racing continuing to be tight all the way round, positions didn't change from this point. Ollie and Heather's spinnaker flying was only enough to earn them second place behind Chris and Louise. Amy and Sam were third, James and Barney fourth and a capsize and gate miss guaranteed fifth for Mike Holmes and Jayne Clancy.

These weren't the official results due to race officer Keith Brodie disqualifying three of the five strong Scorpion fleet. Apparently James and Barney, Ollie and Heather missed the gate on the first round and Mike and Jayne missed the gate on the final lap, a gate, which we weren't warned about.

Keith later explained that the gate is in the sailing instructions for a sea start, but, if we're going to be sticklers for the rules, can we: a, drop the class flag when the Blue Peter goes up (didn't happen on Saturday), fly course flags before getting on the water with enough time to rig a spinnaker accordingly, and leave a signing on/off form to be signed on by competitors and not the race officer - all as per the club sailing instructions.

Back to the race - the Lasers, I didn't see a lot apart from Gerald Woodley being upside-down once or twice on his first sail of the season.

The final results from the Lasers were: Bob Vine 1st, Gerald Woodley 2nd, and H Thompson 3rd.

There was a training event planned for last Sunday, but there was too much wind for beginners, I'm sure this will be rearranged if at all possible.

Thanks to all the race officers.

Good Sailing.

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