Gusting wind sees fleet in full flow

SAILING - Good turnouts and favourable conditions allowed one race on Wednesday and two shorter races last Saturday, writes James Salter.

excellent club racing has been held this week in Sidmouth. Good turnouts and favourable conditions allowed one race on Wednesday and two shorter races last Saturday. Sixteen boats started on Wednesday with slightly fewer on Saturday, due to representation of the club at the Castle Cove Scorpion Open, but there was still some high quality racing. The Wednesday evening race started this week's sailing. It was held in a moderate breeze, a steady force three with a slight choppiness on the water. With the river start and a gentle gradient out to sea, a range of tactics were employed. The fleet was spread between upwind starters at the pin end covering the shorter distance, but up wind, and the outside starters sailing further from the wind with more pace. Chris Clapp and Erin Pyle-Gray got the pick of the starts, finding a middle ground in the line, pretty close to what I had intended to do if I hadn't timed it badly. With the majority of the fleet arriving at first mark at the same time, positions and room was tight. In the tangle James Salter and Heather Martin clipped the home mark, conceding a 360, which was enforced by H Thompson (a little more about him later). The first upwind leg spread the fleet slightly, although positions were still very changeable. Chris and Erin had pulled away into a lead which was just too much for anyone else to overcome. James and Heather managed to pull into third place by the end of the first lap, catching Miles Hapgood and Steve Smith on the spinnaker drop. Alex Hayman and Tom Francis were sitting pretty in second up until the third lap. Under pressure from James and Heather, Alex and Tom couldn't quite make the windward mark, tried to put in a cheeky tack inside and ended up flat in the water. This promoted James and Heather into second and Miles and Steve into third, Alex and Tom dropping to fourth. The only other incident of the race was James and Heather putting a rather large whole in Oliver Salter's lent spinnaker (sorry dad). Positions settled out and didn't change, the first four as noted, followed by Amy Hayman and Laura Mitchell (who 'needed more guns' to quote Amy), Nick Jennings and Scott Tobin, and Simon Price and Imogen Dingham Price. In the Lasers David Martin got the bullet with Bob Vine in second, and the official results have H Thompson finishing in third, but I'm fairly confident he finished sat in the rescue boat. After breaking a top section (mast) Ed Rhodes had to retire, although he still managed to sail the race. This event was due to H suffering from sea sickness, surely karma for enforcing turns on someone outside his fleet, and having to go into the rescue boat, only to gain a third place finish by way of Ed sailing his boat to the finish! In the slow handicap, Paul Wilson won the Mirrors, Paul Kennedy won the Toppers, and John Nicolle finished up last on the course - last week's Scorpion fleet must have been luck hey John? Two races were held last Saturday, in slightly more breeze than Wednesday. A slight chop had been driven up by the south westerly force three of four, although it was more pre- start and in-between the races it seemed. Saturday's races were run from on the water, using proper start lines rather than a transit, leaving much less room at the starts. The fleet seemed to have a fairly even start, all on starboard. Chris Clapp didn't like crew James Salter's idea of starting on port, which would have definitely worked. Chris and James managed to sneak into the lead by the first mark, and somehow managed to hold on although feeling underpowered the whole way round. The closest racing was for second place from Ollie Salter, just about recovered from the injury which kept him out of Wednesday's race, and Heather Martin, competing against Mike Holmes and Jayne Clancy on their first outing of the season. Somehow Mike and Jayne managed to snatch second on an upwind leg and hold it until the end, Ollie and Heather finishing third. Breeze was building throughout the second race, pushing a very strong force 4; maybe even 5 come the end. Chris and James managed to make the windward mark first after some close attention from Ollie and Heather who had a good start. In the freshened breeze Chris and James held the lead, making use of the somewhat 'old school' hull shape up wind and flying downwind in the blow. Despite spending most of the race pushing for first Ollie and Heather finished third, Mike and Jayne claiming second again. There were some Lasers racing on Saturday, including Bob Vine, H Thompson, and Gerald Woodley on his first sail of the season, Laura Mitchell and Philippa Robb. I'm not going to pretend I know who won, I wasn't paying attention as crewing requires more looking forward than back. On previous results I'd guess that Bob won, H and Gerald were close, but Gerald capsized, Laura and Philippa struggled when the wind picked up. (Please let James know your results to save us from his predictions. Ed) Thanks to all of the race management and rescue boat crews for the week's racing, and also thanks to Steve Smith and Co for Wednesday night's meal. More of the same next week, Wednesday and Saturday racing. Good sailing.

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