Only 8 boats made it to the first TT of 2016, at Grafham Water SC. However, those who did make it found the racing over the two days was certainly not disappointing. The wind provided something for everyone here, from super light winds to 17 knots.
Saturday’s weather was forecast to be anything from 2 knots upwards from the Southwest, or thereabouts. The first race got underway after a delay due to insufficient wind, and the fleet set off in light wind mode, which on the A Cat means sitting on or even in front of the front beam. Mike Bawden on his DNA – Z board (Foiling), Bob Fletcher (DNA – C board – Non foiling), Grant Piggott (eXploder – J board - Foiling) and Struan Wallace (DNA – Z) pulled ahead after sailing into a patch of wind before the others reached it. This patchy wind continued for the rest of the race finishing with Mike managing to hold off Grant and Bob to get the bullet. From the ones they left behind, Neil Klabe (Flyer Straight board), Toby Winchester (Bimare Zero – C) and Gordon Upton (DNA-C), by almost half a lap, mistook the altered course signal for a shortened race signal, and drifted over the finish to be awarded DNF’s. Lessons learned – read the Sailing Instructions next time.
The wind then picked up nicely for the between race section and boats were foiling or downwind trapezing about everywhere. Then bang on the 5 min gun for race two, it dropped to about 6 kts.
Gordon and Toby tacked off early as they were in dirty air and being left behind. They then managed to find a little more breeze to the right of the course and when the fleet regrouped at the to mark, they rounded in 3rd and 4th places behind Bob and Grant. The fleet then split on the downwind leg again as the searched for the better breeze. By the top of the course on the next shortened lap, the breeze had died to a whisper, but Bob by luck and judgment had pulled out an unassailable lead. Behind him the rest of the fleet split into two sections, a left and a right. First the left group had a breeze, then it shifted to the right group. And as the bottom mark and finish line was being approached, Toby, who appeared dead and buried, right at the back, caught a small gust that swept him down into the now concertinaed gaggle approaching the last buoy. In the resulting mêlée, Struan just got ahead of Mike, who for some reason put in a gybe, and then what looked like a tack, whilst still travelling in the same direction. He then sneaked over the line by a nose, followed by Gordon, Toby and Neil, all within the 6 inches of each other, Gordon having called for water at the finish mark and each a foot ahead of the other. Poor Grant followed in their wake.
The wind then reappeared for the ‘between the races show’ of more foiling etc.
The third one was a more conventional race, with good wind to the right of the course again. This time Neil got ahead by such a margin and managed to get the bullet ahead of the by now foiling Grant fast closing in as second.
Sundays races had a better wind, and with a 110 degree direction change, it blew right down the lake from the east and was a gusty 12-16kts. At different times, different sections of the course had the wind, so no side was ever favoured, making it a chance call to get it right.
Race four got off with Grant and Struan’s new decksweeper sails showing the power upwind in the gusts, chased by new arrival Jamie Rankin, sailing the World No. fifteen, Sam Newton’s former boat, the eXploder Z , but Bob clung on to them admirably. As they started to split to both sides of the course, the gusty lanes started to come into play. This meant numerous lead changes. Struan ruled himself out if the podium place, when he attempted a sort of salmon type leap from the water resulting in a near Bluebird type backflip as the air got under his new sealed trampoline and totally freaked himself out for the rest of the race. The race was won by Jamie, followed by Bob, Mike Neil and Grant. Toby retired with a broken tiller and ran over a buoy. Gordon was trying out a new sail that proved way too flat and underpowered to harness his considerable righting moment so retired also.
The fifth was run in the same conditions, with the gusts still playing guess the spot again. This time, Grant had it in the bag until Jamie, who has split at the top mark on the last lap, stole the bullet from him with two gybes to go.
The last race saw the remaining sailors start to flag and the courses were quite long. Jamie had retire with some hand spasm issue, and Grant won from Mike.
So, we had 6 races, with 5 different winners. In the end, the top 3 were decided on countback, with Grant Piggott wining and in his first ever A Cat event too. Mike was second and Bob third.
I bet those who didn’t turn up wished they had now.
Many thanks go to GWSC and the race committee for getting it all going smoothly.