The final event of the Midland Grand Prix started with a first for the club; a social event on the preceding evening including various nautical (wind the fender in) and non-nautical (giant connect 4 and 'round the table' table tennis) games followed by a sleep over in the clubhouse.
With the forecast looking decidedly light for the Sunday the participants engaged fully in the fun and stayed up rather late recounting sailing tales until someone looked on Windguru and announced that the 5mph forecast at midday now swung 180 degrees to the SW and would be gusting towards 30mph – time to get some rest!
As the 29 sailors started to arrive on Sunday morning and those in the clubhouse emerged from their sleeping bags they were met with the forecast rain and light wind from the NE. Race Officer Steve Ward set the course and the sailors took to the water for race 1.
The first beat proved shifty with large gains and losses to be made resulting in 11 boats hitting the windward mark at once and trying to find the right lane downwind. Joe Scurrah, John Ling, and George Fereday all went deep and caught a lovely bit of pressure propelling them past the competition to the leeward rounding. Caroline Whitehouse, Sam Knight, Chris Winters, and Paul Keeling all showed that you don't need to have a new laser to be at the front as all were in boats with sail numbers less than 140000 and rounding the mark just behind the lead 3. As the laps progressed the lead pack stretched out from the chasing group with continued challenges on the shifty windward legs enabling a few to catch the lead group whilst others dropped back. As the fleet passed the windward mark for the final time the wind dropped and started to fill in from all directions. John Ling reeled Joe Scurrah in and pulled ahead with minutes to go. At the finish line it was John first, Joe second, a solid 3rd for Chris, with Simon Hardiman just ahead of George Fereday and Paul Keeling. However, we had missed the fact that George was sailing his radial rig which moved him to 3rd on handicap having sailed a fantastic race.
The sailors came in for lunch at Tilly's Galley praying for Windguru to be right and as they looked up from their jacket potatoes at 1.15, as predicted, the wind was blowing a steady F3 from the SW.
The fleet launched for race 2 sailing a course 180 degrees to that of the morning with a sky that looked like Armageddon was on the way. The leading pack got away well with shenanigans at the windward mark due to the starboard rounding. This time Joe made it stick, leading the way from John and Chris with the radials of George and Jamie Mason fighting it out further down the fleet. The lighter weight helms dropped back as the wind strengthened throughout the race but the top 3 held their places to make it 1 win each for Joe and John.
With the wind whipping up for race 3 the attrition began as boats broke, helms tired and the white caps on the waves made an appearance. The race start was lively with a number of boats over at the start on individual recalls. John Ling put in an early tack to port but was unable to clear the fleet and got buried in the middle. The fleet rounded the windward mark with a group of 8 boats charging to the leeward mark at full speed. As the boats progressed upwind again local knowledge paid off for Simon Hardiman who sailed close to the bank to pick up the lift for a fast track to the mark enabling him to pull out 10 boat lengths on the chasing group, this move was repeated on every beat to pull out a lead that would not be challenged. The battle for second was a different matter though with positions changing throughout with a final drag race to the finish in force 6 conditions won by Richard Baker from Chris Winters who finished 1 second apart and a spectacular capsize from Chris to windward just past the line! Richard Mason came in 4th followed by youth Sailor Tom Williams who got his best result of the day.
The next 10 minutes were a mixture of gleeful shouts as boats powered to the line and the thuds of boats capsizing to windward at full speed as a few got their gust response technique wrong. Josh Oates provided the most spectacular capsize managing to detach his rudder and himself from the boat earning him a huge cheer from the spectator group on shore as he crossed the line.
As the mammoth Open and Series prizegiving drew to a close all reflected on a great day and a great series. Special thanks to Richard Mason for coordinating the series and to John Ling for organising the Bartley Open.
1st Joe Scurrah
2nd John Ling
3rd Simon Hardiman
1st Radial and Youth George Fereday
2nd Radial and Youth Jamie Mason
1st Lady Caroline Whitehouse
1st Junior Evan Base