RACING AT WEST OXFORDSHIRE SAILING CLUB, APRIL 22/23 2017
Report by Dave Bardwell W1004
Eight Wanderers graced the start-line for the first of the five races held at West Oxford Sailing Club over the week-end of 22nd/23rd April. Last year, the Wanderers had enjoyed some excellent “nip & tuck” racing, and we were very glad to be invited back again to this very friendly club, to enjoy comfortable shore-side facilities, hot tasty food, camping by the lake, a great live band on Saturday night, a well-stocked bar and of course the help of all of the club volunteers who made it all run like clock-work. Thank you! A special mention here for the Race Officer, who worked hard with his team during the week-end to give us good racing in the trying conditions.
Race 1 - With the benefit of watching the earlier Wayfarer fleet start in the light and shifty wind conditions, Emma Robertson, crewed by Carl Weighill in the Sea Cadet boat 1745, managed to pull out into the lead on the first beat, with Philip Meadowcroft, crewed by Adam Wickenden, in close attendance in 1541 at the windward mark. With three spinnaker legs to follow (a broad reach, followed by a tight reach and then a run), there was much opportunity for place-changing. Sometime about lap 2 the leading Wanderers caught up the back end of the Wayfarer fleet. Very sociable bunch the Wayfarers, they like to congregate for chats – usually at the downwind mark. Meadowcroft started to show a clean pair of heels into the next beat, only to throw away a commanding lead on the final lap to Robertson, also letting Simpson slip through to pip Jack Mann & Ron Goggin in 1744 on the finish line. Liam & Tania Weighill, in another Sea Cadet boat (1706, from Swarkestone SC, Derbyshire,) led the back half of the fleet over the line, to finish fifth, a position that they were to consistently fill for all five races. Sue & Alan Laight, in 1400, decided not to fly (or even bring!) their spinnaker, managing to stay in touch with the leaders. Meanwhile, local boats 1622 (Mike & Felicity Lewington) & 81 (Nick & Dickon Buckland) were having a great time scrapping at the back of the fleet.
Race 2 - After lunch, the day had warmed up and the wind had become more gusty and less steady in direction. The second reach was very tight and spinnakers are often more of a liability than an asset. Jack briefly got himself into the lead just as the leaders caught the back of the Wayfarers. Only thing was, on the aforementioned tight reach, Jack seemed to be going sideways into Ian Simpson as fast as he was going forwards – centreboard!! Didn’t slow him down too much though. But Simpson had got off to a good start and led the fleet (give or take!) across the finish line to keep Robertson at bay, closely followed by Meadowcroft then Mann.
Race 3 - got under way, and Meadowcroft took a firm grip on the proceedings, starting in clear wind, being first to the windward mark and then making good speed on the off-wind legs to pull out a commanding lead.. Wind was still a bit puffy, but steadied in the last lap. The one thing you don’t want to hear as you approach the windward mark on port, trying to thread a line of starboard tack Wayfarers is “I can’t steer!”; along with the helm waving the tiller extension in the air. This was the excitement that befell the Meadowcroft boat. The offending tiller extension joint was brand new and had come unclipped. The helm was later seen examining it in the boat park, while muttering “Ah, that’s what that widget that fell out of the packaging was for”. Notwithstanding the tiller crisis Meadowcroft and Wickenden ploughed on with added determination to finish first and Simpson and Bardwell just managed to pull clear of Robertson who in turn held off Mann at the finish line. This left Simpson with a slender one point overnight lead, from Robertson and two points from Meadowcroft with everything still to play for on Sunday.
Race 4 - Sunday – oh dear. High pressure, sunny day, Fair Weather Cumulus starting to form. A recipe for wind from all directions. So it proved. The OOD set a course starting from the opposite end of the lake to the previous day in a weak and patchy light breeze. The beat was across the lake (when it was a beat), and fairly short. This produced a bit of a bunfight in the Wayfarer fleet at the first mark, but the Wanderers, being fewer in number, managed OK. Gusty and patchy as it was the lead Wanderers caught up the back of the Wayfarers. Ah– a pack of stuck Wayfarers on the mark. They’re big boats, so any gap they leave at the mark is better than sailing round the outside. Jack Mann pulled this off perfectly at one gybe mark to get himself into the lead. Worked a bit less well for Meadowcroft at the next mark - Simpson wasn’t that happy. He had gained the best advantage from a pin-end start, and was first to the windward mark. The Laights emerged for a brief spell in second place, but were unable to hold off Robertson, then Meadowcroft with Mann snapping at his heels. On the final run to the finish line, Robertson elected to fly a spinnaker, which caused some consternation to Simpson, who just managed to cross in first place.
Race 5 -
Simpson could now win the event unless
Robertson won the final race. It was at this point that the manoeuvre of
the weekend arose. The entire fleet ended up parallel to each other,
stationary, a few yards from the first mark. At this point the wind
filled in from behind and the beat became a run. Su and Alan Laight were
behind and got the puff. Now they were on a run with a stationary wall
of boats in front and no easy way to stop. The fleet parted,
involuntarily, and the Laights sailed through and round the mark into
the lead. ‘Twas not so much the manoeuvre itself, but the nonchalance
and air of innocence with which it was performed!! (The Wanderer fleet
use to hand out prizes at Salcombe YC Regatta for such endeavours.}
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