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UK Series Grafham 10th & 11th September 2016

Last updated: 13 September, 2016

A somewhat depleted 4000 fleet were greeted with a soggy Grafham last Saturday morning. After the exuberance of Garda and the Torbay Nationals, an outbreak of “crews blues” had struck, with some notable absences and last-minute crew substitutions due to illness and injuries.  But the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of those who could make it.

Tim Litt was sailing with Alex Cramp, as neither of his sons was available. They were spotted at the weigh-in, stretching the definition of “light clothing” to the limit.  This was in a vain attempt to make rack 4 on the weight chart, to make Tim’s helming position a little more comfortable.

The forecast force 2 – 3 southerly breeze duly set in, and racing began promptly. The wind was due to track right by at least 90° during the afternoon as the rain cleared, so would it be a question of simply defending the right on the beats?  We shall see…..  Race officer Nigel Dench set a port biased line, long enough for the 28 D-Zeros holding their Inlands on the start before us, so it was vital to choose the correct end of the line.  Neil and Charlotte Heffernan performed an admirable port flyer, but by the top of the first beat they had been overhauled by Tim & Alex, and David & Matt.  Tim and Alex went on to take the win, but when asked what their secret was later, Tim replied that they were so fired up after making the start on time for once, they couldn’t go wrong!

Despite the U flag, the D-Zeros were a little too keen on the second start, leading to a general recall. The line was again port biased, but 30 seconds before our start, the wind went even further left.  Neil and Charlotte were again closest to the pin, but this time they found themselves unable to make the pin on starboard, as several boats got away over them.  John & Fran spotted good wind at the top of the lake well to the left, so hit the corner hard, reaching the top mark with a comfortable lead over the rest of the fleet which they retained to the end of the race.

The D-Zeros got away cleanly on the next start, but the ominous low dark cloud just to the west signified the weather front was very close. Two minutes before our start, we spotted that the line was becoming starboard biased, so duly lined up for a committee boat start.  We suddenly found ourselves in lighter wind, on a run as the gun went, trying to make it round the back of the committee boat!  Apparently, according to the race committee, the wind veered through 160° – mainly in that couple of minutes!  Nigel had no choice but to abandon the race and completely rejig the course.  Race 3 eventually got away in a north-westerly.  The lighter wind suited John & Fran to a tee, and coupled with a bit of local knowledge, they soon built a large lead, with David & Matt in the other local boat taking second place.

Sunday dawned with bright sunshine and light airs, and we were all at the starting area in time for the published 10.30 start. Unfortunately it took a full hour for the wind to stabilise sufficiently for the race officer to finalise the course.  However, this gave the opportunity for three different helms to try the latest prototype carbon mast (#3)  Steve Cockrell had been planning to trial it in the event, but due to Sarah’s illness, had given it to Richard for the weekend.  Initial impressions are very promising, with the sail setting much better than the previous two prototypes earlier this year, so we will be continuing the trials; watch this space!!!

Racing finally got away in light, shifty conditions, which eventually built to around 7 knots, but with gusts of twice this which would catch out the unwary. At least one boat capsized after being suddenly “tacked” by a wind shift and the helm not making it to the other side in time.  Trevor & Adrien are used to inland sailing in Belgium, and relished the conditions.  They reached the top mark first in race 4, closely followed by David & Matt, but John & Fran pulled through to take the win.

Race 5 continued the “snakes and ladders” theme, and this time John & Fran found themselves stuck in a hole at the bottom of the beat, never to recover, as the rest of the fleet sailed away to the right. This time Martin and Tom Burgess had their best race, and were leading down the second reach; but by the end of the final lap both Richard & Mike and Trevor & Adrien had overhauled them.  For race 6, Nigel had set the top Mark much further right, but inevitably the wind soon shifted back again leading to a rather biased course.  Tim & Alex led the drag race and crossed the line first, only to find that they were disqualified due to being OCS.  This gave Team Peirce their first race win in an open meeting, and second place overall in the event, behind John & Fran.  Well done to Elena for doing her bit on the first day in place of her brother.

Many thanks to Nigel Dench and his wife for their excellent race management in difficult conditions. Let’s hope all the absent crews are fit again in time for the final series event at Rutland next month.

Results can be found here – Results