Round the island finale
For four days over the Bank Holiday weekend Easterlies funnelled down the steep Scottish glens and onto the race course with wall to wall blue skies providing the west coast of Scotland the best UK sailing of the Bank Holiday weekend. Flat water and ferocious gusts proved a perfect warm up for the 'big one' in Garda in two months, but this wasn't fluffy Italian pasta breeze, this was rock hard Scottish air descending off the highlands to smack a 'Glasgow kiss' down onto the race area. Great close racing was the story of the weekend with constant place changing and opportunity in the pulsating breeze.
Race one started in oscillating conditions with the windward mark tucked up close to the eastern shore. Pete Barton and Roz Allen on board Marlow and Tom Halhead and Christian Humphrey tussled for the early lead but it was Ian Martin and Adam Broughton sailing on Magic Marine / Kingfisher Yacht Ropes who rounded lap one in the lead. At the final windward mark in a lightening breeze, the order was Martin and Broughton, Halhead and Humphrey and Ben Schooling and Ollie Page followed by Barton and Allen who split right, sailing high and fast towards Bute and made the call “We are not gybing until we are back in the lead!”
Martin and Broughton held on until the finish, Barton and Allen screamed in from over the horizon to take second. Schooling and Page overhauled Halhead and Humphrey at the bottom of the run to take third place.
Place changes were the common theme during the first beat of race two and Schooling and Page and Barton and Allen were first to round. Schooling and Page opted to go far right and ring the bell down the first run and went on to build a good lead. However they missed a shift up the following beat which allowed Barton and Allen through.
The beat wasn’t finished there – the leaders were stuck out on the left side of the course when the wind swung right allowing Martin and Broughton to take the lead which they held until they started heading up the third beat. Unfortunately for them the race was shortened after two laps, gifting the win to Barton and Allen and second place to Schooling and Page.
The oscillating breeze in race three was key to the winning the start. Martin and Broughton ducked several transoms to start on port while the wind was in a left phase and by the first cross had banked a reasonable advantage. Derek and Elaine Buchanan had a good start too several times crossing Barton and Allen in third. Barton and Allen closed up on Martin and Broughton following a poor hoist and a two boat tussle continued over the three laps. Barton and Allen pulled through by the end to take their second win of the day.
‘Short format’ racing was adopted for the next two races sailing just two laps around a shorter-than-normal racecourse. The windward mark was positioned just off the marina.
The wind was very fresh in race four with gusts nearing 30 knots, Barton and Allen led from the start before Schooling and Page came through from the left hand side. Martin and Broughton went even further left and rounded the top mark first, a position they held until the finish. Barton and Allen sailed through the fleet to take second place maintaining their event lead by a whisker!
Racing was very close at the first windward mark of race five – Martin and Broughton led round first following their port flyer start and Halhead and Humphrey followed close behind but were hampered when they decided to throw the kite over the side and go prawning. Barton and Allen chased hard to close up to second place at the top of the final round but Martin-Broughton held their nerve down the final run and across the finish line. Halhead and Humphrey completed the podium taking third.
With three race wins under their belt, the advantage swung back to Martin and Broughton who now led the event. To win overall, Barton and Allen had to win the double counter long distance race round the Isle of Cumbrae.
The Isle of Cumbrae sits a mile off the Largs shore and its circumnavigation was an exciting finale to the weekends racing. The 12 mile route simply included rounding the island and two bouys at the northern and southern tips. The monohull record set by an International 14 was 1h20m but with the high wind strength gusting up to 30 knots, it was a perfect day to try and beat it.
The fleet started from just off the clubhouse on a fast two sail reach towards the north end of the island. Martin and Broughton opted for an initial low route but struggled to climb back up to the mark and had an early swim handing the advantage to Barton and Allen. The wind seemed to funnel round the top of the island accelerating up to 30kts and coupled with steep messy waves meant there were no survivors of the gybe – Halhead and Humphrey regretted the lack of crew’s foot-loop after their fourth pitch pole and were quoted afterwards – “We read the report from Beer last year before we got the boat and couldn't quite see why it was so difficult to sail downwind in waves – we get the point now.” The Buchanan boat survived the ware round option but then binned it on the subsequent bear away.
First to get upright, Barton and Allen made a break for the more sheltered Cumbrae shore closely followed by Schooling and Page. Having suffered yet another capsize whilst pushing hard, Martin and Broughton had nothing to lose and took a fast and wide route via the bouncy conditions offshore and clocked a personal best of 23 knots on the Velocitek.
Barton and Allen were first to round the south cardinal with Schooling and Page still in hot pursuit. In the lee of the Island there was a moment to enjoy the beautiful scenery including the odd dolphin, Goat Fell on Arran and Millport village before racing resumed up the gusty five to 35 knot final beat. Despite pushing hard, Schooling and Page could not shake the tight cover of Barton and Allen who crossed the line in 1h 07m 21s – a new monohull record. More importantly, Pete Barton and Roz Allen took the overall regatta win and stage one of the EuroCup 2008.
Many thanks to Largs SC who hosted a fantastic open meeting. Racing continues for the RS800 at the RS Sprint Championships at Rutland starting on 31st May. The next FatFace Circuit meeting and final Night Sail qualification event is at Stokes Bay SC on the 14-15 June. For more details, see the RS site (www.rs-association.com).