The breeze delivered to promise for Round 2 of the UK 18ft Skiff Grand Prix in Exmouth, hosted by Exe Sailing Club last weekend. With a south westerly blowing during the preceding week the bay had become more of obstacle course than had been expected. However, in the protection of the Exmouth estuary, all teams opted for the big rig, misjudging the conditions out on the open course. After a heart thumping blast down the narrow and tidal Exmouth channel, all boats arrived at the start line to be greeted with top end big-rig conditions. The squalls and short chop combined with a south westerly swell made it more extreme than many had experienced with a skiff in recent years.
Investec led round the first mark but did a spectacular wipe out when gybing for the downwind gate. Pica showed their big breeze prowess to sail through cleanly to take the race. HPF, sailing around the shorter course, suffered sail damage on the first hoist as the kite was caught halfway up and the rest was unceremoniously trawled. After some bear away deliberation whilst doing around 20 knots, Hyde finally got the rig over to windward, the crew to the back of the rack going for the turn downwind, only to find another hole in the ocean sending all three crew around the forestay and into water ahead of the boat. Hyde headed in to change to the small rig whilst HPF and Investec reluctantly retired at various points through minor breakages and kite tears.
As the squally and lumpy conditions continued, the absence of boats left the race management wondering whether there was going to be any racing during the weekend at all as the forecast had no intention of letting up. The chat amongst the sailors back on the beach was more optimistic with the dry land giving renewed conviction in the feasibility of sailing skiffs in those conditions. Rather than a few boats heading out again with the small rigs, further racing was cancelled for the day leaving crews to complete repairs and save some energy for Sunday’s racing.
Exe Sailing clubs restaurant provided an excellent dinner and drinks for the competitors and the race management team in their upstairs restaurant.
With a solid 20+ knot southwesterly forecast for Sunday the teams all opted for the small rigs and headed out for three races. The call was good and conditions perfect. The news had obviously got out that the skiffs were in town as Steph Bridge, keen to put her kit to the test, appearing at the preparatory signal. Steph is a well know in kiting circles having won many championships and records including Kiteboard course racing world title. The fleet were well spread across the line, the kite board going flat out for the pin. With all boats heading left for the breeze and the favourable current it was the kite boarder that indicated there might be an advantage to head nearer the shore on the right side of the course where there was less chop. The right proved good but not enough for the kite to take Investec and Pica who stayed right. Investec was showing great pace with the small rig, rounding ahead of Pica, with the Kite and Jack Grogan going around in 3rd.
In a repeat of the first day for Investec, and having lead round the top mark, they wiped out in the lumpy conditions during a gybe at the downwind gate. Pica again romped away with a further demonstration of boat handling where managing the speed of the boat is key to avoid a trip down the mine.
Hyde Sails was also looking strong but were caught out with a capsize during a tack at top mark on the final beat. After quickly righting and rounding the top mark they had HPF in their sights who were also hoisting having rounded their red course windward mark. At this point it was all about boat speed and handling. Hyde did a great job at covering the extra distance with the proverbial foot flat to the floor, however it was HPF that was through the line 10 seconds ahead.
1st Pica, 2nd HPF, 3rd Hyde Sails, 4th Investec
Race 3 & 4
Sunshine was now added to the fantastic conditions which, combined with chop and a little swell, presented classic skiff racing. Upwind the fleet opted for the right more often and kept the downwind simple in terms of manoeuvres by doing one gybe for the gate. This sent them out into wind against tide and the inevitable seaway resulting in some spectacular downwind runs. It all came together for Investec leading both races from start to finish.
In the 4th Race Hyde rounded the first windward mark ahead of Pica. On the first downwind HPF, having capitalised on their shorter course, tried to gybe-drop inside Investec at the first leeward mark, which didn’t pan out as planned letting Hyde and Pica through into 2nd and 3rd respectively. However as the wind dropped to marginal three stringing conditions, Pica picked the shifts perfectly to move into second. Finishing positions were the same in both race:
1st Investec, 2nd Pica, 3rd Hyde Sails, 4th HPF
A physically demanding day for all was rewarded with cake, beer and Exmouth’s finest curry.
With the wind veering to the North West earlier than expected on the bank holiday Monday and less breeze forecast it was the big rigs that were finally selected with the exception of Investec. Investec had sustained some damage to theirs on the first day and were forced to sail with their small rig. As the teams headed out with Investec powered up on the small rig and with flat water making it easier for the other teams opting for the big rig, it was going to be interesting to see who had made the best choice in the marginal conditions.
The pin end favoured line tempted Hyde into a port tack flyer only to be shut out by Investec. Opting for the tack rather than ducking the fleet Hyde was in 3rd from the off.
Investec led round for two of three lap course, but was overtaken at the end of the final beat by Pica as the wind dropped to around 14 knots. With only two on the wire of the diminutive rig Investec were helplessly left watching pica sail through them to victory with the added agony to the knowing that the Danish skiff sailors saying next week, ".. sailed with the little rig!? Only allowed to drink little beers".
1st Pica, 2nd Investec, 3rd Hyde Sails, 4th HPF
With breeze briefly returning across the course the lower drag of Investec’s small rig was a clear advantage upwind. Leading around the windward mark the question was whether Investec had enough horse power to hold off Pica and Hyde downwind. Investec had to sailing higher angles, going faster to maintain VMG. Pica started to make an impression but it was only on the 3rd and final windward leg when the wind had dropped enough that Pica overtook Investec. HPF had been making good progress, extending on Hyde every lap of their shorter course and having remained upright, were now also a threat to Investec. On the last windward mark they rounded their separate windward mark ahead of Investec who by this time were lacking the necessary power to stay in touch. Investec’s next threat was Hyde who caught up but not enough to improve on 4th place.
1st Pica, 2nd HPF, 3rd Investec, 4th Hyde sails
With the wind dropping to 12 knots Investec decided it wasn’t a competition that they could compete in and headed back to the club. With 6 tough races behind them Hyde started but with loosening rudder fittings retired after rounding the first windward mark. With only two boats left, HPF and Pica were neck and neck. HPF, after rounding their last windward mark were caught windward of Pica who were heading for their separate and further windward mark. Match racing ensued as Pica prevented HPF from bearing away and hoisting. The only solution for HPF was to stop the boat and duck behind Pica. Pica, having rounded their windward mark closed some distance but it wasn’t enough to stop HPF taking a solid win in the final race of the event.
1st HPF, 2nd Pica, Hyde Sails (DNF), Investec DNS
This is the second UK Grand Prix event win for Pica who remain top of the leaderboard. However it’s still all to play for and the next event at Poole could change team fortunes.
|1||Pica||Jamie Mears||Stuart & Tristan||1||1||2||2||1||1||-2||8|
|2||Investec||Mason Woodworth||Dave & Simon||DNF||4||1||1||2||3||(DNS)||16|
|3||HPF||Steve McLean||Nick & Stu||(DNF)||2||4||4||4||2||1||18|
|4||Hyde Sails||Jack Grogan||Mike & Sam||DNF||3||3||3||3||4||(DNF)||21|
Overall leaderboard after two rounds:
|1||Pica||Jamie Mears||Stuart & Tristan||1||1||2|
|2||Investec||Mason Woodworth||Jon & Simon||2||2||4|
|3||Hyde Sails||Jack Grogan||Mike & Sam||3||4||7|
|4||HPF||Steve McLean||Nick & Stu||4||3||7|
|5||Aftica||Mark Watts||Dave & Alex||5||5||10|
|6||Rutland Skiff||Tom Hill||Michael & Ben||6||5||