Closing on Pica
Eight teams raced for the Holt Challenge Plate in cold, wet and windy conditions for the most part. Team Pica, the defending holders of the trophy, were given more to think about with new challenge coming from a variety of directions in the form of Team Ronstan and Team LED.
Sunday saw very similar conditions to Saturday with teams making the trip over to the race area east of Hillhead. With the northeasterly coming off the mainland, the course was relatively flat but gusty. Crew work had clearly settled down after the first day of racing as five different teams posted a top three result.
Steve McLean and his team on LED looked like they had found a new gear, giving Pica some unexpected pressure and forcing an error resulting in a clear lead for LED down the last run. But a late gybe for LED and wind shift resulted in Pica squeezing through to a controversial first place on the finish with boats neck and neck through the line. LED made their way back to the beach following technical issues.
In the second race of the day it was the Kiddle brothers with new crew Oscar Mead on Gill in third, Ronstan in second that joined Pica in the top spots with Ronstan clearly showing they had the potential to challenge Pica's lead. This proved true as it all came together for team Ronstan in the last race on Sunday when they posted their first win, pushing Pica into second with Young & Reckless in third with Gill beating Mark Watts' Aftica to fourth place.
As the teams packed up for the day the sun finally broke through proving a welcome glimpse of spring weather. Teams converged in Hamble for food and drinks before the final day of racing.
The hope that the bright skies of Sunday afternoon would continue into Monday quickly evaporated as teams woke to a wet and windy Monday morning. At least it was above 10°C. The breeze forecast continued to strengthen and fleet according chose opted for small rigs. The course was set in the Hill Head area with a start in around 16 gusting 19 knots.
The first lap saw Ronstan take the lead with Pica picking the shifts as the wind clocked round to the south finally pulling them ahead of Ronstan to get the first win of the day with third place going to Carsington and fourth to Young & Reckless.
The breeze settling down to a southerly and the rain finally stopped, all was set for what was to be the final race. With a short start line it was always going to be busy. Carsington was forced over early by Pica at the committee boat end while the rest of the fleet were away clear. Ronstan, Pica and LED all showed good speed, but it was Ronstan that took early advantage and stayed ahead to post their second race win of the regatta with Pica second, LED third and Carsington in fourth.
Despite taking their second event win of the 2012 Grand Prix, Pica (Stewart Mears, Tristan Hutt & Jamie Mears) were finally put under pressure having to count a second place in their usual string of firsts. New arrivals, Loch Lomond Team Ronstan (Cammy Steele, John Annan & Craig Hepplewaite) put in an impressive performance to take a very convincing second place. The third podium position went to Team Young & Reckless (Mark Kudlinski, Miguel Andrew and Tom Hill) who's winter training and consistent effort during the event assured their first podium position in the UK Grand Prix.
The next four places all included at least one race position in the top three, showing how close and mixed the racing is becoming on the UK Grand Prix circuit.
The prizegiving at the Calshot Activity Centre bar concluded a fantastic weekend of racing before teams depart for the first event of the European Grand Prix in Balaton, Hungary, which starts on Thursday. The third UK event takes place on 1-2 September in Sandbanks, Poole, before the Nationals and last event of the UK & European Grand Prixs in Plymouth on 28-30 September.
Many thanks to the Calshot Activity Centre, Principle Race Officer Ed Browne, his Race Management and Safety teams as well as event sponsors DRisk and Hyde Sails.