Training run

Etchells on the Solent contest the Red Funnel Series in the build-up to the UK Nationals

Monday September 14th 2009, Author: Laurence Mead, Location: United Kingdom
Seven Etchells had a wonderful weekend’s racing over the 12-13 September in the Solent, sailing in the Red Funnel Series for one design keelboats. The Red Funnel series, (sponsored not surprisingly by Red Funnels ferries!) is the 'club racing series' for the Etchells class, falling fortnightly between the main one-design weekends that the class has throughout the year. This weekend was a weekend for newcomers and returning stalwarts. Head of the newcomers list was solo ace Oscar Mead, just 19 and having conquered the Atlantic solo earlier this summer, he was steering an Etchells for the first time. Also introducing new sailors to the fleet was Ante Razmilovic who was sailing in the middle of his own boat and out for the first time in a while were Jamie Clark (Loup Garou IX) and Ian Law (Pale Tide) the latter sailing 2 up (so a crew vacancy exists there for anybody keen to sail in the class!)

Saturday dawned sunny and with a 10 knot NE breeze. With a very civilised start time of 1250 the fleet set out for the line just as the sea breeze was filling in and 2 wonderfully close races were sailed in 12 to 15 knots of breeze. First off the blocks was Andrew Coopers “China White” being steered by Laser ace Mark Powell for the day. “China White” had a nice start half way down the line and with good height just had a lead from Rob Goddard and Oscar Mead, who was fast from the pin but a little low for height. By the top mark Jamie Clark had made up some ground and Mead tacked ahead and too leeward of him to hold second, with China White just ahead. Down the run Mead made some ground and he led at the bottom before sailing the entire next beat with Cooper just 2 lengths back and one up on his hip. Wonderfully close racing. After another run and short beat Mead took the gun to record his first Etchells win as a helmsman in his first race….time to retire from the class and keep his 100% record seemed to be the call!!!

Race 2 began with the fleet slightly caught out by the prompt restart. Mead salvaged a great start at the pin and tacked to cross the fleet. Although straight from the hand book (“cross ‘em when you can”, courtesy; Stuart Walker) this left him slightly too far right of the best breeze and Rob Goddard made the best of the left hand side to slice into Meads lead. A nicely timed cross back to the left locked things up for Mead however and an hour later he was 2 wins from 2. Surely, THIS was the time to end his career in the class?

Sunday morning was colder and windier but still wonderful sailing. In Race 3 the fleet were all nose to tail off the start line, everybody had clear air and the fleet was tightly bunched. Ante Razmilovic was back on the helm of his boat and led at the top mark but was overlapped with Jamie Clark and he had Oscar Mead a few metres behind nipping at his heels as well. Also showing well was Ian Law, still 2 up but in the mix and pulling out some great hoists at the top mark. Down the run the leaders were all overlapped but at the leeward mark Razmilovic still led with Mead inside him. With 2 very competitive sailors going hell for leather there wasn’t a lot of space to be had and the fast closing gap led to Mead punching a hole in the port side of Razmilovic’s boat as the leader tried to round up at the leeward mark. The end of the day for Razmilovic and a jump into the lead for Clark who was able to sail around the 2 leaders whose boats were locked together for 10 seconds. From there on Jamie Clark sailed a very tidy race to score his first ever bullet in the class, a wonderful moment for the team and for the class, as Clark has been a strong supporter of the Etchells in Cowes.

Race 4 was all about the NE breeze which, unlike Saturday had never been dragged right by the sea breeze influence and now took a decisive flick back to the left (North). With the fleet all on port after an uneventful start the wind clocked left, left, and, left again. Rob Goddard and Ian Law were furthest left with Mead centre right and Clark in the right hand corner. A small window of opportunity opened up to get onto starboard about 70% of the way up the beat and Mead flipped over to get back to the middle of the course on it. Clark stood on and within 2 minutes the door slammed shut and he was never able to get back again. The breeze never came back right. Mead just crossed Goddard but couldn’t get to Ian Law, who was now leading sailing 2 up! Having seen the breeze resolutely going left Mead took Laws transom and got inside the lift and after that he was never seen again. He had a very handy lead at the top mark first time round and sailed away to a comfortable win. “Three bullets and a sinking” as he later said, not bad for a first time newcomer to the class!!! Law held second for much of the race but by the end the lack of weight on the rail pushed them to the back of the fleet with Jamie Clark making a great recovery from his first beat trial and tribulations to get 2nd with Goddard third.

The Etchells are out for another Red Funnel weekend in two weeks time and then have the British National Championships to fight for in October.

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