Breeze up finally
At last, on the fourth week of the Warsash Spring Series, there was an opportunity for crew to sit on the windward rail while spray whipped across the foredeck. After three quiet weeks, on Sunday 3 April the breeze blew steadily from the southwest. Competitors and race officers alike enjoyed the livelier conditions.
The situation did not look favourable when the Black Group committee boat first anchored near Hamble Yacht Services buoy, in poor visibility with no discernible breeze. Then the mist slowly lifted, the wind filled in through the Needles Channel and by late morning the sun was shining. With this constant breeze and a midday high tide, Chief Race Officer Peter Bateson was able to set a range of courses with an initial windward mark at RORC buoy and a common finishing mark at East Knoll. For the first time this year, all classes were taken west of the Brambles Bank, to Williams Shipping buoy.
IRC1 was boosted by a couple more Farr 45s, Nick Haigh’s DK46 and a growing contingent of J/Boats, all preparing for the 'Big Boat' Spring Championship which starts next weekend. This brought 15 entries to the line at 1000. Ràn (Niklas Zennstrom – Farr 45) had been OCS near the pin end, but returned promptly although this probably cost her two places. After a long first lap, Ran had established a small lead over Dark & Stormy (Nick Haigh). Alice II (Simon Henning – Farr 45) was close behind with Brevity (Mark Devereux) and Rebel (Stewart Whitehead) rounding the bottom mark together. Rebel looked to have broken free of Brevity’s wind, shadow but an underwater entanglement caused a sudden halt and she lost valuable time clearing an unknown obstacle. Behind this group, the rest of the class were making good time against their handicap ratings and whilst Ran took her fourth gun of the series, Neil Kipling’s Joopster won the class for the second week running on handicap and moved to fourth in the overall standings.
Having missed last week’s race, Peter Robson (Trustmarque Playing Around – First 40.7) wasted no time in re-establishing his credentials at the front of IRC2 but he was chased very hard by Tim Thubron helming Sailing Logic’s Visit Malta Puma and several other First 40.7s. Behind them, Mike Moxley kept his HOD35 Malice in touch with the leaders and he finished close enough to take the class win and resume the series leadership. Second to sixth places in IRC2 are separated by a slender four points and the last two weeks of the series could still see major changes in the final results.
At 30-strong, IRC3 is the largest of the handicap classes. At the top of the leaderboard, Guy Jackson’s X-34 X-Yachts is battling it out with Paul Woodward and John Barrett’s First 35 Stiletto. Both have won two races and both have second places to count. X-Yachts did not compete on the first week and at present lies fourth on points but, assuming next week’s races are completed, the discard will come into play, when the overall position might become clearer and closer. Although these two boats seem to have the edge on the rest of the class, the next ten places are very keenly contested by a variety of designs including Mike and Jamie Holmes’ J/97 Jika Jika, Stephen Parry’s First 35 Kurketrekker and Richard Allen’s First 30 Ancasta International Boat Sales.
There were first wins in the Sigma 38 class for With Alacrity (Chris and Vanessa Choules) and Just So (David McGough) in the J/109s while Bernard Fyans (Erik the Red – Mustang 30) recorded his second successive win in IRC4. It was also pleasing to see Kathy and Rupert Smalley and crew racing again in their restored Laser 28 The Flying Fish in this class.
As the morning progressed, there was a clearly defined racing channel established, with all classes using the same strip of water. However, with some of the smaller classes using shorter legs and rounding marks to starboard, crews in the faster designs needed to keep a sharp look out for converging boats. Throw into the mix a scattering of Etchells racing in another event and a single-handed Firefly dinghy, out for a look, it was a busy piece of water and there were one or two heart-stopping moments.
Off the Meon shore, things were less hectic but equally challenging. CRO Peter Knight used a trapezoidal course to separate the J/80s and the Laser SB3s. The J/80s were the first away with only Dan Brown’s Henri Lloyd Shockwave starting prematurely, which was a shame since they went on to lead the fleet from start to finish. Patrick Liardet (Aqua-J) held off the attentions of Elle S’Appelle (Thor Askelund) to take a 9 second win, with the rest of the class tightly grouped astern. Ben Saxton (Rola Trac) made a good pin end start in the SB3s and arrived at the windward mark ahead of the pack but slipped a few places to finish seventh. Craig Burlton (Gill Race Team) worked his way to the front and won by over a minute. Jo Lloyd’s Robina held off Ian Armstrong’s Trouble & Strife for the minor placings.
The middle race saw a clean start for the J/80s and a general recall for the SB3s. The restart, under black flag, was good and saw another win for Gill Race Team by a boat length from GBR3053 (Geoff Carveth) with Rola Trac, Three Sad Old Blokes and Sailboat Deliveries finishing seconds apart. Meanwhile, Patrick Liardet and Aqua-J had already taken a second win in the J/80s.
It was good to see Ian Atkins (ex J/80 Boats.com) working hard in the cockpit of another J/80 Henri Lloyd Shockwave. They got their just reward in the final race of the day when taking the gun ahead of Juicy (Cressida Robson and Allan Higgs) and the RAF’s Team Spitfire. The form book was slightly disturbed when Aqua-J could only finish fifth, cutting Patrick Liardet’s overall point lead to four after 12 races. The last race in the SB3s also saw a change in fortunes. Sadly Heart of Gold was given no mercy by the race officer and was black flagged at the start. Sarah Allan (Sailboat Deliveries) recorded her second win of the series with Jerry Hill (3 Sad Old Blokes) maintaining a high standard of results with no finish worse than seventh and retaining a good points lead overall.
The final two weekends (9/10 and 16/17 April), see additional racing on Saturdays for the Spring Championship. Oxford and Cambridge University sailing teams will also be using the event for their Varsity Match competition using the new Sunsail First 40s. Entries are also welcomed from Farr 45s, Big Boats, First 40.7s and J/109s. White Group Spring Championship classes include J/80, Laser SB3 and Quarter Tonner. The Warsash Spring Series continues on 10 April 2011.
Provisional Results: Warsash Spring Series, Week 4
IRC 1 Joopster J/122 Neil Kipling
IRC 2 Malice HOD35 Mike Moxley
IRC 3 X-Yachts X-34 Guy Jackson
IRC 4 Erik the Red Mustang 30 Bernard Fyans
Sigma 38 With Alacrity Chris and Vanessa Choules
J-109 Just So David McGough
Race 1 Gill Race Team Craig Burlton
Race 2 Gill Race Team Craig Burlton
Race 2 Sailboat Deliveries Sarah Allan
Race 1 Aqua-J Patrick Liardet
Race 2 Aqua-J Patrick Liardet
Race 3 Henri Lloyd Shockwave Dan Brown