Warsash Spring Series sets sail
The 29th Warsash Spring Series got underway on 18 March and on a day when the wind went from zero then up to 16 knots in the short sharp squalls, both competitors and race officers needed to think quickly.
Forecasts varied but in the main indicated a high pressure area over the south of England bringing light and uncertain winds to the Solent, initially northwest then veering north. Many competitors found ice on the decks but sunshine developed by 0900. The breeze dallied under 5 knots, but this still enabled some crews to put in their first pre-race practice of the season. As the start sequence approached, the wind direction had certainly not settled and a postponement was announced for both Black and White Groups whilst race officers designed and redesigned a multitude of courses accordingly.
The Black Group committee boat had set up station near East Bramble and at 1050 IRC1 were sent on a course with Prince Consort buoy off Cowes as the turning mark. The fleet was evenly spread along the line with the Farr 45 Rán (Niklas Zennström) electing to go for clear air from the middle. Even with the westerly tide pushing the boats towards the start line, IRC2 also got away cleanly under the I flag, but now the fleet had decided that the committee boat end was the favourite. Before the J/109 class could start, the wind had swung even further west and the AP flag was displayed again. The effect on the first two classes racing was to turn the first beat into a long starboard tack with a port hand hitch to lay the mark.
Meanwhile, it was back to the chart table for the race officers on Condor to design another new set of courses for the remaining four Black Group classes. This time West Knoll was the windward mark giving navigators the test of judging tidal heights as they skirted the Bramble Bank. Only one failed and spent an extended break aground until the tide rose again in the afternoon. To save time, IRC3 and the Sigma 38s had a combined start making for a busy line. As these boats headed west, grey clouds were forming over the Bramble Bank and these brought lively gusts leaving crews to wonder whether to peel headsails that had initially been set for 5 knots of breeze. No sooner had it arrived, than the wind lessened and turned the run to Universal buoy into a fetch. On completion of the second beat, the wind vanished leaving boats becalmed and pointing in every direction, some with white sails, others with spinnakers. The decision was taken to shorten after the fourth leg and many were grateful for the now east-going tide to reach the finish. For IRC1 and IRC2 the course had been amended to omit the penultimate mark and turn the last leg into a beat. Boats headed slowly for the laid finish mark near Flying Fish.
In IRC1 Rán reached the windward mark first and held a small lead over sistership Kolga (British Keelboat Academy). The following leg had been designed as a run but turned into a reach and Rán managed to extend her lead significantly so that by the finish she took both line and handicap honours by over 10 minutes.
IRC2 was a much closer affair. Andy Jackson’s 40.7 Genie made the best start and held an early lead, but this was nibbled away by others and after a very protracted race Sailing Logic’s Visit Malta Puma took line honours a handful of seconds ahead of the eventual class winner Eaujet (Mike West) which had done extremely well to recover from a poor start.
After a two hour race, David Franks’ new JPK1010 Strait Dealer took IRC3 by a narrow margin from the Bateson family’s Dehler 36 Starspray. The biggest win of the day was Paul Griffiths and Jagerbomb, a triumph of tactics which took him to first place by 25 minutes ahead of the nearest rival in the J/109s. The closest finish was in the new J/Sprit class where John Cooper and Ian Townend’s J/92 Jammin took line honours by a couple of boat lengths but were denied a class win by the lower-handicapped sistership J’Ronimo (John Taylor and David Greenhalgh). The six boats racing in IRC4 were headed by the Hunter Impala Imptish (Barnaby Smith). The more flexible time limit for Black Group made for a longer race day but gave ten boats a finish that would not have been possible under last year’s Sailing Instructions.
White Group this year includes classes for J/80s and Laser SB3s, evenly spread on entries. For this first week, it was the J/80 crews who proved the hardier and turned out in numbers. With a racing area closer in shore, CRO Peter Knight was hoping to catch the breeze coming down Southampton Water but he also had to stall the start procedure. When the first races were underway, a significant wind shift to the right halfway up the first beat turned the course into a full and bye leg with a broad reach return to the bottom mark. Nick Haigh, with Geoff Carveth helming, sneaked the win in Slightly Steamy, the latest in Haigh 'Steamy' line, ahead of Ian Atkins in Boats.com.
In the SB3s Robina (Jo Lloyd) opened her account with a reasonably comfortable win. The course was re-laid to account for the new wind and a brief rain shower raised the wind to over 10 knots by the start of the second race. The squall lasted for the first beat but as the sun came out the wind faded to nothing and by the time the boats had reached the leeward mark and tried to start the next beat it was a losing battle. The race officers made the sensible decision to abandon and send everyone home to enjoy Mothering Sunday.
The Warsash Spring Series returns on 25 March and continues until 29 April.
Warsash Spring Series – Provisional results Sunday 18 March 2012
IRC1 RAN Farr 45 Niklas Zennstrom
IRC2 Eaujet Archambault A35 Mike West
IRC3 Strait Dealer JPK 1010 David Franks
IRC4 Imptish Impala Barnaby Smith
J/Sprit J’Ronimo J/92 David Greenhalgh & John Taylor
J/109 Jagerbomb Paul Griffiths
Sigma 38 Kindred Spirit Rob and Julie Lee
J/80 Slightly Steamy Nick Haigh
Laser SB3 Robina Jo Lloyd