Spring arrives finally
The six-Sunday Brooks Macdonald Warsash Spring Series resumed last weekend after a break for Easter. On a positive note, this was the warmest day of the event so far this year which has seen very cold conditions. However, the sea temperature has yet to warm up - 4.5°C compared with 10°C at the same time in 2012! Nonetheless, crews and race officers alike donned their thermals and foul weather gear to enjoy a great day’s racing in a steady 10-14 knot breeze from the south-east in a fairly flat sea state.
The Black Group committee boat set up a start line at SCRA buoy just east of the Brambles Bank and without delay got all classes underway, with courses ranging between 11 and just under 14 miles. Tacticians needed to find a way out of the tide on the windward legs, without losing the best wind. There were three fast downwind legs with the tide, when places were often changing and this resulted in some crowded mark roundings. In IRC1 Tony Mack's J/111 McFly was out for the first time and took a win by over five minutes from the Sydney 40 Loco. Mitchellson Interceptor moved up from last week’s second to first place in IRC2. Finishers were close in IRC3 with John Barratt's Beneteau First 35 Stiletto 11 seconds ahead of the Dehler 36 Starspray. A slightly longer gap of 16 seconds in the J/109s separated first placed Jagerbomb of Paul Griffiths from Owain Franks and Jean Lockett's Jynnan Tonnyx. In the Sigma 38s, however, Mefisto continued her amazing winning ways; this week 13 minutes ahead of runner-up Rho.
The IRC4 start line was a little further from the Hamble entrance than usual and with a strong flooding tide, some only just made it for the starting gun with seconds to spare; but all boats got away cleanly. Tim Rees' Menace was first to the windward mark and held the lead throughout the race to take both line and handicap honours, despite an uncharacteristic navigational error by James Magellan. Mike Webb's Flashheart again provided the stiffest competition, finishing just nine seconds after Menace on corrected time after two and a half hours’ racing.
The Quarter Tonners enjoyed the closest racing although Howard Sellars' Bullet tacked into the tide shortly after the start and never recovered. Alan Fraser, helming the Sigma 33 Prospero of Hamble, was determined to improve on his fourth place in the previous two races and after a good start remained with the leaders throughout to finish third.
At the halfway point, Mike Bartholomew's Tokoloshe leads John Reivers' Loco by one point in IRC1. A similar situation has resulted in IRC2 between Stuart and James Wilkie's Mitchellson Interceptor and Puma Logic. Mike Bridges' Elaine heads IRC3 with Jiggery Pokery and Starspray on level points. Menace also holds a one point lead over Flashheart in IRC4. Although David McLeman's Offbeat slipped to fifth place this week, two wins gives them top placing in the J/109s, while Kevin Sussmilch's Mefisto has three straight bullets in the Sigma 38s.
On Peter Knight’s White Group line the wind steadied around 120°, so the three 40-50 minute races could use the same course. The slightly warmer temperature may also have been reflected in White Group’s spinnaker handling. With slightly less numb hands, there was a significant reduction in the numbers taking the wide route round the leeward gate. In the first and second races, the J/70 Boats.com (Ian Atkins) saw off the rest of the fleet, but in race three were pushed down to fourth. This let Ruairidh Scott’s North Sails, helmed by Geoff Carveth, win the day with a 2,2,1 score line. As in previous weeks, the J/70 racing remains close. In the J/80s, Race 2 saw a general recall when a mid-line bulge occurred a few seconds too early. Given a second chance, the class then got away cleanly although Rock n Roll just beat the gun in the third race and had to return. Out for the first time this season, Stewart Hawthorn in J’ai Deux Amours took all three wins.
Competitors in the sportsboat classes may well have been discouraged by the cold weather, as not all those entered have made it to the start line. One who has been out each week is Ian Atkins’ J/70 Boats.com with a 12 point lead at this stage over North Sails. Jon Powell's Betty has never slipped lower than third place in the J/80s and currently holds off Gillian Ross' Rock ‘n Roll by 11 points.
The SB20s have been most seriously affected by the chill spring. No competitor has entered every race but Tom and Richard Clay on Whyaduck braved the elements the most and currently lead the class.
Back in the clubhouse John Wallace, the local director from sponsor Brooks Macdonald, and his family enjoyed the warmth and after-race banter whilst presenting the weekly champagne prizes. The Brooks Macdonald Warsash Spring Series continues on 14 April 2013.