With the temperature rising for the first time into double figures, the thermal layers could be left behind and there was no ice to clear from the decks. Although the forecast promised 16-20 knots from the south with gusts to 30 knots, these did not materialise and the full programme of racing could be completed for all classes.
The Black Group committee boat took up station at Flying Fish buoy. After a short postponement, a light south-easterly set in sufficient to design courses between 11 and 15 miles, using a mixture of laid and fixed marks. Despite the east-going tide, all classes got away cleanly. The early classes started with a beat to a laid mark east of North Ryde Middle in a very light breeze of 3-6 knots. IRC3 and the Sigma 38s had an initial beat to South Ryde Middle in a 10-12 knot breeze. Wind over tide produced a slight chop which slowed some. Others were regretting leaving their light weather sails ashore in view of the forecast! As the morning drew on, the wind backed to the SSW and increased, producing short sharp gusts which caused some broaches and wraps as well as stunning downwind racing. Spinnakers were used on the legs designed as such, but later these sometimes turned to shy reaches from true runs.
In IRC1 the young sailors on the UK British Keelboat Academy took the lead in their Farr 45 Kolga by a good five minutes on corrected time. It was a good day for Jackie and David Riley's Corby 33 No Retreat! in IRC2, with a win on their first outing by a slender second from Puma Logic. Conditions suited the bowsprit designs in IRC3 with Charles Ivill's J/97 Jiggery Pokery taking a win from sistership Nick and Adam Munday's Indulgence. Mike Bridges' Elaine was the first conventionally-rigged design back, followed by John Barrett's Stiletto. In the J/109s Roger Phillips' Designstar 2, competing for the first time this series, took the lead from Owain Franks and Jean Lockett's Jynnan Tonnyx. There is just no stopping Kevin Sussmilch and Mefisto in the Sigma 38s, now with four wins and a clear eight points ahead of John Rainger's Light in the series.
IRC4 had their usual separate start area, this week near William buoy and it was good to see Barry Dodds and Owen Croft for their first outing this year in the quarter tonner Murphy’s Law. After a 15 minute delay as the wind settled, the race was off, Tim Rees' Menace almost paying dearly for a port hand flyer at the pin end of the line. Allan Fraser's Prospero of Hamble made another excellent start and Bernard Fyans's Mustang 30 Erik the Red was also in hot pursuit. The southeast breeze held for most of the morning and when the wind shift came to the SSW, the fleet was on a long fetch across to the island shore. All went in search of the elusive wind, which gradually increased in strength. Menace found it first and although she had to follow Prospero of Hamble to the finish, she took a win by over two minutes on handicap.
The sportsboats in White Group also assembled in the entrance to Southampton Water. Relieved to find no forecast Force 4-6, a three-round windward-leeward course was set parallel to the shore, 0.65nm long.
The J/70 and SB20 classes got away, but there was disappointment for Exess in the J/80s, having led all the way round, to return and find she had been OCS. This left the win to current series leader Jon Powell's Betty. In the J/70s a mere 66 seconds separated the fleet on the finish line, with North Sails taking this first race.
In the second White Group race there were individual recalls in the J/70s and J/80s, but this time everyone returned quickly. Halfway through, the wind started to shift and had soon gone through 90° to the southwest. The race was shortened and the committee boat moved inshore ready for the third race. With the wind in the 8-10 knot range the J/70s and SB20s got away cleanly only for one of the forecast gusts to come in at over 20 knots just two minutes before the J/80 start.
At this point the committee boat’s anchor began to drag causing a short delay. The enthusiasm of the fleet to get under way showed when half the boats were too keen on the start line. With several hidden in the middle a general recall was needed before all went smoothly on the next attempt. Again, there was close racing in the J/70s. This time the fleet finished within 27 seconds after 50 minutes of racing. Simon Cavey in Pheebs posted two wins and a third for the day, while Betty gained the same score in the J/80s. The forecast may have discouraged some entries in the SB20s where honours were shared between Tim Newton's Polar Bear and Tom and Richard Clay's Whyaduck.
Next weekend sees additional racing on Saturday for the Spring Championship while the Brooks Macdonald Warsash Spring Series meets for the fifth time on Sunday 21 April 2013.