Competitors come from near and far for this early season contest and journeying through the driving rain to their boats early on Sunday morning, the sailors might well have been thinking an indoor sport could have been a better choice. During the racing however the visibility cleared, the deluge stopped giving way to glimpses of warm sunshine.
The weather forecast had suggested a brisk south-westerly in the 14 to 20 knot range but with, unusually, the possibility of double that in the gusts. The Black Group committee boat set up station at Bart’s Bash buoy just above the North Channel. Courses were set, largely cross-tide, cascading east with windward legs towards the Isle of Wight shore, giving protection from the heavier seas building up from the Western Solent. Nonetheless, flag "Yankee" was hoisted requiring life jackets to be worn.
IRC1 and IRC2 shared a course and completed 15 miles. J/109 and IRC3 had a similar designed circuit of 12.5 miles. Tacticians were kept busy at times hugging the shallower water to avoid the worst of the rising tide on windward legs. Given the strong winds, there was many a spinnaker trawled in the water. This happened to the British Keelboat Academy Farr 45 Kolga, whose kite not only landed in the Solent but came adrift. Warsash Sailing Club member Iain Mcluckie, the Club’s photographer, multitasked to rescue the sail after which Kolga retired. But they were certainly not the only ones in trouble rounding the leeward mark. There was close racing in all classes with many boats nip-and-tuck on the beats - altogether an exhausting but rewarding day’s racing.
In IRC1 James Gair's Mills 39, Local Letterbox Zero II, chalked up their second win although David and Kirsty Apthorp's J/111 J-Dream holds a five point class lead in the Series.
The First 40 Tarka also gained another first place in IRC2. This boat is on charter from owner Guy Prest by Michael Boyd and Niall Dowling of the Royal Irish Yacht Club and part of the three-boat Irish team in practice for the Commodore’s Cup. Commuting from Dublin, there was no chance of taking their winner’s champagne back on the flight so ... well the bottle just had to be emptied there and then!
The consistently good performance of Peter Morton’s Salvo, never dropping below second place, gives them top spot in the Series. The heavier conditions suited Mike Moxley’s HOD35 Malice, now on level points with the Dehler 36 Starspray and one point below Mike Bridges' Elaine in IRC3. The John Barrett's Ramsgate-based First 35 Stiletto still heads the Series podium places.
IRC4 had a separate start on the White Group line and true to form produced a fourth different winner in four races. This week it was David Greenhalgh’s J/92 J’Ronimo, which gained a good lead over David Hunt's second placed X-332 X-Tosea.
In the J/109s Iain Mackinnon’s Tigh Soluis II, out for the first time, took first place by 10 seconds from David McGough's Just So. When a discard cuts in next time, there could be changes in the leadership, especially of classes IRC1 and IRC3.
The White Group racing area was closer to the Meon shore. It was a blustery day and misty initially; sometimes the committee boat could make out the shape of the Isle of Wight, at other times they were pushed to see the windward mark. Although the visibility improved the wind was on the edge of 25 knots so again life jackets needed to be worn.
The forecast doubtless resulted in some sportsboat skippers deciding to stay ashore. With racing off the lee shore, there was definitely a more cautious approach to the leeward mark, many opting for an early but safe drop, which at times led to changes of position as later boats threw caution to the wind and gained places with good boat handling and mark rounding. As expected, given the conditions several boats took the opportunity to 'rinse their spinnakers', including one of the J/70s whose keel was seen briefly to break the surface before returning to the more normal broach pose to recover and sail on.
The J/80s had competitive starts with the fleet on the line and individual recalls in both races as boats pushed that little bit too hard. In the first, Jon Powell's Betty recovered to win. Several boats were not able to finish. Michael Lewis' Jester battled spectacularly for several minutes having lost control of the A spinnaker. Andrew Barraclough's Jenga 8, out for the first time, won in the J/70s ahead of Simon Cavey's Just4play.
Tom, Richard and James Clay's Whyaduck chose this day to start their 2014 season, and headed the SB20s.
The two-lap second race saw the wind building to 25 knots and the visibility closed in again. There were plenty more spinnaker incidents; Mistral in particular headed towards the end of the course in horizontal motion. This time Ian Wilson's Joyride beat Jenga 8 in the J/70s. Betty again needed to return after being OCS but took second place leaving the win to Ali Hall's Boysterous. Only two SB20s boldly stayed for the second race and after 38 minutes Aron Wellband's Flutter finished 38 seconds ahead of Greg O’Brien's Crewsaver Racing. With the wind at 30 knots, Peter Knight decided to call it a day after two hard races. It had been a white knuckle ride all round for everyone.
Tired but elated sailors gathered at Warsash Sailing Club after racing, well deserving the free beer! Tracey Gray, Investment Manager from Brooks Macdonald, presented the weekly champagne prizes to class winners and Douglas Struth of the J/80 DSP won the jacket donated by SLAM UK. Next week the pace hots up, with the start of the Spring Championship on 12-13 April. 80 boats are already entered and more are welcome in all classes. The second weekend of the Spring Championship follows on 26-27 April. The Spring Series continues on 13 April, then takes a break over the Easter holidays before reconvening for the grand finale on 27 April.
Brooks Macdonald Warsash Spring Series
Provisional Class Winners Day 4 – 6th April 2014
IRC1: Local Letterbox Zero II-Dream (James Gair – Mills 39)
IRC2: Tarka (Guy Prest - Beneteau First 40)
IRC3: Malice (Mike Moxley – HOD35)
IRC4: J’Ronimo (David Greenhalgh – J/92)
J/109: Tigh Soluis II (Iain Mackinnon)
J/70: Race 1 Jenga 8(Andrew Barraclough) Race 2 Joyride (Ian Wilson)
J/80: Race 1 Betty (Jon Powell), Race 2 Boysterous (Ali Hall)
SB20: Race 1 Whyaduck (Tom, Richard and James Clay), Race 2 Flutter (Aron Wellband)