When visiting the English riviera there is a certain amount of expectation when it comes to weather. The fleet were greeted with almost perfect sailing conditions on day 1 - if you ignore the drizzle and 300m of visibility.
Fortunately, by the time we'd got down to the start area, Torquay had reappeared and with it a nice F3 for the first race. Martin Harrison and Dave Acres had a good first beat, despite Dave having to bail out at the pin on the start. Probably distracted by the pod of dolphins that joined us in the final minute of the sequence. Martin and Dave held these positions until the finish, closely followed by Steve Bolland in 3rd, and then the rest of the fleet all within a couple of minutes.
Wind increased a little for race 2 and went slightly further west. Dave put the after burners on again and was never really challenged to the finish. Steve 2nd, Martin 3rd. Honourable mention must go to fleet newbie Chris Brooks for an impressive first beat rounding in 3rd. Once he has worked out the downwind part of 300 sailing, he will surely be one to watch.
A short break between races 2 and 3 gave a few boats an opportunity to wash off their sails. An idea started by the 600 fleet, if it works in their boat, it must be quick.
Final race of the day and the wind had built slightly again. Richard Le Mare went off from the pin end like a stabbed rat. Copying his low and fast technique, Paul Watson rolled a few boats and the 2 quickly had some clear water between themselves and the rest of the fleet. By the top mark it was Paul 1st with Richard hot on his heels. Dave and Steve quickly joint the party and after 3 laps of close racing, Paul held on for the win followed by Steve and the ever-consistent Dave.
Back to the club for ice cream, beer and some fairly unwelcome stairs to climb.
More of the same tomorrow, possibly with a little more breeze.
GOLD FLEET REPORT BY STEVE BOLLAND
If the forecast was to believed, day two of the Noble Marine Allen RS300 Nationals was going to be attritional with winds of 20 knots plus. In the end, to the relief of the lighter sailors, the beefy wind never materialised, remaining in the mid teens for the most part.
Overnight leader, Dave Acres, started race 4 by carrying on in the same vein as the previous day, leading the fleet around the first two laps of the trapezoid course. However, he was unable to pull clear of a gaggle of chasers including Harry McVicar, Sam Davy and others and when Steve Bolland and Martin Harrison hit the left on the final beat all hell let loose. With these two picking a lovely lay line, others over stood and at the finish it was Bolland, Pete Mackin and Acres. Bolland crossed the line to silence, however, as did Paul Watson who was also in the leading gaggle, promoting everyone one else up and leaving Harrison in 3rd.
Mercifully, there were less shenanigans in race 5, although there was a coming together between Watson and Acres at the first mark. This allowed Bolland to escape and he made no mistake in this one after managing to remain on the correct side of the start line. 2nd was Acres, followed by McVicar and Watson.
After a slight delay as the course was reset, race 6 got underway in the lightest breeze of the day, the knots dropping below the teens at times. Watson led at the first but was unable to hold of that ‘bl£&dy lightweight’ Bolland downwind, Bolland going on to win from Watson and Harrison.
With Acres having one of those races and putting in a discard, Bolland now leads narrowly from Acres and Watson heading into a potentially four-race day with lighter winds forecast.
SILVER FLEET REPORT BY BEN HEPPENSTALL
Day 2 silver Fleet report - the view from the back! With a breezy forecast 3 races to look forward to. We left the slipway in and orderly manner and almost everyone made it out of the harbour without capsizing!
Race 1 was going well till Mr Bolland failed to gybe round the leeward mark pushing Mr sallis wide who bumped into the boat coming on on port... Which was unfortunately me. The turns dropped me from the front of silver fleet to the back, which gave me a great opportunity to see how many place I could recover.
Race 2. More wind, port biased line, port flyer.... Failed. Overtaken by a very rapid Paul Watson, so I thought I'd try and copy him, which was good. Spent the rest of the race practicing the 'low n fast' mode. Had a great baltle with Chris Brook, Mark Newton, Rich Packer and me finishing with 10 seconds of each other. The mid fleet could be quite competitive.
Race 3 - more wind. More capsizing I think there were about 8 boats upside as a squall came through on the first run. Another opportunity to catch up. Things of interest today: Sam Davy collapsed over Mark 4, Chris Brook having filled that little hole in the mast foot and wondering why the mast filled with water - he may be very fast now that's fixed!
After the Rooster prize giving and a bangers and mash supper, both gold and silver fleets enjoyed Brixham’s unique Pig Racing night, sadly no amount of sailing skills made them a match for the race officer’s son, who seemed to have the inside tips for every race!
GOLD FLEET REPORT BY PETER MACKIN
The forecast for day 3 suggested a lighter breeze, welcomed by many. Paul Watson, who was no doubt encouraged by the slightly stronger winds than expected, managed to get the first wooden spoon nomination of the day, with a swim on his way out.
Watson got his act together in the end, relishing the 15 knots across the race area and taking a bullet in the first race of the day. This race was close from start to finish. I lost track of what happened - it would be easier to get a hamster to break enigma than recall the place changing from this race! Watson led from McVicar, Bolland and Acres. McVicar putting together what would be his strongest day of the series.
For race 8 of the championship, the wind dropped slightly, shifts got bigger and holes in the course we're to be avoided. Much of the fleet opted for the left hand side, anticipating a prolonged left hand shift through the day. The first beat proved tricky, Ben Heppenstall led from Steve Sallis and Pete Mackin at mark one. Heppenstall had worked hard on the favoured left side to come out on top. Flatter water meant the runs were a little tricky too; some opting to head straight at the next mark, others to try and surf what little chop was available. The top 3 were still close round the following laps with Heppenstall making the most of the shifts and leading the approach to the final windward mark. Electing to tack above Mackin for the layline proved costly though and Pete snuck through to leeward and defended the rest of the lap to finish ahead of Heppenstall, Bolland, Acres and Sallis.
Race 9 was slightly breezier, (I think?). Another very close race from start to finish. McVicar sliced through the fleet to take and his first bullet of the championship, followed some distance behind by Mackin. Acres followed in third, bettering his 10th in the previous race and crucially finishing ahead of Bolland, who came across the line in 6th. This meant 2 points separated the leading pair of Bolland/Acres going into the final race of the day. The fact this was potentially the last race of the series added to the pressure.
The final race of the day got away clean in 12-15 knots. The left hand side had been the order of the day, but on this race more than most. Boats that had taken a risk on the right hand side after a bad start arrived at the top mark quite unhappily, ...so much so that I have no idea who got there first! At the front, Martin Harrison, Watson and McVicar had a good scrap over the full length of the race, noone every really breaking free. Bolland and Acres were inseparable, rounding the final windward mark together behind Rob Ford who was sailing brilliantly. Harrison took the bullet from Watson, McVicar and Ford. As for the series-leading pair, Bolland led at mark 3 with Acres a boat length or so behind. Dave tried to get above Bolland along the bottom reach but it wasn't enough. A few luffs were sufficient to break any overlap and secure 5th place ahead of Acres.
The scores on the doors show Bolland ahead (clearly there's no such thing as too much running). Dave Acres 3 points away and Watson a further point behind. With 3 boats in with a shot of the title going into last race and 6 boats with a shot at the podium, this championship had been exceptionally close - something that has become a habit over recent years in this fleet.
Back in the bar and tucking into a fish and chip supper, many hoped that the breeze wouldn't materialise for the final day which looked very light. Anticipating a slow and painful sail, if any, some elected to pack the boats early and get a front row start for the inevitable scramble for trailers in the morning. Let's see what the next day brings...
SILVER FLEET REPORT BY CHRIS BROOK
The third day at the RS300 nationals brought some fantastic sailing conditions.
Initially forecast with just 9kts of breeze the fleet were greeted with substantially more.
Around 15 knots of breeze and relatively flat water made the four race day idyllic conditions. Contending silver fleet in my first nationals on the RS300, these conditions allowed for some great use of all the skills the more than welcoming fleet have been sharing with me over the past two days.
Power reaches and really hardworking beats were the highlights of the day. The first legs weren’t always straight forward but with a backing breeze the left generally paid. Playing the waves seemed to accelerate the downwind legs followed by the second power reach of our trapezoid course.
Two days of wind gusting up to and occasionally above 20kts provided the perfect preparation to today’s conditions but now with the occasional lighter spot called for some very different skill sets and this showed in a set of the results that really upended.
With the help of fellow competitors racing in this great class I’ve managed to improve my results on the 300 but hats off to Ben Heppenstall who whilst contending silver fleet, managed to score a second place in race 3!
In the best conditions of the four day competition we managed to complete four races, bringing our total to 10 races.
Brixham yacht club have been an awesome host of the event and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning the rs300.
All that remains is to see if the 3kts forecast presents or if there is more wind to host the last race of the competition.
Final Day report, by Steve Bolland
Unfortunately, the forecast of zero wind for the final day of the RS300 Nationals supported by Noble Marine, Allen and Rooster was disappointingly accurate. With Dave Acres already packing up and Paul Watson sportingly declaring that he wouldn’t want the final result decided on the whims of any zephyr that might occur, the top 3, also including Steve Bolland, all shook hands on the result before the official abandonment was announced. Of the other main protagonists, Pete Mackin had packed up the night before and Harry McVicar was still in bed.
Despite the frustrating end to the regatta, the fleet had nevertheless enjoyed three days and 10 races in pretty much perfect conditions. Brixham YC were excellent hosts and the provision of ice creams, doughnuts and pasties as we came off the water was much appreciated, as were the evening meals. The sight of Commodore, Richard Spreckley, up to his neck in water catching boats as they returned to shore will also live long in the memory. It was very much appreciated, along with other members of the beach party and the efforts of PRO Sean Semmens and his team who put on excellent courses and turned round races quickly in some shifty conditions.
Thanks also, to the competitors, it was a joy to be back racing again after such a long break, and, as ever, to the great Clive Eplett.
Day 1 – Dave Acres
Day 2 – Dave Acres
Day 3 – Harry McVicar
Team trophy – Thorney Island SC (Dave Acres/Mark Newton)
Wooden spoon – Steve Bolland (a total travesty!)
Endeavour – Cheryl Wood
Fidelis – Richard Le Mare
Apprentice – Chris Brook
Lightweight – Harry McVicar
Buddha Trophy for heavyweights – Dave Acres
Master – Steve Bolland
1st lady – Cheryl Wood
Silver fleet – Chris Brook
Photos: Gareth Fudge, Boatographic. Full gallery and photos to purchase: day 1, day 2