We run a full programme of events throughout the year and you will find details on the back page of our magazine or on the web site at www.sprint15.com. The best place to start is probably with the training course which we run at Stewartby Water Sports Club (near Bedford) over a weekend in April/May. Our dynamic Stewartby fleet captain, Graham Shrimpton, runs this course with the help of some of our top helms who give their time free. We tailor the courses to suit the ability of the attendees, quite often running both a beginner course and an intermediate course. On the beginner's course we cover all aspects briefly including dry land drills, talks, all points of sailing, lots of on-the-water experience, capsize drill, etc. and by Sunday afternoon you will be taking part in a club race.
Throughout the summer we run 8 or so open meetings at clubs around the country usually where there is a strong home fleet of Dart 15s. These events are two day events and are open to all modes of sailing a Dart 15 (single handed with mainsail; two-up with main and jib; Sprint which is mostly single handed with both sails and trapeze but can also be two-up, if desired) and the Sting. We generally have 4 races, two on each day, with the first race Saturday usually at 12 or later to give people time to travel on Saturday morning. There is usually a barbecue or meal in the clubhouse on the Saturday evening, which gives an opportunity to socialize both in the fleet and with the local club members. Accommodation is left to the individuals but many camp or sleep in the car but there are usually inexpensive bed and breakfast lodges nearby if you prefer (details are posted on the web site). These events form the backbone of the class and are great fun. We will typically get 15 - 30 competitors and their families from around the country and if you attend a few events you soon find that you get to know the regulars and look forward to the banter and friendship. It is also amazing how quickly your sailing improves. It is essential to learn to sail at a variety of coastal and inland locations to become good in all conditions. Tidal experience is particularly important for the lake sailors.
The National Championships is our most important and most successful event of the year which attracts 35 to 60 competitors. Our chairman, Nick Dewhirst, organizes this event with great aplomb and it is unique in the United Kingdom sailing classes. Eight Championship races are held over a long weekend e.g. Saturday (2), Sunday (4) and Monday (2) with the prize giving on Monday. The first race on Saturday is at 1pm allowing time to travel to the event and we target to hold prize giving by 4.00pm on Monday to enable the event to be attended by just taking one day off work. We have a variety of methods of awarding prizes which ensure that it is not only the fastest get recognized. These include prizes for under 19s, two-up, ladies, heavy weights, over 50s, over 60s, club teams, most improved from last year and a Pro-Am competition similar to the golf format. Evening activities are also organised such as barbecues, folk singers in the bar, social events sometimes even involving alcohol consumption! These championships which are for the PY97 formats only (single-handed una-rig and two up without the trapeze) have a cult following which involves the whole fleet - not just those who hope to win! The weekend is rounded off with a dinner at some local restaurant where the achievements of all and sundry are recognized and rewarded. Following the serious racing programme we generally run a fun programme for a few days after the Nationals where we organize a couple of days cruising along the coast in our Dart 15s to a nearby town or sailing club or pub, crews races, treasure hunts, go-cart racing, group outings and general socializing. This is an ideal way to unwind from the racing, get to know your fellow sailors, brush up on your sailing skills and have a family holiday.
The more energetic fraction of the fleet who sail Sprint mode for the extra excitement get a separate National Championship which is run on a long weekend in May. We usually run this at a club who predominantly sail Sprint mode and in 2004 we had a record 43 attendees at Instow in North Devon for a really windy weekend. Next year we return to Gurnard on the Isle of Wight where they have 35 active Dart 15s who all sail sprint mode so an attendance of 40 is likely. If you are worried about the travel to the Isle of Wight, don't be. You can sail your Dart 15 across the Solent from Lepe Beach, which is about a 2 mile sail and the Gurnard Sailing Club send across rescue boats to escort you and bring bags of dry clothes, wives, girlfriends, etc. Alternatively, they usually fix up a cheap deal on the ferry (last year it was 50 return for a car and trailer - I teamed up with another sailor from Grafham so 4 of us got over with 2 boats for that price).
Also on our programme you will find the odd special events, such as long distance races, which do not form part of the series but we are promoting as Association recommended events.
Finally we run a winter series of 4-5 one day races at inland lakes where there are good fleets of Dart 15s. We started this just to make some high quality winter sailing available to those of us who are not put off by the winter and we get attendances of 12 to 16 who enjoy the continued competition through the winter.
Well I hope we have wetted your appetite and that you decide to give it a try. For further information please give me a call on 01438 354367 or alternatively just turn up. We look forward to sailing with you.
Bob Carter, Dart 15 Events Secretary
Dart 15 #1945 "The Dogs B......."