Dart 15's at Cowes Dinghy Week

A light Easterly F2 accompanied by strong sunshine ushered in the beginning of Cowes Dinghy week, held at the Gurnard Sailing Club in the last week of July. Twenty-one Dart15's from Gurnard were joined by three from our neighbours at Shanklin to make the Dart 15's the biggest fleet in the regatta.

Racing during Dinghy Week has an added poignancy for the Gurnard Marsh Fleet because of its own additional competition for the Penfold Trophy. This is a Pro/Am event held in memory of Dave Penfold, former Fleet Captain, struck down by cancer, and his wife, Sally who died from a brain tumour. By tradition this is event exclusive to the Gurnard Fleet only but in recognition of the closer ties between the two Isle of Wight Fleets, entry was opened up this year to allow the Shanklin contingent to compete.

Race 1
The anticipated Sea Breeze did not materialise in time to allow the first race to get off on time but eventually, after a delay of 90 minutes, the race officer laid an upwind / downwind course with a sausage leg inserted in the middle. The 70+ year-old Tony Petit found himself first to the windward mark but unfortunately sailed into a hole taking half the fleet with him. Those who decided to stay out in the foul tide had a more consistent breeze and soon found themselves at the front.

After nearly two hours sailing the race ended with Laurie Gustar 1st, Carl Blenkinsop 2nd and Roger Bone, 3rd, Robin Leather 4th and Bob Milton, working with a sore shoulder and dysfunctional knees, 5th. Top ten placings also went to the visitors from Shanklin, Paul Tanner and Erling Holmberg, both sailing with a sail too many.

Race 2
The second day brought better conditions and a similar course. Those tacking immediately on port and heading away from shore to take advantage of the tide stole an early lead. The downwind legs were to prove the key to making significant gains as helms toyed with running directly to the second mark or gybing downwind close to shore. In the end those running won the day and the technique of goose-winging while applying a foot to the mast / bottom of the main to ensure good sail shape gave its exponents significant advantage plus a better suntan. The race ended with Robin 1st, Carl 2nd, Laurie 3rd, Bob 4th and Roger 5th. Jackie Field had her best ever result of 6th, beating her pro Erling.

Race 3
With a light and variable wind the race officer opted for a committee boat start. After an eventful, severely port biased start Carl, Laurie and Olly Price were out in the lead. The majority of the race took place on the mainland shore with a long beat against the tide, which saw many boats sailing up the Beaulieu River before they braved the trip out to the wing mark. A sight of note after an hour of racing was Robin Leather in 5th place with his Girlfriend Boo Jones in 4th. The fleet were sent out for a second lap as the wind steadily filled in and with the first two places changing on the final reach and beat it was an exciting finish. After two and a half hours sailing, Laurie was 1st with Carl less that two seconds behind. There were some equally fierce battles for the other places with Robin 3rd, Bob 4th and Olly 5th.

Race 4
The fourth day saw a Sausage and Triangle course set with a variable easterly gusting F4-F5. The beat to the first mark saw the separation of the fleet start early as the beat turned from reach and back to beat again. Bearing around the first mark coincided with the boats leaving the lee of the land and the unfortunate Tony Pettit couldn't quite release his traveller quickly enough. The observant made the gains and the mid-fleet got a glimpse of the wind strength that awaited as they watched the leaders ease the traveller right out and accelerate on an exciting broad reach, amid 4-5 foot waves, towards the mainland shore. The scope for surfing increased the excitement. The old pro Milton began to shine as he lead most of the way round. Unfortunately the last mark was positioned in a very sheltered bay making its rounding and the last leg to the line a lottery. Robin had the winning ticket with Bob 2nd, Carl 3rd, Laurie 4th and Roger 5th.

Race 5
With any of the top three Robin, Laurie or Carl possibly taking the trophy the last race was due to be exciting. The conditions and the course were very similar to the previous day with a fresh easterly and a lumpy sea. The top three took the lead from the first mark and battled for positions across the Solent. Robin reached the second mark ahead and maintained his position throughout the race. Laurie finished 2nd, Bob 3rd, Carl 4th and Roger 5th.

The win secured Robin Leather's first Dinghy Week trophy.

The top five results were -

1- Robin Leather 6 pts
2- Laurie Gustar 7 pts
3- Carl Blenkinsop 9 pts
4- Bob Milton 13 pts
5- Roger Bone 18 pts

The Penfold Trophy added to the week's excitement.

From race one it was very close with the team of Bob Milton and Boo Jones slightly ahead of Carl Blenkinsop and Bryan Salter. On Tuesday, Jackie Field's great result led to her and Erling sneaking into the lead. With the building wind towards the end of the week, the mid fleet teams of Dick Sweatman / Derek Kingsland and Paul Airey / Ken Gilpin put on threatening spurts. However the consistency of Carl Blenkinsop and Bryan Salter was enough to take the trophy.

The week was a great success with superb organisation from Gurnard Sailing Club who set excellent courses in trying conditions. The on shore entertainment and food was also of a very high standard.

The visitors from Shanklin gave the greatest compliment. They all said that they would be returning next year - even Erling.