Grafham Winter Handicap Sunday 14 March 2004

On Sunday 14 March the final event of the Dart 15 fleet winter series was held at Grafham. The weather was very windy so despite the fact that about 19 Dart 15 sailors made the trip, only 10 signed on after the anemometer had been studied by the fleet. Furthest travellers were Paul Tanner and Erling Holmberg from the IOW in the South and Charles Watson for Halifax in the North.

Race officer, Andy Baldock, set a large trapezoidal course and race one got underway in a force 5-6 southerly wind with the occaisional force 7 gust. First to the windward mark was Steve Sawford, closely followed by George Carter, Erling Holmberg and Bill Tusting. At the gybe mark Steve Sawford took his first swim of the day with a pitch-pole and many of the fleet opted to wear round with a tack instead of a gybe. Just Charles Watson and Bob Carter took the gybe and therefore led the charge down the run - that is until Watson also pitch-poled at the next mark! G Carter took the lead up the next beat from R Carter with Tusting and Sawford some way back after recovering from their respective capsizes. This order prevailed for the next lap with Isle of Wighters, Paul Tanner and Erling Holmberg, scrapping for 5th place. Tusting and Holmberg took another swim on the 3rd lap as the gusts built to force 8 and so by the time of the gun at the end of lap 3 the sequence was G Carter, R Carter, Sawford, Tanner and Tusting. Recent new comer to the fleet, Robert Ulph, did fantastically well to get a finish in very difficult conditions.

After a quick lunch stop the second race was started in slightly more wind. The early leaders were G Carter followed by Sawford, Watson and Tusting. The conditions were "animal" with gusts to 35 knots and the attrition rate was very high. Only G Carter and Watson made it onto the second lap when the proceedings were called to a halt with an abandonment as the rescue boats were struggling with an excess of customers.

Thus, after a tough days sailing, the results were decided on the first race. George Carter was the clear victor on the day but Erling Holmberg won the "most capsized" award and only Tanner & R Carter survived the day without a swim!

Overall Results
1st G. Carter Grafham
2nd R. Carter Grafham
3rd S. Sawford Grafham
4th P. Tanner Shanklin
5th W. Tusting Grafham
6th C. Watson Halifax
7th E. Holmberg Shanklin
8th R. Ulph Grafham
=9th P. Richardson Beaver
=9th P. Howden Grafham

That concludes the 2003/2004 Dart 15 winter traveller series. All 5 events were sailed and 37 sailors took part and 10 qualified with 3 races completed. The events were at Stewartby, Beaver, Rutland, Queen Mary and Grafham. As it happens the first 4 events were sailed in light winds (force 1-2) and only Grafham had serious wind. This is the third successive series where the winds at Grafham in March have tested the fleet. George Carter retained the series with 1,1,1 from Bob Carter (1,2,2) and Steve Sawford (1,2,3). Erling Holmberg was 4th from Peter Richardson on tie-break.

George Carter