On Sunday February 15th the Dart 15 fleet visited Queen Mary for the fourth event of their Winter Series. A consistent weather forecast of unrelenting high pressure and almost no wind undoubtedly deterred several competitors from making the journey. But the event still managed to attract eleven entries, and luckily the forecast proved to be slightly amiss, and the 2 races were sailed in a reasonable, 5-8mph wind.
For the event, race officer Peter Halliwell set the fleet a square course on the eastern side of Queen Mary reservoir.
Just minutes before the start of the first race, there was one of those awkward windshifts that meant the start line became heavily port biased. Most of the fleet reacted by attempting to start on port tack, but Chris Black managed to sail down the line on starboard and just clear the pin. This caught out Gordon Goldstone in his attempt to get away on port and forced him into a crash tack and a penalty turn right at the start line.
The rest of the fleet got away cleanly, and at the first mark, George Carter led the way, closely followed by Steve Sawford and Bob Carter, with Chris Black lying 4th some way behind these three. Gurnard's Steve Cole was next, just managing to keep ahead of a chasing pack led by fellow Isle of Wight rivals, Erling Holmberg and Tim Benton.
As the race progressed, George Carter and Sawford managed to extend their lead over Bob Carter who was coming under increasing pressure from the pursuing Chris Black. The competition was also tight further back, and Alan Wellman and Queen Mary sailors Ian Curd and Keith Chidwick were never more than yards apart. By the final lap, Goldstone had also managed to climb back to 7th place and whilst the first 2 places looked secure, the rest did not. At the finish, George Carter led Sawford over the line, but Bob Carter only just held off Chris Black after he opted for the wrong way up the final beat. Steve Cole came in an excellent 5th and Goldstone managed to squeeze ahead of Erling Holmberg on the last leg for 6th place.
After some smart work by the race officer and his assistant George Stephen, the 2nd race got away almost immediately after the first. All were away cleanly and it was Grafham's Steve Sawford who was at the front. Sawford led the fleet round the first lap and looked unassailable, but yet again George Carter gradually closed the gap and almost inevitably, took the lead. Bob Carter was again in 3rd and Chris Black again in 4th.
This was the pattern for the rest of the race, and these four held their places to the finish.
Once again the following pack were having a race between themselves. But this time Erling Holmberg came through to take 5th ahead of Cole and Goldstone. On the last lap an unlucky Tim Benton clipped a mark, which let Alan Wellman get ahead. Ian Curd also managed to turn the tables on his Queen Mary rival, Keith Chidwick, and reverse their positions in the first race to take 10th place.
In conclusion it was congratulations to George Carter for 2 fine wins. Every one else has another chance when the Dart 15 fleet heads for Grafham Water on March 14th for the final event in their Winter Series.
Thanks to Gordon Goldstone for the write-up and George Stephen for the photos.