Northern Championships, Carsington Cat Open, 17-18th September 2005

The new Sprint 15

Fittingly the sun shone on Carsington Water for the Sprint 15 TT for, not a pith helmet in sight, "Out of Africa" was competing for the first time with the Robert Redford of the Sprint 15 world (that's 50 please Bob) helming one of the first crop of South African boats. Equally fittingly, Bob Carter (2005) secured ultimate victory. As a Sprint 15 novice the answer was therefore simple, either re-mortgage the Ford Focus and buy a new boat or take the cheaper option of sending your boat to Steve Sawford (1784) hoping for a minor miracle. I opted for the latter, although his departing words of "I haven't quoted you a price yet have I, good" left me wondering if it was the right decision.

The very fact that I was asked to write this article is proof that I'm new to this game. Prior to the weekend I had raced on a few occasions at Carsington and consequently I had very modest ambitions for the Open. 'Not coming last' was my original hope although as the races progressed that quickly subsided to 'not being last to the first mark' and then to 'not being last over the start line'. I was clearly being over ambitious. By the first mark there was always clear water between me and the back of the fleet, about 5 boat lengths on average, and it was whilst luxuriating in my unthreatened position that the irony of making the person at the back of the fleet write an article about what happened in the various races made me laugh. Other than the distant sound of a repeating horn coming from the committee boat, I genuinely have no idea what happened in any of the races and what follows is necessarily entirely hearsay for which I take no responsibility.

Ray Gall (1914) says he came first in the fifth race and Tom Gall (1226), the other half of this competitive father and son duo, begrudgingly admitted that this was true although he was quick to point out it was only "line honours". Nothing changed there then. For the third race George Love (1825) sportingly didn't blame the newly acquired laceration in his port hull for his lacklustre performance (no names/no sail numbers), instead pointing with his now only mobile arm to a lost block pin that meant he had had to manhandle his main for over two laps of the race. Apparently, Gordon Goldstone (1918) had a flyer in the fourth race although when I asked him for some race tips his comments were limited to Polo Shirt (light blue only) 12 and Sweat Shirt (navy only) 15, "essential Sunday attire".

Enlightened, although not persuaded, that a Sprint 15 logo on a polo shirt, whatever colour, would guarantee success I asked around the boat park for tips. Tighten the tramp, tighten the forestay, name the boat, and loose a stone in weight were all proffered although as the latter came from a non Sprint 15'er who needed twice the sail area and a spinnaker to race his cat., I wasn't too convinced. Consequently, I began to adjust the settings (with help) and undaunted I entered my last race with renewed hope. No joy however, and I realised the game was up when the RYA Level 2 sailing group thought I had joined them for a lesson. Perhaps I should have asked Steve Hanby (1981) and Paul Smith (1961) for tips as they secured overall second and third respectively. Ultimately though I think Dave Holyoak (1924) summed it up, "keep nibbling away and you will slowly work out what works for you and move up the fleet".

So how was my first Open? On the water, slow, very slow, sailing humiliation. Off the water, I met a genuinely pleasant bunch of like-minded people with whom you could enjoy dinner and a few drinks. This was incidentally what had been organised for Saturday night thanks to Liz Gall, whom I strongly suspect was the organisational mastermind behind such a successful weekend. All in all a good and instructive weekend. There is no doubt that 1814 will be back next year and, with a few more racing hours under my belt, I will again aim not to be last!


Overall Results
1st Bob Carter Grafham
2nd Steve Handby Beaver
3rd Paul Smith Beaver
4th Ray Gall Carsington
5th Tom Gall Carsington
6th Charles Watson Halifax
7th Gordon Goldstone Queen Mary
8th Phil Howden Grafham

For the series results so far, click here.