Under lightly overcast skies, and with F4/5 W/SW winds gusting F6, sixteen Sprint 15 travellers joined seven local boats for the 2017 Sprint 15 Southern Championship TT at Seasalter Sailing Club in north Kent.
Paul Grattage (2018) and Kevin Dutch (1938) opted for racing in Sport mode (PY 894) with the rest of the fleet sailing in Standard mode (PY 931). John Bainbridge and Karen Baker made up the only ‘two up’ pairing for the weekend.
Saturday’s course was set as a port rounding triangular course following a single short beat leg from the extended club start line. Unfortunate siting of the windward mark led to some interesting action on the first tack – with the turning boats, now on starboard, racing back into boats being forced up windward on the start leg. Grattage made it clean away with Dutch chasing and a three boat tussle between Liam Thom (1957), Jon Pearse (1988) and Chris Tillyer (1953) following.
By the end of the first lap Grattage held a 300m lead over Dutch which he continued to draw out through the race to take first place, with Dutch second. Thom pulled clear of the following group whilst Jenny Ball (1917) and Robert Finch (1990) joined Pearse and Tillyer, with Ed Tuite-Dalton (1940) side by side with Erling Holmberg (1211). With winds gusting to the top of F6 David Oakley (923) retired with a broken tiller UJ.
Grattage and Dutch finished after lapping about a third of the fleet. Thom took third with Ball and Rob Finch following. Tuite-Dalton came through to beat Tillyer on the line.
The second race started in squally conditions with Dutch and John Bainbridge/Karen Baker (1742) away first, however Dutch promptly capsized after 100 metres – following breakage of the trapeze adjuster rope as he took to the wire. Grattage, Pearse and David Groom (1714) quickly moved to the fore followed by Steve Healey (1921) and Bainbridge/Baker. As the race developed Groom held a slight lead from the main fleet with Grattage clear ahead. Tuite-Dalton and Thom led Pearse and Healey and then Tillyer. With wind shifts and gusts playing their part the close quarters pairing swopped through the race, Alex Betts (585), at his first event, capsized but managed to recover to finish. Simon Rous (1263), Roger Baker (1406) and Paul Shields (1644) passed the wrong side of the outer mark of the line and were DNF.
Tuite-Dalton came through to second place with Thom, Groom and Tillyer behind. Close finishes continued with Robert Finch just pipping Jon Finch (1890) and Holmberg and Ball closed behind.
The Sprint 15 Events team had arranged a post sailing/pre dinner shoreline walk from SSC to The Rose in Bloom pub, a couple of miles towards Whitstable. This may have been a tactical attempt to tire the fleet for the following day, and possibly make them miss dinner, as on return there were mutterings of ‘forced march’ activity. The evening was spent enjoying a hot buffet meal and drinks in the SSC bar – also celebrating Paul Grattage’s birthday.
Sunday started with similar conditions, with the wind pretty steady at F4 WSW and occasional gusts to F5. The course was set with a starboard rounding triangular course, with a line gate near the leeward end of the windward leg and a much longer starting leg than the previous day. The start was over a line from the club with only an inner distance mark.
From the start the fleet split with 6 boats sailing on starboard towards the shore, the rest opting for a port tack towards the Swale. Thom, Grattage and Tillyer pulled out an early lead, Bainbridge/Baker retired with a broken mainsheet block shackle. Jon Finch led Tuite-Dalton with Ball, Dutch and Groom close behind, Dutch tacked early to go through the line gate close to the outer mark and moved through to the lead that group. Meanwhile on the beat Tillyer tacked inshore with Grattage and Thom opting for offshore, and a sudden windshift left Tillyer slightly behind at the windward mark.
Choice of when to tack for the line gate and the inshore/offshore tacks on the main beat was crucial – but varied with the wind shifts and gusts to F6. Baker caspsized and retired ashore, with Jane Bainbridge (1206) also retiring. Grattage maintained a clear lead to the finish, whilst Dutch managed to pull clear of the following boats for second on the water he had not obtained the necessary handicap lead. Thom, Ball and Tuite-Dalton came through on handicap.
Race 4 started with freshening winds and collision on the line. Grattage was called up near the inner distance mark pole and with nowhere to go collided with Bainbridge/Baker who were forced onto Ball – causing her to capsize. Betts was forced out of the end of the line and had to come back around. Grattage and Bainbridge/Baker took penalty turns behind the line as the fleet sailed away and Ball was attempting to right her boat.
Tuite-Dalton got clear away to the windward mark chased by Dutch and Thom, with Dutch pulling ahead on the run. Groom and Tillyer were followed by the Finchs , Steve Healey (1921), Steve Roberts (1910) and Rob Bailey (1755). Ending lap 1 Tillyer tacked early for the gate nearly catching up on Tuite-Dalton and passing Groom. Grattage was pulling back up the fleet joining Healey, Thom and the Finchs.
On the next lap Grattage was up behind Dutch with Tuite-Dalton close behind, Thom was being chased by Groom who was beating higher with good speed in a windshift. Dutch led Grattage for most of the next lap but as they crossed the gate, both flying hulls, Grattage took the lead up the beat, Tuite-Dalton maintained 3rd with Thom and Tillyer now ahead of Groom.
From the windward mark Grattage maintained port tack whilst Dutch turned onto starboard and made good ground, Grattage turned to starboard two thirds of the way to the leeward mark but it was too late and Dutch rounded that mark just ahead and they both came into the tail enders but Dutch got clear ahead and finished the race ahead by 14 seconds. Tuite-Dalton had sailed clear all the way and finished 13 seconds behind Grattage to take 1st place on handicap. Thom led Tillyer to the bottom of the windward leg but Tillyer tacked early for the finish line gate and came through to take 4th place ahead of Thom.
So after four races with one discard Paul Grattage was 1st overall, and retains the Southern Area Championship, with Ed Tuite-Dalton 2nd and Liam Thom 3rd. John Holmes, Rear Commodore SSC, made the glassware presentations for the event.
Chris Tillyer, Sprint 15 Association Chairman, made the presentation of the Speedy Marine Sprint 15 TT award, graciously donated by Steve Sawford, to Steve Healey (1921) for his entertaining hop, skip, jump, splash attempts to get on his boat leaving the beach – to the great amusement of the fleet. Alex Betts was awarded the SSC perseverance award of a bottle of beer for his valiant sailing in his first event.
As RO my thanks to all those who attended the event and all those from SSC who helped both on and off the water, not only at the event but also in preparing beforehand. During sailing the timing team had no breaks, the mark spotters had a cold time on the balcony and the patrol boats were kept busy. The galley and bar teams excelled and by all accounts all the competitors had a good time – that is what we are there for.
Full Series Results available here