Sunday 24th February saw the third Sprint 15 Winter 2018/19 TT take place at Rutland. The previous TT took place in freezing conditions, under the threat of heavy snow fall and with strong gusty winds. Three weeks later, the sun was out, the temperatures were well into double digits and the wind forecast was very light – so at least we still had one aspect of the weather to complain about.
Nine competitors arrived and rigged up in fog, waiting patiently to check that the lake was still there once the fog lifted. Fortunately, it was - and the fleet set off for a slightly delayed start.
The Race Officer laid temporary buoys for marks 1 and 2 and used two of the gazillion fixed buoys on the lake for marks 3 and 4. This meant that the Sprints could have their preferred trapezoid course, stood a fighting chance of picking out at least the first two marks and gave the safety boats something to do, other than sunbathing.
Once the wind direction had settled enough to lay a course, the blackboard with the course was displayed on the committee boat and the countdown was on. The entire sequence was spent by local sailor Steve Sawford patiently explaining the course to his fellow competitors who were not sure what or where Y5 and 20 were.
Undaunted, the fleet got underway with George Love taking an early lead, followed by Stuart Snell, Simon Hare, racing in Sport Mode and with Pete Richardson and Steve Sawford not far behind. George rounded the windward mark first with a clear lead, then Simon and Stuart and then the rest of the pack. Having rounded the fourth mark, the front runners overstood the layline for the start/finish gate whilst the tail enders tacked early for the line. At one point, it looked as though the fleet positions would be wholly reversed, but a hole in the wind at the pin end put paid to that and kept the natural order of things. However, it did allow Stuart and Simon to get in front of George.
The wind was full of holes up the second beat and only Stuart managed to sail a clear course to the windward mark, clearing it with a seriously impressive lead. Simon also sailed a blinder and followed round in second, leaving the rest of the fleet a very long way back. It was enough on handicap to give Simon second place on handicap behind Stuart – with Pete in third, Steve in fourth and George in fifth.
The wind direction had by now shifted considerably so the Race Officer was obliged to relay the course and the fleet were obliged to get their heads round two different fixed race marks. The fleet set off with the wind getting ever lighter. George had made another great start and had stayed left on the course whilst most of the fleet went up the middle. George looked to be making great progress over the fleet, only to be parked by a wind shift/drop a few boat lengths from the mark. After an unpromising start, Jenny Ball had tacked off onto port and held on to what little breeze there was to just reach the windward mark first. On slowly rounding the mark and bearing away, Jenny was surprised to find that she was in fact now pinching to mark 2, due to a wind shift which was a great hinderance to the rest of the fleet having to put in extra tacks to get round the mark.
Having rounded mark 2, Jenny set off to find Y3 followed by Y9, very grateful for having invested 50p in a laminated course card (which apparently comes with a ten year guarantee) whilst trying to pick a way through the club racers who had caught up with the 15s with Stuart, George, Ed, Pete and Steve not far behind. Stuart and Jenny rounded Y9 and headed through the line in close proximity – but Stuart had very uncharacteristically missed out a mark of the course and retired which gave Jenny the win, followed by George, Ed Dalton and Pete.
The wind had shifted again and died away whilst the rest of the fleet and club racers finished. The 15s hung on hoping for enough wind to re-appear in order to enable a third race. Just as the Race Officer was about to call it a day – Simon was seen flying across the far side of the lake at a good pace (everything being relative and he did have a jib up) showing that enough breeze had re-appeared to make Race 3 feasible. The Race Officer opted for a windward leeward course to get the fleet away quickly, and the 15s were so grateful to get a third race in that they did not complain once. The wind had shifted again so Steve opted for and executed a sound port hand start. However, it was Stuart who rounded the windward mark first, followed by Ray Gall in Sport mode, George and Steve. Following the run, the fleet turned upwind again. Stuart continued to extend his lead, but a header slowed up some of the fleet, allowing Jenny the opportunity to catch up to follow George and Ray round the windward mark. Turning onto the final full windward leg, Jenny and George were neck and neck allowing Steve the opportunity to take a free and fast course and make gains beneath them. At risk of being luffed all the way to the windward mark, Jenny tacked off and tacked back again to get inside the distance mark. A more favourable breeze up the middle of the course enabled Jenny to get to the windward mark with Ray and ahead of George and Steve. Stuart went on to take an impressive win followed by Jenny, George and Steve.
Congratulation to Stuart for a consistent and convincing win despite the highly variable conditions. Congratulations also to Simon who was awarded the Chairman’s Award for his stellar performance in Race 1.
Big thanks to Matt Lee and the Rutland team for hosting the event and a special thanks to Jon Williams, Race Officer, who managed to get three proper races in, despite the best efforts of the wind.
Report by Jenny Ball. Pictures by Jon Williams
Full Series Results available here