Champagne Conditions in the Plymouth Sound
The Sprint 15 July Summer TT saw a welcome return to Plymouth, hosted again by the Royal Western Yacht Club. 5 travellers made the journey whilst trying to avoid the start of school holidays traffic. George Love and Jenny Ball arrived on the Friday – to see Nigel James, Jon Pearse and Simon Hare out on the water on a trip that took them up as far as the Tamar Bridge and then round the back of the island in the harbour where they were apparently fortunate not to hit the anti-submarine defences just below the surface of the water.
Saturday dawned warm and dry with a cracking breeze and we were joined by young locals Aaron Kirby and Tom Gurney. Royal Western Yacht Club welcomed us warmly and even though they were also hosting a British Keelboat Championships that weekend, we were well looked after. And their changing facilities are to die for.
George, Simon and Tom had opted to sail Sport mode whilst the rest were Una Rig and once rigged, the fleet had a pre-race conflab. The “grown up” members of the fleet were shocked to discover that Tom was literally half their weight which was subject to lengthy discussion until Aaron pointed out we were like old folks discussing dinner in the care home and could we please get out of his way so he could launch.
The fleet inched their way out of the marina and then headed out of the harbour followed by a screaming reach into the Plymouth Sound. The Committee Boat was quite possibly the most impressive ever used for our fleet – a beautiful 40ft cutter – which is just as well because it can be hard to find the race course in the Sound with a couple of enormous vessels at anchor and huge channel markers and buoys. The Race Officer wasted no time in getting the first race underway – although unfortunately Tom Gurney had gear failure which meant he was unable to start.
The fleet hurtled off in a strong breeze and pretty big waves to find the windward mark which looked a long way away. But that was Jon’s fault because he had told the RO that we usually have a mile long beat. Jon, Nigel and Jenny reached the mark first as the waves were making Sport mode a bit more tricky to manage. A perfectly angled screaming reach took the fleet down to mark 2 followed by a run alongside a large Destroyer* at anchor which completely dwarfed a Sprint 15. By mark 3, Jenny had gained a short lead with Jon and Nigel close behind, setting off on another perfectly angled screaming reach to mark 4 where some great photos were taken by PGC photography, pgcphotography.pixieset.com who was out on his RIB taking pictures of us and the Keelboat racing. After a second and final lap, Jenny held on to win followed by Jon, Nigel, Simon, George and Aaron.
After a quick turn-round, Race 2 got underway. Unfortunately, Tom had not been able effect a repair that would hold in the conditions so had to head in for the day. The fleet split up the first beat with some heading to the right and round the back of the large blue and red container ship, whilst others stayed more over the left hand side which seemed to pay off. Jon led round the first and second mark with Jenny and Nigel in hot pursuit. Jenny gybed earlier and managed to get past Jon on the down wind leg to gain a small lead by mark 3. Jon was chasing hard for the second lap but Jenny held on to take first with Jon second, followed by Nigel, George and Simon. Meanwhile, Aaron’s starboard tiller clip had broken making for an interesting “one rudder - no tiller bar/extension” technique to get him down the final reach and back up through the finish line and unfortunately ended his racing for the day.
For Race 3, the RO advised we would do three laps which was welcomed because the breeze was so good, although limbs were starting to get a bit tired. After watching a ferry boat plough literally straight through the start line at 2 minutes to go, the fleet set off. Following lessons learned in the previous race, the una rig boats headed to the left corner of the beat, whilst the Sport boats went up the middle. Nigel tacked onto port and went into Solo mode, sailing very high much to Jenny’s chagrin as she tried to stay above – having not been able to stand on any further because someone had parked a Destroyer* in the way. Jon, in the meantime, went free and fast and rounded the mark first, followed by Jenny and Nigel with the two Sports boats close behind.
With a broken batten second from the bottom, Jenny’s sail was an interesting Z shape on the down wind leg but she just managed to get the inside overlap on mark 3 to round just in front of Jon, with George, Nigel and Simon behind. Jenny and Jon stood on through the line and tacked at the big blue tanker whilst Nigel headed left – but the former approach seemed slightly more favourable. By now, the chop was quite big, making tacking more challenging causing difficulties for Nigel at the windward mark which let George through. On the final beat, Jon caught Jenny right up and they were inches apart coming into the windward mark. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending which boat you were on, a stalled tack by Jon gave Jenny the chance to get clear and take the final win, followed by Jon, George, Nigel and Simon.
The fleet headed in after a great afternoon of sailing to enjoy a fabulous BBQ, a few beers and lots of discussion about the progress of our Webmaster and his epic voyage around the UK in his Sprint 15 who had reached the top of Scotland whilst we were sailing at the opposite end of the country.
Sunday dawned even more bright and sunny although with lighter winds forecast. We were also delighted to be joined by new local fleet member, Neil Dunkley who had been unable to join the previous day due to work. Tom had also managed to repair his boat and so was back out with the fleet. Unfortunately, Aaron had been up most of the night doing sail repairs for the Keelboats and Simon was unwell so both were unable to compete. The fleet set off for Race 4 in a decent breeze, choosing to head left up the first beat. However, by the time the fleet got to mark 2, the wind had slackened and George and Tom in Sport mode pulled ahead on the downwind leg to finish the first lap ahead of the Una rig boats. However, the Una rig boats were able to hold a higher course on the upwind leg and the wind dropped further so that the Sport boats were no longer able to trapeze – allowing Jenny and Jon to get back in front by the windward mark. Jenny went on to take the win, with Jon second, Tom third and George fourth.
The wind had shifted as well as dropped so the Race Officer moved the course and pulled it in slightly. The start line now had a clear port hand bias which Nigel exploited beautifully and had a healthy lead by the time he reached the first mark. Unfortunately, the fleet had not appreciated quite how much the wind had shifted and, in fact, had all mistakenly rounded mark 2, instead of the proper windward mark. Cue much scratching of heads as the fleet rounded their second mark and searched in vain for the “missing” leeward mark – until the Race Officer abandoned the race and brought everyone back to the start area.
The Race Officer kindly re-ran Race 5 and patiently pointed out to the fleet where the real windward mark was. The line continued to have a port hand bias which Nigel, Jon and Jenny took advantage of and the fleet headed over to the far shore. George rounded the windward mark first, followed by Jenny and Tom. At Mark 2, George gybed off to sail to where he expected Mark 3 to be – but Tom and Jenny spotted the mark was higher than normal and were just in front of George when he realised and re-joined the fleet. Tom and George had really tight racing to mark 4 where the Race Officer had decided to shorten the course to one lap. Tom tacked early for the finish line which gave him second place behind Jenny on handicap, with George third and Jon fourth.
With the wind shifting again, the Race 6 start line had more of a starboard bias so George was the only competitor to try a port start and crossed behind the rest of the fleet. However, it proved to be a good move as he was first to reach the slightly higher pressure over by the shore and rounded the windward mark in front, followed by Tom, Jenny and Jon. On reaching Mark 2, George again decided to take the same detour as the previous race, even though Mark 3 had not moved, thereby allowing Tom to catch up. George and Tom were nip and tuck for the rest of lap one and lap two providing spectator entertainment to the Una rig fleet behind them. It proved to be the closest race all round with George taking the win by 1 second on handicap, with Jenny in second place and Tom in third.
The sail back was uneventful with George nearly being run over by the Lifeboat, Tom nearly being landed on by young lads tombstoning off the harbour wall and Nigel and Jon playing chicken with the exceptionally large Brittany ferry heading in to port. Jon was close enough to get a hoot from the ferry, which was just as well because apparently until that point, he “had not seen it”. Jenny in the meantime was quietly having a nervous breakdown as her fleet were nearly wiped out around her.
Following prize giving where we thanked the Race Officer and apologised for messing up Race 5, most of the fleet headed for home whilst George and Nigel set off for the Windsport Regatta week in Falmouth.
Next stop is the Nationals at Harwich Town in August!
* Nigel has patiently explained on more than one occasion that it is, in fact, a supply vessel for an aircraft carrier but, whilst Nigel knows about these things, Destroyer makes for a better story.
1st: Jenny Ball, Marconi – 2nd: Jon Pearse, Marconi – 3rd: George Love, Carsington
Report: Jenny Ball
Full Series Results available here