Thirty eight Sprint 15s entered the final Sprint 15 Summer TT and Inland Championships which formed part of the wider Grafham Cat Open. The Sprints were by far the largest fleet there but other fleets were also well represented, creating a great overall turnout.
The forecast was for strong winds, cold temperatures and rain. A reassuring return to form for the Grafham Cat Open following the light wind drifter last year.
Day one was the less windy of the two so the fleet rigged in the rain and then attended the briefing where Race Officers Nigel and Fiona Denchfield confirmed that three back to back races were the order of the day.
The fleet set off to the far side of the lake to the start area. It was a decent breeze at 15 knots and gusting but not at the top end of the forecast. The Dart 18 Single Handed fleet were the first start, followed by the Sprint 15s and then a Medium Handicap fleet.
The Committee boat was generally the favoured end of the start line and Jason Clarke did a great job of starting there on the front row, whilst many behind him found themselves parked up waiting to get through. Liam Thom, Ed Tuite Dalton and Mark Aldridge were among those that fetched further down the line for a clear lane start. Jason established his lead for the first lap, pursued by Mark and Chris Tillyer. The need for Jason to duck a boat from another fleet gave Chris the opportunity to take the lead during lap two which he held on to for the rest of the race. Jason came in second, followed by Mark. On the final lap Ed – our Association Chair - managed to head for the wrong leeward mark (the one set further away for the other two fleets) and took several of the fleet with him, allowing Liam, Steve Sawford and Jon Pearse to overtake him and take 4th,5th and 6th.
Darker clouds rolled across in the run up to Race 2 bringing a stronger baseline breeze and some bigger gusts periodically across the course. Picking the right way up the beat and even on the downwind leg became more interesting as different routes were favourable on different laps.
Race 2 was an interesting one from start to finish. Bunching on the start line resulted in Liam brushing the back of the boat in front and having to do a turn when there was finally room to do so. Those who tacked off to the right fared best and by the end of the first lap, Steve had taken the lead, followed by Stuart Snell, Mark and then Ed. Slightly further back, Jason had to do a turn having clipped Chris’ boat rounding mark 3 whilst Liam was steadily making his way back into the top ten. By lap 2, Stuart Snell had got in front of Steve and established a healthy lead by lap 3. Previously, the port side of the run had generally paid but then our Vice Chair, George Love led the charge with Yvonne Pike and a few others down the starboard side overhauling a good number of boats in the process. However, following the example set by the Chair, George then led the same group down to the wrong leeward mark, allowing those behind them to regain their places again. Race 2 also proved to be bad luck if you were called Rob – both Rob Bard and Rob Bailey caught separate gusts and capsized but both managed to right themselves and get a race finish. Whilst all kinds of things were happening in the pack, the front five were pretty consistent throughout the race, with Stuart taking the win, followed by Steve, Mark, Ed and Simon Farthing.
The sun actually came out for race three which proved to be mostly about taking the right way up the beat – although it was not always the same each time, resulting in a number of position changes throughout the fleet. From the start line, those who went to the left corner generally fared better than those who had gone right. Stuart Snell led at the end of the first lap followed by Steve, Ed and Liam. On the second beat, Liam picked the middle track and as a result, came out at the front of the pack followed by Steve, Ed, Simon and Geoff Tindale. This time, those who went left on the second lap found they had lost ground to those who had tacked off much earlier. Liam continued to lead for the final lap, closely pursued by Steve. At the end of the final downwind leg, Liam was so focused on stopping Steve from overtaking him, that he nearly allowed Ed to slip through on the inside of the mark rounding. Unfortunately for Ed, Liam spotted the maneuver out of the corner of his eye and rapidly changed direction to cut Ed off. On the final short leg from mark four, Steve tacked off and managed to cross the finish line seconds in front of Liam – followed by Ed, Simon and Geoff.
The fleet headed home in the uncharacteristic sunshine and packed things down ahead of the strong winds forecast for the next day.
The rain had reappeared the following morning and the competitors watched from the shore as the race management team headed out to assess the conditions and lay some race marks. Even stood in the lee of the clubhouse, the 25 to 30 knot plus gusts were perfectly visible across the water as were the waves on the far side that gave the RIB crews a good soaking. At 10am, a very wet Race Officer came ashore to report that the conditions were not promising for racing, but that he would re-assess in an hour’s time before making a final call. The wind showed no sign of abating, however, so a final call was made to abandon racing.
On the basis of the three races on Saturday – Steve Sawford had earned a comfortable Inland Championship win, with Mark Aldridge in second place, Ed Tuite Dalton in third and Liam Thom in fourth. The youth trophy was won by Abbie Clarke from Stone who completed all three races, despite the breezy conditions.
Big thanks to Nigel and Fiona Denchfield and all at Grafham Water SC for another great event.
Grafham was the final TT in our Summer Series – so the event prizegiving was followed by prizegiving for the overall series which comprised TTs at Stone, Stokes Bay, Draycote, Carsington and Grafham.
Report by Jenny Ball
Full Series Results available here