A week prior to the event the forecast was for F3/4 westerly, but in the last few days before the Seasalter TT low pressure systems built and the Saturday dawned with forecasts, for both days, of heavy rain then showers and winds F5/6 with F7 gusts. So it was testament to the fleet that 18 travellers arrived to join 7 home boats for the event. Unfortunately John Holmes (1978,SSC) had his mainsail rip as he was hoisting and had to withdraw leaving us with 24 competitors.
Saturday saw two races with a trapezoid course set and an offshore committee boat start. Race 1 saw 23 boats start and Dutch (1938, SSC) take a lead over Holmberg (2007,Shanklin) and Hawkes (1643,Thorpe Bay) that was to be unbeaten. Dutch managed to build up enough lead to maintain first place despite a capsize that broke a rudder when he fell onto it, luckily jamming it in the locked down position, and he righted in less than a minute. Whilst the fleet spread out over the 6 laps there were some close battles in mid fleet. Robert Finch (1838, Stewartby) held 4th place after the first lap but lost ground allowing Goldstone (2004, Queen Mary) and Ellis (1981, Thorpe Bay) to come past but on the 5th lap brother Jon Finch (1890, Stewartby) managed to just pass Ellis and managed to hold place to the finish. Goldstone, J. Finch, Ellis and R. Finch took 4th-7th with only 16 seconds between the last three. A local derby followed with Hollis (1206, SSC) beating Seymour (1923,SSC) at the line with 3 seconds between them. Despite the conditions only Hurst (565, Grafham Water) had the misfortune not to finish the race. Damaging a rudder on setting out he returned ashore and borrowed an SSC rudder and set off again only to be dismasted when the forestay lashing came undone.
Race 2 saw the arrival of Dewhirst (2006, Whitstable), having had a good few glitches sailing over from Whitstable and 24 boats set sail with Dutch again taking an early lead but with Ellis in hot pursuit. This time recovery from a capsize by Dutch was not quick enough and Ellis took a 2 second lead at the end of the 2nd lap. This he extended until on the last lap Dutch managed to get a cleaner beat and turn for the tight reach to the line for 1st place followed home by Ellis. Rob Finch held 3rd for 2 laps before losing ground again to allow Holmberg and Jon Finch through and, in a very close battle Jon Finch managed to pip Holmberg to the line in the last few yards to take 3rd by 2 seconds. Stephen (1594, Queen Mary) was the sole Sport mode entrant and followed 5th placed Rob Finch home by 2 seconds on the water to take 9th on handicap. Seymour held steady behind Hawkes through the whole race until the last lap, pulling past to take 6th over Hawkes’ 7th. Smith (871) and Burrows(1871), both from Thorpe bay retired with one boat slightly damaged.
Despite the conditions a tired fleet returned ashore well satisfied with a good day’s sailing despite some heavy rain and those severe gusts. After a good shower and a rest, the fleet joined SSC members and the race team for a hot and cold buffet prepared by Lesley Stafford (SSC) and her able band of galley and bar helpers followed by a leisurely evening in the clubroom and bar.
Day 2 saw forecasts with higher gusts but an apparent window in the weather during racing time. It was agreed to delay the start and hold two 40 minute races when conditions appeared suitable. The course was set and the fleet set out to the committee boat only to find the perceived lull was not to stay. The race started with some very close action seeing Dutch cross the line first with his boat flying a hull at 45o close to the starboard end and Ellis, trying to keep close, had nowhere to go and touched the mark, losing time doing his penalty. 23 boats started with John Bainbridge (747,SSC) capsizing and hurting his wrist and returned ashore with one of the race team helping sail his boat. Dutch was instead chased by Rob Finch and Holmberg for most of the race but came through to claim his third 1st of the event. Finch held off Holmberg by 4 seconds until the last lap and lost out again to follow Holmberg’s 2nd taking 3rd. Ellis recovered from his penalty to steadily climb up from 7th to finish 4th. Dewhirst chasing Burrows followed Ellis through the front group and on the third lap passed to make it Dewhirst 5th and Burrows 6th.
Newcomer to both the fleet and the Sprint 15, Simon Hare (1970, Oxford) had sailed well throughout the races, without even a capsize, but suffered a coming together of an eyebrow and his mainsheet block during a gybe and, retiring, was helped ashore for minor medical aid.
The winds during the race gusted to the very top of F7 and 7 boats retired and with a number capsizing, stretching the limits of the patrol boat cover, it was decided to return the fleet ashore and review the conditions for a period. After an hour it appeared that the winds were dropping with max gusts of 30 and steady F4 so the committee boat moved to position for the last race. However, with it on the start line, thunder and a lightning strike were observed amongst a very black area to the west that had appeared within minutes. The last race was abandoned.
Kevin Dutch, with three first places took the event trophy with Erling Holmberg 2nd and Martyn Ellis 3rd. George Stephen took the Sport mode trophy.
Despite the wind conditions being near the limit, the wind direction (S/SW) provides near flat water at SSC and provided some extremely fast sailing. Sunday saw boats lapping in about 8 minutes on near enough the same course that took 10-12 on the Saturday. The Sprint 15 provides a very forgiving sailing platform and judicious use of the traveller position enabled even the newest members to the class, some on their first TT outing, to sail well in every race, with confidence, and experience the thrills that high wind catamaran sailing can yield. Several entrants were returning to SSC having taken part in the 2011 Sprint 15 training weekend for novices held at the club – quite a bit of progression in a short time.
The overwhelming response from the fleet was that it was a thoroughly enjoyable, if tiring, event. Thorpe Bay did us proud with the largest traveller contingent (7 boats). A big thanks from SSC to them and all the other travellers who came and made it a great weekend – as ever a great fleet spirit of camaraderie and fun. We hope to see you all again, preferably in more normal SSC conditions.
I did not get the chance to spend much time talking to people due to my duties, and being engaged in running repairs for several boats (including an overnight rudder rebuild) so my apologies for not getting to know some of those new to SSC better. One message that we would like to pass on is that anyone in the fleet is welcome to contact us and come and join in with our club racing at any time – camping in the field if you wish. We have had visiting clubs in the past that want a ‘holiday’ venue for a long weekend for a group of members.
I know that a number of Sprint 15 sailors would have liked to take part in the ‘beginners’ training weekend in April but could not make it and we would be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to attend a training session. Dependent on numbers and location the Association can decide on the best location for the next training events.
In the meantime at SSC we would be happy to help anyone new to the class by inviting them to join us on a suitable club sailing weekend during which we can cover the beginners’ training programme in return for a small donation to the Association coffers. We normally have 8-10 Sprint 15s out on most club days and can combine training with club racing.
Full Series Results available here