Round Two of the hugely popular Sprint 15 Winter TT Circuit took place at Carsington S.C. in the heart of Derbyshire on Saturday, 1st December 2012. Nine combatants from the furthest reaches of the Blightly joined three local souls to do battle under sunny northern skies in a quick-fire two back to back race card.
The question on everyone’s lips was – “Could anyone get the drop on Stuart (Mr Consistent) Snell (Grafham)?” – who has managed, in recent times, to get his hands on just about every trophy in The Sprint 15 world. Time would tell.
Paul Grattage, past Sport National Champion, had made the trip from the tropics (Shanklin, Isle of Wight) in his Winnebago. No one had told him that it was now winter in the high latitudes. The frosty chill had, however, not dampened his spirits and he was up for the challenge. So too was Paul Craft from the near tropics of the south coast (Open Dinghy Club).
Peter Slater, Derek James and Jan Elfring were to lead the charge from Draycote in the unofficial inter-club challenge against the local protagonists of Mick Steer, Andy McLeish and Ray Gall. The ever present Winter TT specialists of Gordon Goldstone (Queen Mary), Richard Philpott (Colne) and Robert England (USA – Uther Side of Ashbourne) completed the field.
It was cold! Over pre-match bacon butties in the warmth of the clubhouse, some bright spark (Paul Craft) suggested the event could be decided over a convivial game of cards. Some thought this an excellent idea as it had the potential to produce a shock result and improve their position. But the sun was coming out, the breeze was filling and the racing beckoned.
RO John Webster and his able side-kick, ARO Jack Hayhurst set a square course on a heavily port biased line to tease the combatants. After some wavering, they all took the bait and started cleanly on port.
First to show was local sportster, Steer, chased by England, Slater, Craft and Snell. At the first lay-line, England went for a roll-tack (never easy on a cat!) and promptly rolled it all the way impeding Snell who narrowly avoided a collision. In a day of light breeze, England proved the only one to trouble the safety boat manned by Pete (Pitchpole) Stokes and Simon (Cat Fleet Captain) Gillis. Mid-fleet saw battles aplenty with Philpott, McLeish and Goldstone trying to take advantage of every windshift in an effort to overtake each other and catch the front runners. Further back, Jan Elfring was making amends for a bad start by climbing through the field to overtake clubmate James who was finding it tricky to make the ‘Sport’ mode pay in a variable breeze. Steer held on to his lead to take line honours. Snell, after losing ground, fought his way back and eventually got the drop on Slater, Grattage and Craft. They finished in that order with Steer demoted to fourth on handicap. Snell had, once again, put down his marker.
Whilst the course was re-set for Race Two, the event photo RIB toured the fleet with offerings of pre-festive chocolates. Some said they would have preferred coffee laced with rum. Paul Grattage, still holding on to summer, asked for a Pimms. The practicalities of such service and the limits of northern hospitality in these straightened economic times were stretched to the limit and he was left disappointed.
It did not, however, diminish his resolve. At the start gun he blasted off the line to take a tenuous lead from Snell, Slater, Craft and Philpott. Steer, who had been well in the groove in Race One, had gone ashore with reported “cold feet”. This leading group were to be harried all the way to the line by McLeish, England and Goldstone. Elfring, James and Gall were locked in a constant battle at the back of the field, the latter two swinging in and out on their trapezes as the wind filled and died. Elfring was eventually to get the better in that particular encounter. Grattage continued to improve his advantage throughout the race making mileage of every windshift. Try as he might, Snell cold not overhaul him with the constant attentions of the chasing pack keeping him looking over his shoulder.
At the gun, it was Grattage, Snell, Slater, Craft and Philpott in that order.
So Snell took the win overall, – can anybody keep this man down? But some great sailing from Grattage, Slater and Craft made him work for it all the way.
The next event of this fabulous series takes place at Draycote on the 5th January 2013. It’s all to play for. “Doctor” Snell is good but not infallible.
(As for the unofficial Draycote versus Carsington Challenge, the jury are still working feverishly on the abacus with some complex calculations - watch www.sprint15.com chat pages for the “official” outcome.)
Full Series Results available here