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TOPIC: Warsash 2015 Open - Report

Warsash 2015 Open - Report 3 years 6 months ago #1264

  • TheTallOne
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Fourteen Blazes (seven natives and seven travellers) arrived at Warsash for the traditional pre-nationals open meeting. One last chance to stretch the legs before the Nationals. This year the results might be especially prescient, as the Championship will be held just around the corner at Hayling Island, early July.

At the race briefing the usual warnings were trotted out; Don't sail over the bar, Don't sail in to the shipping channel, Don't be sail in to the armed Marines performing a simulated assault on their own club house. Business as usual on the Solent.

Out in the race area the “light wind day,” proved to be anything but, fifteen knots of steady breeze, gusting higher and a mile long beat to stretch out the fleet, lovely. The course was a simple south-facing trapezoid and, for the first time in my memory, competitors were compelled NOT to sail through the gate on each lap. One less thing to get wrong.

Race one started in good order with Rob Jones and Andy McIvor leading off of the starboard end. They held on starboard and went left with most of the fleet. Two boats, Jon Saunders and Bob Cowan tacked early for the right side and, as the fleet spread, Jones and Saunders tacked and met squarely in the middle of the beat. Having swapped sides they met again at the windward mark with Saunders just leading, followed close by Jones and then Cowan. It was clear that approaching the windward mark on port was favourable, as the tide effectively lee-bowed boats and lifted them (quite significantly) in to the mark, rather than pushing them past it. On the run Jones closed the gap and finally overtook on the following beat, having learnt his lesson and stayed left. With a fifty yard gap between Jones, Saunders and Cowan, the order persisted to the finish.

Race two saw the re-laying of a pretty biased line and the fleet responded by spreading down it. At the port end Saunders hit the mark and Jones led off unchallenged. He stayed left and led all the way to the finish, leaving his rivals to battle for second. Hattersley rounded after him with an excellent upwind performance, followed by Saunders and McIvor. Saunders sailed inside of Hattersley on the run, only for McIvor to do the same to him and take both of them. The order switched again on the final mark as a sloppy rounding cost McIvor the lead and let Saunders in under him to take second.

By now the steady wind, bolstered by a burgeoning sea breeze, cranked up to twenty knots and began to really test people. Jones and Saunders met again at the pin end and led off left with Hattersley, before tacking across. A pair of forty foot yachts presented themselves, reaching rather majestically across the upwind leg and presenting the leaders with a choice. Sail below on port or try to tack in front on to starboard. You might recall a certain, now infamous, sailing video of an assymetric skiff trying to get across the bows of a moving tanker. The end of that video involves a broken mast and has given weight to the advice, ALWAYS GO BEHIND. Jones clearly remembered this and led Hattersley on port, Saunders did not and as the two yachts headed up to avoid him he lost out badly. Jones tacked on to starboard for the windward mark and sailed the rest of the race blissfully unchallenged, with Saunders and then McIvor following belatedly behind.

Back on shore, and with complimentary tea and cakes in hand (it's a hard life) there was the usual serious debate on the subject of taste in sailing boats. Probably the best sound-byte came from an exceptionally croaky Jones “If Jeremy Clarkson sailed, he'd sail a Blaze. There's lots of power, it's very comfortable and if you hit someone they come off worse.”

I might have made up that last bit. In my defence it was very hard to hear him as he was suffering with a bad cold. Throughout the day he had periodically doubled over coughing between races, before, once again, taking the rest of us apart in the most consistent fashion. When I remarked on this he shrugged it off. “Your work just as hard when you're sick, it just hurts more after.” YOU do Rob, I don't know about the rest of us. Still, hope springs eternal, three races left and if history tells us anything it's that while Rob Jones may be fit to win, his boat may have other ideas.

On a side note I'm told there was some sort of party on Saturday night. I wasn't there, but judging by the green faces, particularly a young chap from the Buzz fleet (making his peace with God round the back of the changing rooms the following afternoon) it must've been a pretty good night.

Sunday dawned...and then wished it hadn't bothered. Rain, a dark, threatening sky, terrible visibility and very high winds. Racing postponed. We waited, the rain passed, the island vista once again appeared on the horizon and we launched in to a deceptively light breeze. The course today would be smaller and far closer to the club, where it was hoped the calmer waters would make life easier.

With the black windward mark a much closer target and a lighter breeze (perhaps twelve knots?) Jones led off of the starboard end and tacked early, relying on the tide to once again lift him toward the mark. With lighter airs and, importantly, calmer waters, he would not have such an easy time escaping his pursuers. Simon Beddows was first around the mark behind him and led the chasers down the two wing legs (it was a triangle course today), closing the gap to a mere few boat lengths. As for the chasers, they were far more tightly packed than previously. Behind Beddows Martin Astbury, Ian Clarke and Martin Hattersley formed a trio and pulled out a short-lived gap. As lap two progressed and the breeze came up Jones once again pulled out a lead and the chasers focused on the battle for second. On the penultimate leg Clarke was sailed over by Astbury and Saunders. Beddows looked set for an easy second, but capsized on his final tack for the finish, Astbury continued on port for too long out of the final mark and Saunders tacked for the line behind him, taking second.

As we shared the event with both the RS400s and the Buzz Nationals, no speech was required of the still croaking Rob. The results speak for themselves though, straight 1sts. While he was occasionally challenged it's pretty plain that right now, if the wind blows and the waves are tall, Rob Jones remains the clear favourite. The Nationals are in July though, over three days who knows what conditions mother nature will bring. Add to that that the current champion, Ben Pickering, will be in Turkey (nice diary management, Ben.) so it is very much an open contest. I'll see you all there!
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