Richard Bartholomew wins the Lake Ullswater TT in light winds

BACCA Lake Ullswater ‘A’ Class TT

Royal Yachting Association Club Of The Year 2017, Ullswater Yacht Club, were the generous and friendly hosts of the latest British ‘A’ Class Catamaran Association Cat open meeting and tolerated these 7’6 wide single-handed cats taking up their front lawn. 

Despite a forecast of torrential downpours and no wind, 7 ‘A’ Cat sailors and one Unicorn decided to finally make the trip to beautiful Lake Ullswater for another round of their TT series.  And in the end, it never rained whilst the sailing took place, but in fact, took place under increasingly blue skies. However, the wind was a little on the light side and it promised to become a sailing game of Snakes and Ladders.  The ‘A’ Cat fleet is now divided into 2 types; the Classic non-foiling boats with straight or C boards, and the Foiling boats with their J, JZ or Z boards.  But in light airs, the Classics will often have the upper hand having the lower drag boards and fat-headed sails.

Famous for the Lord Birkett  Memorial Trophy race, the cats were keen to sail the 14 mile round trip to the southern end of the lake and back.  This was scheduled for the Saturday.  Assisted and accompanied by their Race Officer, Malcolm Yates and his safety rib driver Matt Bell, the start finally happened after a 2hr delay.  The ‘A’ Cats, usually know for their ‘take no prisoners’ upwind performance and which only a few other cats can match, started their drift down the lake, all setting their ultra low drag modes for 2kt wind.  Each sailor searching for the little zephyrs of breeze that would propel them to the next one in a sort of sailing dot to dot, with the sailors hardly daring to move once some momentum had been established.

The Race Officer decided to put the sailors out of their misery and finish the race short, just at the westerly kink in the lake about 2 miles or so down from the start.  And of course, as first sailor, Gordon Upton on his DNA Classic, finished, the wind filled in, allowing all the other sailors led by Ian Blease-Dudley on his DNA Classic and Richard Bartholomew on the Exploder A15 Foiler, to cross the finish within a few dozen seconds of each other.  (The lone Unicorn of Oliver Murray finished 8th on the water, nearly 10 minutes after Gordon, but on corrected time was actually 2nd!)    However, as it is such a beautiful venue in the English Lake District National Park, North West England, and seeing a decent wind ahead in the longer western arm of the lake, all the sailors just decided to keep going for the fun of it.  And, of course within minutes, the whole fleet were flat out on the wire streaking through the mountain scenery towards Glenridding. The sun was out, the water was flat, all was right with the World and Champaign sailing was experienced by the whole fleet.

The next day 3 round the cans races were scheduled.  The club decided to fit these in with the UYC club racing, just with a separate start sequence.  Still in light airs, and minus the local Unicorn, the fleet set off in the 5kt wind.  This soon dropped to about 1kt but in patches across the lake.  Again, the ‘join the dots and hope for the best’ technique resumed.  Jamie Walker on the Bimare XJ Classic picked the best route beating Phil Neal on the Exploder A14 Foiler and Richard.  Gordon managed to miss the gate on the first upwind leg and had to return back, as did Ian, allowing Lester Barr on his DNA Foiler to finish 4th.  The keen newby to the fleet and on his first open meeting, Francis Marshall on his Bimare V1R Classic, gave up that race after his boat started sailing backwards on a few occasions – a totally understandable reaction.

Race 3 was led by Gordon from start to finish.  He inadvertently sailed into a nice sustained gust at the top of the first windward leg, surfed down a lake steamer’s wake and managed to stay in the gust for a while downwind, gaining half a leg lead.  Richard and Phil were the only real challengers and finally Phil clawed back to within 100m at the finish.

The last race was led by Richard all the way from Phil.  Gordon was in third until he strayed too far right on the last downwind leg and ended up on a hole as Jamie and Ian sailed past.

But, in the end, despite the superlight conditions, everyone had a most enjoyable time.  A lovely club, great food from Chef Dave and a superb venue – what’s not to like?

Many thanks to UYC, and to Malc Yates and Matt Bell.