How many sailors obsessively check numerous weather forecasting websites, five days in advance, in the vain hope that they might find one that promises them the winds they hope for and actually believe it? And then, when the real weather arrives, comment that this was not what was forecast?
The second British A Class Catamaran Association TT of the year was at Rutland SC as part of their Cat Open. 19 of these elegant machines were turned out onto the lawn in front of the clubhouse where a fresh North Westerly breeze was blowing right onshore, giving the usual impression of it being windier than it actually was. One reason for the good turnout was that about 14 of the UK fleet are based there, however, 7 visiting boats, including one ‘really fast sailor’, swelled the numbers for what promised to be some good fleet racing in a ‘something for everyone’ wind range.
Most visitors had arrived on the Friday, to be greeted by the sight of 30kt gusts blowing across the lake. This wind seems to be loved by the Sailability group, a keen selection of disabled sailors who seem to have no fear in their Challenger trimarans and Access dinghies, and merrily blasted about the place, confident in the full knowledge that snapping things never happens to them. But, a practice sail on the Friday was off for the ‘A’ Cats, where snapping things, and usually expensive things, is always on the cards.
The wind for Saturday was not as strong though, starting at about 17kts. from the same direction. But it started to drop throughout the day, which was not really on the forecasts. By the 1pm start, it was about 13kts, which was pretty suitable for all abilities in the fleet as there was a good mix of newer foiling boats, a few converted into foiling, and several straight and C board boats that would thrive in lighter conditions.
The first races got underway efficiently by the PRO on a 3 min sequence. A few F16s tagged along too making it the Fast Handicap fleet. The other fleets were the Hurricanes and the Dart 18 single hand fleet. Then, as the fleet approached the top mark, the wind just evaporated and swung 20 deg left. The PRO had no option other than to stop the race as the Darts had yet to start. 15 mins later it got going again. The wind had now picked up a little more again so all boats cleared the top mark in about 7 mins flat. On that first beat, the right side was the best and was discovered when a couple of the local boats, searching for clear air, tacked away to discover a good area of pressure lifting them past most of the fleet. But, on the next lap, it had gone to the other side. A few of the more competent foiling sailors managed a bit of foiling, but Rutland is notoriously difficult to get a good foiling run on. The shifts and gusts really don’t help and the unwary can frequently be tempted into simply going for speed and forgetting that VMG is their king. The result is that well sailed C board frequently gets near the front in marginal conditions.
The race was won by that ‘Really Fast Sailor’ who is Paul Larsen, current holder of the ultimate water speed sailing record on Vestas Sailrocket 2. Paul joined the ‘A’ class fraternity last year, getting a foiling eXploder A15 and this was his first serious TT on it. He actually capsized on the last mark, but got the boat back up in an indecently fast time to still clinch a bullet from RSC boy Dave Lowe on a C board DNA.
The remaining two races were in similar conditions. The wind shifted about, building and dying making it a real test of skill/luck . Race two was won by Paul also, with another local lad, Mike Bawden, following in second place on his foiling DNA. Race three was won by another new convert, Grant Piggott, also on an eXploder, but this time with RSC’s Bob Fletcher second on a C board DNA also.
Back in the clubhouse that evening, Paul gave us a very interesting presentation on how he broke the speed sailing record, with 65.45 kts, after being inspired by a forgotten 1961 book called the ’40 Knot Sailboat’. When he showed us the 55 year old books cover, it had a illustration that bore a stunning similarity to Paul’s Vestas Sailrocket 2!
Sunday’s racing proved to be a real lottery. Bright sun and very light winds, huge shifts that lifted sections of the fleet leaving other poor unfortunates totally sidelined and some amusingly big gusts that seemed to catch a couple of unwary sailors on the wrong side of their sails between starts, to the entertainment of the others as they slowly fell over.
Mike won the first race, Bob the second and Dave the third, so something for everyone.
In the end, the PRO managed to squeeze the 6 races for the series. As it was a fast handicap race rather than an official ‘A’ Class race, the minimum wind limit of 5kts was not in play here, and probably for the best as it gave everyone a chance to massively foul things up should they wish to.
Paul Larsen won the event from Bob Fletcher on countback, and Dave Lowe was third.
They say that a bad day sailing is still better than a good day in the office. How true!
Thanks to Forward WIP for their sponsorship.
Photos Jodie Bawden and Helena Darvelid/Sailrocket.