For the 75th time the VS 15'skiff fleet has gathered for the national title series. South Lakes has hosted several series in the past so the crews were looking forward to another successful series. But after the first two races in the series some are thinking this is a series to remember for the wrong reasons. But let's start at the invitation race...
Friday saw 9 boats rig ready for the Sid Peare Invitation Trophy. There is a lot of history behind this trophy so it is well sought after. As in recent years it is a 'two buoy' handicap race, whereby after a scratch start a boat receives a handicap advantage by sailing a shorter course. Sailors can choose when they can take their handicap advantage so the astute play their cards well.
TBS & Firestorm lead the fleet away from the start & had another epic battle up front. After a good start Chook, Adam & Hayden on Black Diamond was also looking menacing and keeping their cards up their sleeve.
(Un)fortunately during the first lap the breeze freshened, nudging 18 knots, so boats sailing the shorter course were advantaged less. The stronger breeze also lead to a few incidents. Col, Adam & Janine on TBS had chased down Firestorm & just taken the lead when they had an uncharacteristic swim on a gybe. Then on the final lap Black Diamond played their 'short course' card and snuck in front of Firestorm, only to also swim on a Gybe, leaving John, Dale & Courtney to take the victory. Tim, Huey & Lennon sailed Stowe mistake free to claim 2nd, from the fast finishing TBS & Black Diamond. The rest of the fleet got home OK, except for the newly painted Raptor, with Matt retiring the boat after Kenzie fell and suffered a nasty leg injury. After the race she didn't complain. For an 11 year old she is pretty tough kid.
After sweltering in a +42 degree all morning, by the time the fleet faced the starter for race 1 of the series a 15 knot NE'er was in & building. It cooled the sailors but increased the heart rates. With Steve back from Singapore Runaway was a welcome addition to the fleet with Steve & Mick joined for this regatta by Gabe. The big two of Firestorm & TBS again had a great battle up front, closely followed by Runaway & Black Diamond. After a lap of swapping places TBS had just hit the lead again when a sickening crack was heard, followed by the toppling of their mast. Firestorm then had a long swim on the final gybe, allowing the ever present Black Diamond & Runaway to slip past & fight for the lead. In the end Chook, Hayden & Adam took the gun. Well done. Runaway took an easy 2nd with Firestorm just recovering to pass a well sailed Incognito on the final work. Rog, Dom & Will rounded out the finishers bringing Devocean home in 5th, albeit having a swim & breaking their record of not capsizing at a nationals. I wish I could say that!!
So now for the tales of misery of the DNF'ers. TBS was worst hit, with the broken mast. Stowe broke a so called 'high load' vang pulley. Michael, Pete & Joey on 2 Sailors + 1 broke a kite pulley which then damaged a spreader. Matt & Troy on Raptor again broke Macca. Alex, Rob & Andrew on Purple Haze also broke something, but I can't remember what.
So that thinned out the starters for race 2. And the breeze was still freshening, over 20 knots near the island. Raptor, Stowe & Purple Haze made it out again but Devocean decided to keep something for tomorrow. Andrew, Michael & Chris were trying to fix a spreader before the start but ended up tearing the rudder of the boat for a DNS. So 6 boats started.
Firestorm & Runaway lead the fleet away, closely followed by Black Diamond & Stowe. The breeze filled more & things changed after a lap. Firestorm blew up the jib line & swum heaps trying to fix it. Raptor tore the rudder off. Stowe blew the tack line pulley. But no such dramas for Steve Mick & Gabe - Runaway sailed superbly for an easy win from an equally well sailed Black Diamond. Stowe persevered without a kite for the final run to claim 3rd. Firestorm finally stopped swimming to steal 4th on the line from The Haze.
There is a big southerly forecast for tomorrow so lookout for some news of what happens when it really blows....