So were the forecasts again correct? I think so. I use Predict Wind and 12 knot Southerly easing was their prediction. That was pretty much what the final two races were sailed in.
With both the scratch & handicap titles still open and all crews ready to attack a steadier breeze 9 boats lined up on yet another great start line. The 'top guns' TBS, Firestorm & Runaway were close together, sailing hard on the Wolstoncroft side of the course and feeling pretty satisfied, until they made their way back towards Sunshine. Matt, Troy & Mackenzie on Raptor were sailing well and holding a slight lead over Roger, Dom & Will on Devocean. And they were about 100m in front of Firestorm. Sweet! As usual Stowe and Black Diamond were again upsetting the hierarchy too. On the first run Tim, Hugh & Lennon on Stowe went hard toward the Sunshine side & once again were mixing it for the lead. TBS did similar and rounded the bottom mark with Firestorm. TBS sailed well but the weather was finally in the Firestorm go zone & Courtney, Dale & John sailed off to get the gun and seal the scratch title. Col, Adam & Janine were missing the power of their now broken mast but again sailed well to finish 2nd, from Chook, Hayden & Adam on Black Diamond in 3rd. Stowe continued to pick the breeze well & finished in a dead heat with Runaway for 4th. TBS & Runaway were now tied on points in the scratch series.
Raptor took an easy corrected time victory from Devocean. After that first lap it was not a surprising result.
The final race of the series started just like all previously - a long, even start line hotly contested. All boats got away well but unfortunately a big blank after this as to who did what in this race because the breeze was so shifty and puffy. You could dip the tuck of a boat and next time you'd cross 200m ahead. It took max concentration all race. Firestorm got the gun to claim the Coal Board shield. TBS seemed to be covering Runaway for most of the race but this is hard to do on a downwind finish and only 10 seconds separated them at the finish but TBS had done their job. Black Diamond was back on form and finished 4th ahead of Stowe in 5th. With a bit of separation in the fleet Firestorm took the corrected time honours for the race too.
In summary John, Dale & Courtney sailed Firestorm well enough in a range of breezes to win the scratch title from TBS & Range. The Handicap title went to Andrew, Mike & Chris on Incognito, from club rivals Purple Haze with Stowe 3rd.
Finally praise must be given to SLMASC for hosting the VS nationals in a style that suited the class well. Relaxed off water, competitive on. The key on water crew of Alf, Steve, Mark, Norm & Bob did an excellent job of setting true courses, fair start lines and coping with breezes from 5 knots to 25 knots. Thanks guys.
Equal praise for the on shore crew of Marlene, Linda, Lynne, Kathy, Tracey & Wendy.
Lunches were terrific every day, as were the afternoon nibbles with drinks on the verandah, only to be surpassed by the presentation night spread. Thanks ladies.
It was the 75th time the VS national series has been contested so we reached a milestone that many other classes can only dream of. I think it was one of the best but I've only sailed in the last 25 or so of those. You'll have to ask Tim about the rest...
Once again the weather forecast was correct. A fresh southerly was forecast and what did we sail in? A fresh southerly. Not as tough as on Sunday but enough to have the rigging area asking about whether racing would proceed. But we are a skiff class and it wasn't crazy conditions, so the starting boat crew set the course & got us away on time.
Eight boats made the start for the first race of the day. 2 Sailors + 1 had shredded a mainsail the previous day so was gone for the series. Raptor also headed for shore early after Matt had second thoughts about racing, much to the disappointment of Mackenzie...
A nice, long start line saw the fleet get away to a very even start. I think all boats crossed tacks at some stage up the work & rounded the windward mark stem to tuck. And all flew kites. Wineglasses on a few gybes changed some places but everyone stayed upright. Close racing continued for the rest of the race to the point that Runaway rounded the left hand bottom mark just before Firestorm rounded the right mark for the final beat to the finish. The wind shifted left and Firestorm took a close win from Runaway. TBS was a comfortable 3rd before Incognito crossed in an impressive 4th and for a probable corrected time victory. Except that rival Purple Haze finished an equally impressive 6th across the line and once again took the handicap victory. Three in a row! Has Alex, Andrew & Rob peaked too soon?
Race 8 was similar, except this time TBS really found their mojo and sailed mistake free race for an easy victory. Runaway kept them honest but (i don't think) crossed them in the race. Firestorm was even further adrift in 3rd but unfortunately did cross both TBS & Runaway when on the first run they gybed onto port only to have to luff to avoid both. They swum and started a long chase, eventually passing Incognito on the line. But this time Incognito were not to be done on corrected time and took a solid handicap victory. The ever consistent Tim, Hugh & Lennon on Stowe again crossed the line in 5th and scored a nice runner up place on handicap, which might prove crucial in the final wrap.
So going into the final two races the regatta is close. Check the results. But in summary Firestorm, Runaway & TBS are all still vying for the scratch title with just a few points between. But the handicap series is even closer. Hawkesbury hotshots Incognito & Purple Haze are tied on points with Stowe ready to claim the title should either falter.
The forecast for the final day of the regatta is another southerly. Some models predict light to moderate, some fresher. Let's just hope it is good VS sailing weather & we can all finish the regatta on a high.
See you tomorrow
Day 3 - Nats
A big day for all. With 3 races scheduled the fleet assembled around the start boat for a Northerly course. However just before the 5 minute signal the wind shifted 90 degrees. Steve, Mark & various assistants on the start boat have been doing a great job all regatta and continued so, pulling up the AP and resetting the course. So the early start now became a later than usual start, but the fleet was still keen. Firestorm more so than others and drew a IR flag when the fleet got away in an 8 knot easterly. But the breeze suited the lighter crews & Firestorm took the gun from TBS & Black Diamond. Runaway had held a higher place all race but lost out down a competitive last run to finish a close 4th. Check the race times!.
The lighter breeze was a welcome relief for some crews & kept the fleet close, with just over 10 minutes across the whole fleet. And everyone finished. This lead to close results on corrected time. Andrew, Michael & Chris on Incognito finally got to enjoy the reward for all their hard work and won the race on handicap, a whopping 20 odd seconds ahead of club mate Purple Haze, who in turn 'did' Raptor by a huge 4 seconds. Roger, Dom & Will were another 'lazy' 16 seconds further back in 4th. These places might be important come overall results.
Second race for the day and the breeze had settled more in the ENE and was building. Building enough for Michael, Peter & Murray on 2 Sailors + 1 to tear their mainsail in half & have another DNF. A frustrating regatta for "the little master" but it was great to see the champ at yet another nationals. The stories around the rigging area are legendary...
So back to the start & again it was keenly contested. This time it was Incognito to force a IR flag. Once again Firestorm, Runaway, TBS & Black Diamond all swapped tacks and gybes at the font of the fleet, with Tim, Hugh & Lennon on Stowe again lurking ready to pounce on any mistake. Plenty of passing but in the end Steve, Mick & Gabe on Runaway claimed another bullet, from Firestorm & TBS.
But once again the corrected time results were important. And with less than 10 minutes spread across the fleet the results were always going to be close. This time Alex, Rob & Andrew on 'The Haze' got the gong from Stowe, Incognito, Devocean & Raptor.
Third race for the day and the breeze was really freshening from the NE. This time no early starters but also no early finishers! Despite 15 - 20 knot gusts all boats finished & I think there was no swims. Nice. Again Firestorm, Runaway, TBS & Black Diamond lead the fleet, with Stowe again lurking. Firestorm sailed a good final lap and got the gun from TBS & Runaway.
The fleet again finished closely so it was no surprise the corrected time winners were those with good handicaps. And once again it was Purple Haze that got the victory, this time from Rog, Dom & Will on Devocean with Incognito 3rd.
Still four races left in the regatta so too early to call it but the scratch title looks like being a 4 way battle between race winners Firestorm, Runaway & Black Diamond and the comeback kings TBS. The handicap title appears also to be a 4 way battle - Purple Haze leading club mate Incognito, with Devocean close behind & Stowe again lurking!!!
Southerly forecast for Wednesday. Let's hope it has less bite than the last one...
Day 2 - of the Nationals
Unfortunately the weather forecast was correct. After a tough first day of racing a strong southerly wind was the last thing most of the fleet really wanted. Great work and camaraderie from all concerned saw TBS roll up with a replacement mast, 2 sailors + 1 with a repaired mast, Incognito with a repaired rudder box, Raptor with a repaired rudder and the rest of the fleet with repaired sails or fittings of some sort.
So with the white horses running hard around Sunshine point Dale & Mark took a tinny out before the start to gauge the wind strength. 18 with gusts to 23 knots. We didn't want another day with more boats broken than finishing so the skippers met and agreed to recommend postponing the start for an hour & reassess then.
In this ensuing hour much testosterone kicked in and crews started recalling sailing in 'much worse'. After another wind check reporting 17 gusting to 21 the concensus was "let's go!". Raptor & Devocean decided to wait for another day so 8 boats left the shore. Firestorm was first out and took it easy testing the conditions but Bob, Hayden & Adam immediately cracked the kite to impressively ran down the bay. It was only when they took the rag off that they realised it was near impossible to get upwind so headed for shore. Runaway and Stowe did likewise, as did Michael, Peter & Joey on 2 Sailors + 1 after breaking a tiller extension.
So with four boats still on the water Firestorm won a very uncrowded start & completed the course for a win. But it was with much caution. No spinnaker until the chasers flew one. Cautious tacks and no gybes. It was the hardest breeze I've sailed in quite a while & I'd reckon way more than 25 knots.
Col, Adam & Janine sailed TBS home safely in 2nd, less than 24 hours after breaking a mast. Well done!!! They also sailed a conservative race without a spinnaker but also made it home without a swim. The two lightest crews in 1st & 2nd demonstrates some good skills (and luck).
A bit further back, and with a bit heavier crew, Incognito had a few swims but persevered to finish the race. But Andrew, Mike & Chris got the applause of all on shore when they cracked the kite down the final run and finished 3rd. Awesome!!
Race 4 was postponed and is rescheduled for 1355 on Tuesday. But was that the only strong breeze for the series? Not by the forecasts...
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....