A fleet of ten Hadron H2s joined their slightly wider sisters, the Merlin Rockets, at Chichester Yacht Club for the joint open meeting on Saturday 23rd March. The day had dawned rather overcast and the first decision of the day was how many layers to risk as the morning chill was bound to be displaced by the heat of combat once racing got under way. During the briefing all the competitors were reminded that they would be faced with one of the biggest tides of the year, the Spring Equinox having just passed, and that would be taking them over the line for the first start. Anyway… enough of that and on to the racing.
A clean first start, in about 10 knots, saw last year’s winner, Ian Dawson (Warsash SC), Alistair Glen (Starcross YC) and Dick Holden (Arun YC), together with Roger Millett from the host club sailing a demo boat, in roughly that order at the first mark. Over the first two laps of a figure-of-eight course Dawson and Glen remained in close order whilst building a small lead over the chasing pack.
It was all to change on the last lap as Andrew McGraw (Northampton SC) chose the path less travelled along the right-hand shore and established a lead at the windward mark that he would hold to the finish. On the last run against the tide, pressure from behind compressed the fleet with Chris Brown (RORC) being the biggest beneficiary, slipping into second place only to be pipped by Glen on the line.
The same recipe for the second race, albeit with a slackening tide, saw Roger Ewart-Smith (Itchenor SC) claim a handsome lead by the end of the first lap, pursued by Dawson and Holden. Unfortunately, your correspondent is unable to add much colour to the account being, as he was, back in a different time zone, spitting feathers! Suffice to say, Dawson slowly reeled in the escapee but Ewart-Smith managed to maintain enough of a lead to take the win. Glen, by this point able to judge the time difference with a watch rather than a calendar, had made steady progress to finish third.
The Race Officer conducted a quick ‘shuffle’ of the course and start line for the third race to accommodate a breeze that was becoming less stable and dropping and a tide that was, by now, ebbing and gathering pace. With five potential winners of the event it was, to borrow an overused cliché, all to play for! Chris Brown got the perfect port-end start but as the fleet worked its way up the left shore, it was Glen who emerged with a healthy lead at the first mark followed by Dawson and Holden. Glen extended his lead over the next two laps, continuing to work up the left shore on the beat.
Just to prove that either shore would have worked, had you been prepared to risk all, Holden and Dawson split tacks at the beginning of the final beat, each taking a different shore, and converged at the end of the beat with no discernible separation! With the wind at the top of Chichester Lake becoming somewhat ‘funky’ (an eminent Merlin sailor’s description), Glen had to concentrate hard to pick his way around the ‘snakes’ and hope that Dawson and Holden didn’t find too many long ‘ladders’.
On the final reach down-tide towards the finish, Holden found a decent sized ladder to leave ‘light wind flyer’, Dawson, in his wake. So Glen held on to win the race, Holden was second and Dawson third. Ewart-Smith, winner of the second race, was, significantly, fourth, some distance back.
Overall, this gave the win to Alistair Glen, second place went to Roger Ewart-Smith whose counting combination of 1,4 pushed the slightly more consistent Ian Dawson with 2,3 into third.
Thanks must go to the team at CYC for putting on a very well run event in a welcoming atmosphere with a particularly warm thank you to all those involved in providing the ‘sailors’ tea’ that greeted us on our return.