Rooster Solo Nationals Day 2

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

My alarm bell this morning: the roar of a V8 as it shot past my sleeping VW Beetle at approximately 7.15 a.m. The 2 hour power nap following my 323 mile road trip from Mayfair to Marazion via Brixham had done the trick; I was still breathing. My view was worth the personal sacrifice, St Michael's Mount stood proud in the morning sunshine, wavelets lapped upon the sandy beach and flags flicked into life, only their direction pissing on my parade.

An easterly would have been too much to ask but anything with north mentioned would generally result in a flat sea state, shifty conditions and light pressure and that is pretty much what the 98 competitors faced.

Day 1 recap

Quickly back to day 1, which had been earmarked as Harken Race Day: The fleet of 98 Solos put to sea, the light breeze, mixed with the back of an Atlantic swell provided some of the pond sailors with additional challenges. Race 1 was won by Hayling Island's Alex Butler with Andy Davis second and Guy Mayger third.

The wind increased slightly for race 2 allowing the fleet to stretch their legs and it was Tom Gillard who took the bullet with Olli Davenport second and Andy Davis third.

I understand from eye witnesses that the gate start for race 1 was a sight to behold and not for the squeamish, as competitors jostled for position to go through the gate. While the concept is to spread a large fleet of boats across an imaginary line with the pathfinder, in this case Mark Lee, beating to windward on port, it appeared that most of the 98 competitors wanted to start right on the gun.

There was a further complication as some sailors, clearly unable to read the SIs (or just too macho), decided to start on the wrong side of the cherry red buoy that denoted the start of the gate. On-the-water umpire Steve Watson commented that some of these virginal gate start competitors would never forget the day they missed the cherry!

Tom Lonsdale finished tenth in race 1 and was therefore pathfinder for race 2, for which I am sure he was absolutely chuffed about.

Day 2 report

Fast forward then to Race Day 2, sponsored by HD Sails/KLG Estates, and the fleet were released from the beach at 10am precisely. The sight of 98 laminate sails trickling out past the Mount, accompanied by a pod of dolphins, was a delight for the sailors and spectators.

Pathfinder for race 3 would be Jamie Morgan, and with the left favoured I am pretty sure he was cursing the bloke whose bright idea it was to choose port for the pathfinder instead of starboard.

As a point of interest, and with a guard boat to protect the lucky blighter, maybe the pathfinder should choose which tack they want to take to open the gate? My idea so I want full credit please when this goes international.

The breeze was at around 040 but fluctuated between that and 025 (0 is north for the non sailors reading this but it always sounds more professional when we use the numeric terms). The course displayed L3 so three laps then.

Andy Ritchie came in from the left which cemented the fleet's conclusion that left is good, to lead from Richard Instone and Tom Gillard. The breeze was holding at 6-7 mph and the spread of the fleet across the course was quite startling. Mark Lee and Malcolm Buchanan were next from Paul Ellis and Andy Tunnicliffe.

The fleet rounded the leeward gates to complete one lap then did it all again for lap 2, Guy Mayger and Andy Davis working their way forward into the mix while Tom Gillard took the lead. The wind was dropping and the run down to complete lap 2 was pretty uneventful. I glanced at my watch and noted that we had been racing close to an hour, guess this would be the last lap?

We motored down with the fleet, umpire Steve Watson continued to scan the mast tops for signs of naughtiness while I looked toward the committee boat. A club tender was moored in position, upon it's mast a brightly coloured flag hung limply, not looking at all interested in flying. We all commented that there was no blue flag which ordinarily denotes a finishing line and no shortened course flag.

Tom chose to round the left gate but instead of hardening up for lap 3 he continued on toward the committee boat, the fleet following. Met with silence as he crossed the invisible line we fully expected the next competitor to harden up and head upwind but one after another, the sailors followed, the David Attenborough documentary on Lemmings sprang into my mind and still they continued to fall from the cliff. The race officer took finishing positions, the race though, following a lengthy protest hearing would conclude that all the competitors had failed to finish the race in the allotted time and were therefore DSQ'd.

On to Race 4 then and the wind had just enough puff in it to allow racing to continue though the potential for a three race day was dubious. Pathfinder would be Michael Gifford based on his tenth place provisional result in the race 3 debacle but, following the events off the race course, he would later receive redress and average points for race 4 based on races 1,2,5 etc.

Paul Ellis was first out of the box but only after one aborted start. I would suggest that one of the wooden tenders, commonly found in these waters, would provide a more suitable threat to the FRP hulls than the nice bouncy rubber of the RIB.

The pathfinder was keen to get onto starboard but was not released from his burden until 2 minutes had passed. The right of the course was also becoming a no-go zone for boats under sail, while those picking a course up the middle left were able to extend.

Ellis rounded first from Willie Todd and Andy Bayliss, the transom cam fitted to his Solo clearly giving him an incentive to do well. The Salcombe sailor is well versed in the vagaries of light to no wind sailin;, Salcombe has a habit of honing or breaking the human mind and Ellis is a master... today.

Steve Denison, Andy Davis and Chris Brown rounded close behind and they would have a race long tussle, Denison dropping back for a short time while he completed R42 turns - I am sure his close rivals were gutted for him.

The second and final lap was tense but not thrilling, Andy Bayliss going slightly higher and coming into the leeward mark first by the shortest of margins, Tokyo style. He did almost fall in, our jury/media RIB kicking up a surprisingly large chop right on the mark; fortunately for us he regained his composure to post the bullet with Ellis second, Todd third and Davis fourth.

HD Sails and KLG Estates were generous sponsors today; HD caps were distributed amongst the fleet and beer flowed courtesy of Patrick Burns who was later voted in as our new class President. Doug Latta accepted a canvas and Speyside whiskey with grace and warm words after stepping down.

Tuesday promises more wind... could there have been less today?

So, after day 2 and with three proper races done, Davis leads from Gillard and Butler but with one discard already assured for the fleet, there is a long way to go in this championship.


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