The Flying Fifteen Inland Championship was held on May 11-12 at Chew Valley Lake. 12 home boats were joined by 23 visitors, making the biggest Open event of the year so far, despite the weather forecast predicting some very strong winds. The highly competitive fleet included current and past World, European and National Champions.
As the fleet launched for a 1pm start, and 3 scheduled races for Saturday, the wind was building steadily from the west. Race Office John Smalley and his team set a classic triangle/sausage course and the fleet got away for race 1 at the first attempt.
The left side paid on the first beat – although some boats were tempted to stay out on the left for too long and then found a port tack approach to the windward mark in this fleet wasn’t easy! At the first rounding, the local team of Ian Cadwallader and Nick Stone lead the fleet, followed by Steve Goacher and Phil Evans. The first reach was too tight for spinnakers – some hoisted after the gybe but few boats managed to carry kites all the way to the leeward mark.
On the second beat Goacher and Evans took the lead. The wind had veered by now and most boats opted for a gybe-set after the spacer mark for the run. For the second triangle, the reaches were more manageable and most of the fleet was able to carry spinnakers, especially on the broader second reach.
In the fast conditions, the 2 complete laps set by the RO were completed in around 40 minutes. Goacher and Evans held the lead to the finish, followed by Cadwallader/Stone in 2nd, with Alan Bax and James Grant in 3rd.
By now the wind had really picked up, and most of the fleet took shelter in the lee of the clubhouse for the few minutes it took to get the second race set up. The race team managed a quick turn-round, and race 2 was under way soon after the last boats had finished race 1.
Race 2 saw the strongest winds of the weekend, with 40mph recorded in some of the gusts. A third of the fleet retired, some with damage including broken masts. There were many broaches and capsizes, with even a few past championship winners seen stood on their keels at times! First place in race 2 went to Richard Lovering and Matt Alvarado, second were Greg Wells and Andrew Jameson, and third Goacher and Evans.
With the wind still very strong, and with damage sustained throughout the fleet, the Race Officer decided to postpone race 3 to the next day and sent the fleet ashore – although many had already made that decision themselves! Overnight leaders after 2 races were Steve Goacher and Phil Evans. After recovering boats, and effecting some repairs where necessary, the fleet took advantage of the Chew Galley and then the bar well into the evening.
Sunday brought much more benign conditions, and the fleet was afloat for a 1030 start, to get the remaining 3 races of the series completed before the forecast return of the strong winds mid-afternoon. The course was the same triangle/sausage configuration, with the wind still from the west but averaging around 15mph at the start of race 3.
This time the right hand side of the beat was the way to go on lap one, and some different faces were seen near the front at the first mark rounding. By the end of the race it was Bax/Grant in 1st, Wells/Jameson 2nd and Cadwallader/Stone 3rd.
Contrary to the forecast, the wind steadily decreased throughout races 4 and 5. Goacher and Evans took another 1st in race 4, the team of Jeremy Davy and Paul Busby had been moving up the fleet all weekend and took a 2nd and 1st in races 4 and 5 respectively, and Robert Hogben / Glyn Morgan made it into the top 3 with a 2nd place finish in race 5.
At the end of the event the scores were very close at the top of the fleet, with the first 5 boats all between 10 and 15 points. 2nd was decided on countback, with Richard Lovering and Matt Alvarado taking 2nd from Ian Cadwallader and Nick Stone. First overall, and the 2013 Inland Champions, were Steve Goacher and Phil Evans.
Full results can be found on the Chew Valley website, here: http://www.chewvalleysailing.org.uk/files/results/flyingfifteeninlands2013.html
You can see the PHOTOS by clicking here