2014 Flying Fifteen Inland Championships at Grafham Water Sailing Club
Written by Barry Wyatt
41 Flying Fifteens made the journey to Grafham Water SC for the inland championships over the weekend of 21st – 22nd June, despite the slightly poor forecast; visitors came from all over the UK including Scotland, the Lake District, South & East Coasts, The North East & The South West, to this great inland sailing venue.
On Saturday morning, the fleet was greeted by bright sunshine and a sparkling breeze from the north-west: unfortunately, this died on cue at mid-day never to return in any meaningful sense.. With the light winds, a breeze swinging through as much as 60-degrees and wind holes were everywhere this was going to be a tricky day. The weekend became a frustrating experience for the race team lead by Peter Saxton and the competitors alike. With light breezes Windward-leeward courses were clearly going to be the order of the day and it rapidly became clear that the plan to sail four races on Saturday was likely to prove over-ambitious; indeed through the afternoon the mark layers probably burned off more calories than the FF crews in their frantic attempts to keep up with the wind shifts!
On the start line, the fleet lived up to expectations, forcing several re-starts before the PRO lost patience, dug out the black flag and restored a semblance of order. The first successful start got away after a delay of around 30 minutes: the lead boats split, with some looking for breeze towards the centre of the lake and other trying their hand along the north shore. The left-hand contingent was looking good until confronted by one of those Grafham headers. In the end, there appeared to be little to choose between the two tactics when the leaders finally reached the windward mark. Meanwhile, the remainder of the fleet was strung out along the lake and, by the time the leaders were approaching the downwind gate, there were boats still beating into negligible wind.
The race was correctly abandoned and the fleet settled down to a long wait for more stable conditions, these arrived around 3:00 (two hours after the scheduled start). A two lap race was indicated and started with initial boats coming off the pin end and heading left looking quite good, however in the swinging breeze those coming up the mid to right of the beat made the most of the shifts to get up the short beat and around the windward mark. A light touch on the spinnaker was required for the first downwind leg but with the breeze holding the windward mark was shifted further up wind. The next beat saw the fleet split left and right but there were big gains to be found up the middle a few boats profited well from this. It was unfortunate but the wind dropped further which made the run a tense affair however at the leeward gate and subsequent finish the order was Goacher/Evans, McKee/Smith, Apthorp/Clark. The race team then waited patiently while the breeze swung between north and west, occasionally gusting to the dizzy heights of 4 knots: after the best part of an hour of this, the PRO displayed ‘N’ over ‘A’ and everyone headed gratefully for the clubhouse.
On Sunday, conditions were even less conducive to racing and the decision to call matters to a halt was relatively straightforward and taken sufficiently quickly to allow visitors to attend prize giving and to get on the road shortly after mid-day. As a result the championship was decided on the one race, as per association championship regulations. So the final order for the weekend was Steve Goacher & Phil Evans (Royal Windermere) Dave McKee & Maf Smith (Dovestone) were second and Charles Apthorp & Jonathan Clark (HISC) third. Prizes were awarded to the first six boats, together with the winner of the Classic Fleet (Neil Barthlomey & Emma Brown), 1st lady (Ros Coleman) and 1st GWSC boat (Simon Kneller & Dave Lucas). Download full results here.
It was generally recognised that, in the circumstances, the PRO did well to complete the one race: indeed, the race team was praised for their great efforts to get sailing under way, for their professionalism and for the good communication with the competitors. The facilities offered by the host club (not least its ease of access) were much appreciated, as were the social arrangements, including the Saturday evening barbecue.