RS400 Scottish Tour 2019 Event 7 – Lochaber Yacht Club 21st and 22nd September
The bright morning sun rose over Fort William, bathing the caps of surrounding mountains in a golden glow while sea eagles soared majestically above and the sweet song of [some songbirds] rang out across the glen… mingled with the howl of family estates being thrashed along the road in an attempt to arrive at Lochaber Yacht Club before Angus and Imogen. For the 9 crews that ventured up to Scottish sailing’s ‘wild (north) west’, the spectacular scenery of a warm September morning was forgotten on reaching the dinghy park in a bustle of measuring tapes being hoisted up masts and calls of ‘my spreaders are 402mm – should I be putting them another hole out?!’. A certain Mr Britton even appeared to have brought two masts to the final event (rumoured to have different spreader rakes), such was the panic permeating the Scottish tour after a certain RS400 blogger’s musings on setup.
The intense activity on shore was broken up by the RO’s insistence to put away the Loos gauges and go sailing in a rapidly building southeasterly, making its way down to the course off the lee slopes of Ben Nevis. The course was set with the line at a competitive distance of 6 boatlengths to windward of the western shore, and the windward mark an equally friendly distance from the shift-bound opposite shore. The first start was nothing short of eventful – with Britton/Atkinson and their optimised rig finding the wrong mark for the pin end somewhere far to windward of the line… But incidentally the right mark for the weekend’s Duckham’s nomination. Meanwhile, Marshall/Barnett were uncharacteristically ahead of time, putting them squarely four boatlengths over when the gun went. Yeamans/Yeamans and Gay/Henderson made no such comedy errors, leading the fleet towards the windward mark for the first lap. However Ben Nevis deployed a mean left shift on lap 2 sending Marshall/Barnett to the head of the pack, which they held all the way to the finish line… or what they interpreted as such, despite the SI’s saying differently. The fleet followed with the exception of Yeamans/Yeamans, who were awarded the bullet for the insight of actually doing what the SIs said. Marshall/Barnett were awarded a charity 2nd, with Rogers/McLaren following into 3rd after a race of constant contention at the front of the fleet.
A major right hand shift during the sequence created intense competition at the committee boat end, making nailing that side critical to leading the first beat. Marshall/Barnett called it best, and led the beat, but it was Gay/Henderson who showed their mastery of planing early down the run and shot into an unassailable lead. Robertson/Hope had a strong first beat, but a big gust on the top reach gave Davies/Moran an opening to get through while Robertson/Hope had a very bittersweet centreboard inspection. Bitter, as helm Hester (in accordance with captain-ly etiquette) ensured she remained bone dry throughout, much to the ire of a very wet crewman Richard. Sweet, as the moment was recorded in glorious HD by the overhead drone, to be replayed on a certain video-hosting site for all eternity.
Race 3 began with a big shift back left tempting no fewer than 3 boats to loiter suspiciously just past the pin end, and at least as many setting up to close the door on the mark. Alas, it was the strengthening tide that laid the real ambush, making sure the RO’s X flag got plenty of exercise. The first lap had a wealth of position changing, but in lap two it was again Gay/Henderson who made it clear ahead, although Rogers/McLaren in Gonzo never let the gap get too large. However, Gonzo suffered the weekend’s most crushing moment with a shock capsize a mere 100m from the finish line, allowing Gnasher and the Taylors through to conclude their battle with a finish line overtake from Pete and Cheryl to take 2nd.
Race 4, the last of the day, had the same left hand bias on the line and the same favourable tide, giving the RO’s X flag another opportunity to earn its keep. Britton/Atkinson made a strong start and a fast beat, but it was Marshall/Barnett who led by a whisker at the top mark. The fleet was not far behind with Birse/Grant fighting it out in the midfleet against Davies/Moran and Robertson/Hope. Eventually, after a particularly shifty second beat, Yeamans/Yeamans had closed the gap enough they made an overtake on the downwind and held out to take a bullet in the last race, followed by Marshall/Barnett, then Gay/Henderson having fought their way back through the fleet a 3rd finish.
Back ashore the unicorns made their appearance while all the day’s misadventures were shared over a few bottles of the finest ale from the tour’s sponsor Stewart Brewing. LYC put on an excellent curry for competitors and volunteers, making the perfect setting to award Phil and Mike a bottle of whiskey for their sterling Duckham’s effort in race 1 – a well earned honour despite intense competition from numerous others.
As dawn rose over the glassy-still loch on Sunday, hopes for getting racing in were not high. Despite the RO’s best efforts to set a course it was not to be, and racing was wisely abandoned. Thus the die was set for not only the weekend scores, but the final leader board for the 2019 Scottish RS400 season. It was Jon Gay/Amanda Henderson who took home the winners bottle of Nevis Dew for the weekend, with Bob/Nadia Yeamans in 2nd, and Angus Marshall/Imogen Barnett rounding out the podium and picking up the coveted reporting duty.
Many thanks to Lochaber Yacht Club for hosting an excellent event, to Ben Nevis Distillery for supporting the event, and to Stewart’s Brewing for supporting the RS400 Scottish Tour. Also thanks to Vince Dean for capturing some of the event by drone! We look forward to seeing everyone again in next year’s season, where the Scottish Tour demo boat will again be available for all comers to take part in the racing! If you would like to use the Scottish demo boat, please get in touch on the RS400 Scottish Tour facebook page.