Royal Rope4Boats RS400 Southern Tour at Lee-on-The-Solent
In a sign of the strength of the RS400 fleet, 20 boats arrived on Coronation Day for a Royal Showdown at a very wet Lee-On-the-Solent Sailing Club, the second venue on the Rope4Boats Southern Tour. The forecast signalled for a rain all day, combined with a 10-14 knot breeze that was due to veer 40 degrees at around 13:00, coincidentally the start of the first race.
Race 1 got underway on time with the current holding the eager fleet behind the line. The left side of the course offered tidal relief but there was always the threat of the right hand shift to factor in to any gameplan. Off the start, there was a drag race to the left hand side. Chris Eames & Rachel Tillie showed their speed through the sloppy sea state to quickly build a lead which they would not relinquish. Temporary members of the 400 fleet Ian & Chris Martin showed their calibre early on and were quick out-of-the-box to take second; perhaps we can tempt them into a 400 more often? James Stewart & Sam Parker rounded out the top three with a consistent race in the puffy conditions.
The second race brought less wind and a slackening tide with the wind occasionally flicking right as if to signal its intentions. By this time, Ian & Chris had it figured out and got on with the job showing good downwind speed to win Race 2. Chris & Rachel were consistent again sailing a secure race into 2nd place. Steven Broomfield & Jenni Lewis showed their fabulous upwind speed on the first beat, unfortunately they drew the short straw and found themselves UFD amongst a pack of several contenders for the prize. Local knowledge and the ability to sail fast through the Solent chop gave Neil Bevington and Alan Skeens the remaining podium spot for Race 2.
The final race of Day 1 and the tide was now in full flow driving the fleet over the line. This led to a number of recalls, and when the fleet eventually got underway the right hand shift was busy establishing itself, shifting the focus of the fleet on to the right of the course. The Martin’s and Chris/Rachel duly showed the rest of the fleet where to go with the Martin’s this time getting to the line first. A chasing pack including Neil/Alan, James/Sam as well as Steve Norbury & Andy Hill had a tight battle with positions changing often. The local combination of Neil/Alan showed good speed downwind in the semi-planing conditions to again take a podium spot.
Day 2 dawned with the promise of an Airshow and possibly some sunshine. The wind and tide were in a reversed state when compared with Saturday’s first race; some tidal relief could be found on the right hand side of the course but there was the threat of a left hand shift as the sea breeze established.
Race 4 saw Ian/Chris head to the right along with Sam Pickering & Emily Heath who had found a bit more speed in the lighter breeze and flatter sea. The two sailed in that order for the remainder of the race, although Steve Norbury & Andy Hill took advantage of a left hand shift up the final beat to cause some panic in the leading two and secure 3rd place for themselves.
Race 5 and the tide had now turned itself around again which meant the fleet were being pushed over the line. It took a few attempts and the wielding of the black flag by the RO to get the unruly mob in order. Once underway, the story was somewhat similar to Race 4 except Chris & Rachel had gotten off the line cleanly which inevitably meant they were back at the front. Ian & Chris had great speed through the water to take the race win and secure the event overall. Chris & Rachel came in 2nd with Sam & Emily narrowly crossing the bow of Jack Munnely & Lou Hosken at the final mark to take 3rd.
With first and second overall decided, the remaining podium position was left to be decided in Race 6. Steve/Andy showed their intention and shot off into an early lead. This left Alan/Neil and Sam/Emily needing to find some gains to grab 3rd spot. The downwind speed of Chris & Rachel eventually showed through as they overhauled Steve/Andy to win another race. Neil & Alan sailed the shifts well in the dying breeze to take 3rd. Further back, Sam/Emily managed to creep past a few boats at the last mark of the day to sneak into 3rd overall. One point separated 3rd to 5th places, a sign of the excellent competitive racing enjoyed by the 400 fleet.
Congratulations to Ian & Chris Martin who were deservedly crowned winners; maybe we will see you at Hayling Island for RS Summer Regatta & 400 Southern Championships on 24/25th June.
A huge thanks must go to the Lee-On-the-Solent Sailing Club volunteers without which the event wouldn’t possible. Each year they provide wonderful hospitality to the fleet and great racing in the Solent.