RS400 Nationals – Day 1
Report - Matt Sheahan; Photos - Sportography
I’m sure they weren’t designed this in mind, but the main doors to the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy have a habit of whistling in the wind in even the lightest sea breeze to make it sound as if there is a full blown gale outside.
After a while you get used to it, but to those arriving at the site for the first time, or for those that had looked at the forecast and hoped that the wind on the opening day would be a little closer to 10 rather than the 20 knots that was forecast, the doors’ exaggeration of the prevailing conditions would doubtless have been a bit unsettling.
But, as we all found out once we headed out onto the Portland Harbour race course, conditions were nothing like the doors had suggested. Instead, they were near perfect for a fast 3 lap blast around the race course with flat water and a steady breeze.
This year, rather than a gate start, the 73 boat fleet has been split into two fleets, Blue and Yellow for the first few days in order to create a ranking from which to then divide the fleet into Gold and Silver, much as is done in other major regattas.
As a result, start lines are shorter, the fleets smaller and the scrap at the first windward mark more dignified than usual.
But, in the first race of the day a general recall for the Blue fleet, (the second start), meant that when they did get under way they swarmed around the leeward gate as they headed upwind, just as the rest of us in Yellow fleet were firing down towards it under kite.
The threading of the two fleet certainly woke everyone up.
When the reshuffling of the two packs was complete the result was a mass fleet beat that some had wanted all along.
Whichever fleet you were in though, the racing was great fun with some sit-back-and-send-it style runs.
The second race of the day saw the breeze pipe up a little more, closer to the 20 knot range for a while, just long enough to catch a few out on the gybes and the tight leeward mark roundings where it was easy to end up testing the water temperature of the harbour.
Once again the racing was intense and fun, but it didn’t take long for a few familiar names to elbow their way to the front of both fleets.
In Yellow James Downer and Jack Holden (1385) took two bullets with Sean Cleary and Annalise Nixon (1377) taking a 3rd and a 2nd. Behind them it was the Robertsons, Stewart and Sarah (1463) who delivered a 2nd and a 4th.
In the Blue class Jon Heissig and Nicky Griffin (1454) were having a hard fought battle with Francisco and Teresa Lobato (1480) with Alex Barry and Richard Leonard (1144) getting into the mix to stir things up.
So at the end of the opening day and when compared to a normal weekend event, we were let off lightly with just two races rather than the usual three, but it didn’t feel like it once we were ashore. Even the rock stars were saying that the racing had been surprisingly tough.
Perhaps the doors had been right all along.
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