Racing Reports 2019
Dateline Dittisham - Saturday 18th April 2018
Early Summer Snakes & Ladders Champs 1 & 2
At last, Summer arrived at Dittisham, or at least a dull, overcast, windless, grey and not overly warm approximation of it, with the much anticipated Early Summer Points Series kicking off at the same time as the FA Cup Final elsewhere.
Confronted with a forecast of not a lot of wind veering through 270° backwards and dropping to Force 1 more or less at start time, coupled with the added delight of a strong incoming tide, race officers Craig Franklin and Trevor Kirk did the only sensible thing, and guessed. A small triangle was laid, with decisions on which triangular point to head to first left until everyone was on the water and the wind made the decision for them.
As forecast, the wind did indeed move from northerly all the way round to south-westerly before and during the race, and the tide incame strongly, but the promise of a Force 1 proved to be somewhat optimistic, with wind strength throughout most of the race being measurable in fractions of a Beaufort Scale.
Summer, as well as bringing the prospect of sparkling sailing in balmy weather and strong sea breezes also ushers in the division of the sailing fleet at Dittisham into the Solo Class, and the rest under the Portsmouth Yardstick (PY) Handicap flag. Everyone likes this, with the 5-minute gap between starts stopping the sedate Solos being bullied by bigger, faster boats, and keeps the pesky Solos from embarrassing the same bigger, faster boats by beating them over the water, let alone handicap.
The fickle wind eventually allowed a course with a short first beat into the demonstrably unfickle tide, followed by a couple of short non-screaming reaches. Craig and Trevor set a line that was extremely biased to those clever or lucky enough to be actually on it as the hooter sounded. Those that weren’t were left stranded behind the line with even more of the nasty tide to stem in next to no wind.
The beat, although unusually short (probably not more than 250 yards), caused huge consternation throughout the fleets, as sailing turned into a wet game of snakes and ladders (with large gobbets of seaweed thrown in to ambush the unwary) in the approach to the first mark. After plodding along 245 of those yards into the vicinity of the mark at a less than healthy snail’s pace into the tide and alleged wind, actually rounding proved a nightmare for many of us. A tack at the wrong time close to the mark could lead to disappearing down a conveyer-belt tidal ladder, ending up further away than when we’d started tacking. On the other hand, making it round the buoy and heading off down-tide on the subsequent reaches was like shooting up a ladder in a jet-pack having thrown a double-six. Boats that had approached the mark together could end up several hundred yards apart within minutes as one whooshed off and completed the first lap with the other still struggling with the slippery snakes at mark one. Many sailors were left feeling very Watford-like in the face of a remorseless tidal Manchester City.
But as always seems to happen, the cream rises to the top of the snakes and ladders board, and in spite of all the early summer climactic challenges and mixed-metaphors thrown at them, the top sailors seem to cope best as usual. In the Handicap Fleet, birthday boy Paul Honey in his Laser managed to sidestep all the snakes to make it round the infamous first mark first time in both races, and to almost glide round the rest of the course effortlessly to record two resounding victories. Quaffing his birthday beer later, Paul admitted it to being the best result he’s ever had on his birthday (sailing-wise), and he’s had a few of them (birthdays and/or beers).
Trailing frustratedly behind in the first race, but rather less frustrated than those way behind them were Paul Mogridge in his Laser and new sail, with James Dodd and his Phantom in third. The second race saw as much snaking and laddering as the first, with Steven Black ascending an extremely fortunate ladder on the last lap to catapult himself into second on handicap, with Bevis Wright in another Laser unlucky to be overhauled just before the line taking third place.
The Solo fleet saw serial series winner Jon Clarke dust off his brand-new antique pea-greenish Solo called Bashful. Nearly all the Solos at Dittisham are now state of the art plastic-fantastics, but 40-year-old Bashful takes us back to another century, when proper boats were made of wood, and most of the current venerable Solo helms were in junior management. But Jon demonstrated once again the old adage, that if you point a piece of wood in the right direction in tricky conditions, the lack of modern composite fibres matters nought. In Race 1, Bashful sailed Jon beautifully into a splendid first, embarrassing many of the supposedly faster handicap fleet by overtaking them, even though they’d set off 5 minutes earlier! Terry Phillips demonstrated his mastery of the light conditions to nab a highly popular second, with Pete Hammond third.
Race 2 saw plastic reassert its pre-eminence, with Pete Hammond’s mere strippling of a 7-year-old boat knocking Jon & Bashful back into second, with Richard Allen talking third.
Sadly, this was our last occasion to enjoy Ben Altman’s company, as he is returning to the US, and won’t be back until he takes up his Spring sailing residency next year. Ben has been a splendid addition to the Laser fleet, and will be much missed. Ben could have signed off on a high note with second place in BJMC1 up to Tuckenhay quickly followed up by another second in the recent Midweek Points, and must have been thinking that this Dittisham sailing was quite a breeze. But unfortunately he came along this Sunday and suffered horribly with the rest of us, especially in the last race…See you next year Ben!
Bank Holiday weekend sailing at DSC will be particularly exciting next week, as we have 4 races over two days on Sunday and Monday, with a Belles Beach Feast & Social Sailing on Sunday afternoon after racing for all club members, whether racing or not.
See you there…
Early Summer Points 1
1 Paul Honey Laser
2 Paul Mogridge Laser “Shore Thing”
3 James Dodd Phantom “Shady Lady
1 Jon Clarke “Bashful”
2 Terry Phillips “Subito”
3 Pete Hammond “Do”
Early Summer Points 2
1 Paul Honey Laser
2 Steven Black Laser “Ain’t Misbehavin”
3 Bevis Wright Laser
1 Pete Hammond “Do”
2 Jon Clarke “Bashful”
3 Richard Allen “Ocho”
Dateline Dittisham - Sunday 14th April 2019
Easter Points 5 & 6
Nobody minds a bitter chill in the air for the Iceberg Trophy between Christmas and New Year, but given this was meant to be mid-series Easter Points racing, there was a certain level of whinging from competitors at the icy blasts whipping onshore from the East.
With a rather strong but unstable wind out on the water, and gust bombs dropping in from all directions, race officer Paul Honey parked his committee boat in the middle of the Dittisham deeps and composed a simple triangle around it. At least, simple in shape, if not in execution.
Fifteen sailors left the shore and their misgivings behind them, to tackle the Force 6 gusts head on. Once out there, it proved not to be too awful, except in those randomly generated Force 6 gusts. Everyone behaved themselves impeccably on the start line and set off up the first beat of the first race. Johnny Moulsdale in his Solo timed his start to perfection, and at speed and on a huge lifting gust looked like he might make the first mark without tacking. But that was as good as it got for Mr Moulsdale, as the wind swung back viciously the other way, several times, and others led the fleet round.
Thereafter the afternoon’s racing became a tale of two Solos, showing the rest of the fleet how it should be done. In both races Pete Hammond and Jon Clarke traded places regularly, vying with much faster boats for the lead on the water, and absolutely waltzing into the first two places on handicap. The only doubt was which of them would come win overall, as at times they seemed to be falling over themselves to let the other one into the lead. In race one, Pete Hammond had overhauled Jon Clarke towards the end of lap one, only to hit the leeward mark and let Jon back into the lead for the next lap, with Jon then letting Pete back through on a tricky beat towards the finish.
As the gusts increased in strength even further during the second race, Jon Clarke fell over himself at the gybe mark. A rare event - so rare indeed that Mr Clarke claimed afterwards that he had forgotten what the build-up to a capsize felt like, and was frozen into inaction until the freezing water reminded him what he should have done in such circumstances. This handed back the initiative back to Pete Hammond, who sailed on flawlessly to his second victory of the day, with Jon Clarke putting his indignity behind him to claim his second second place.
All the way down the fleet everyone was having some exhilarating sailing, often verging on the deeply worrying as sudden gusts propelled them to great velocities, or just as suddenly tipped them in. But this did not stop some extremely close tactical racing also going on among the many Solos, and particularly the two Laser Radials of Martin Ely and Ian Wakeling, who in between fighting for control of their boats found time for some boat-on-boat dog fights and rule discussions.
The second race was notable for the two fastest boats, Craig Franklin and Chris Bates in their RS400 and the Albacore of Jonathan Weeks and Christine Carmichael, actually pulling away from the supercharged Solos of Messrs Hammond Clark for a change, and planing off into a considerable lead on the water. Seeing the be-spinnakered RS400 at full tilt on the reaches was quite something, but in spite of finishing several minutes ahead of the field they were buried on handicap. Slightly statelier in its progress behind, the Albacore did manage to hold its handicap to claim third behind the Solos. On being asked after the race how the vicious gusts had affected the Albacore’s handling, octogenarian Weekes claimed that they had caused his hat to fall off (twice), once again demonstrating the advantage of sailing a boat with a crew (someone to retrieve it from the bilges and place it back on his venerable head).
Jonathan Weeks & Christine Carmichael powering to windward in Adrenaline,
complete with recently displaced and replaced hat!
Easter Points 5
Easter Points 6
Dateline Dittisham - Sunday 31st March 2019
Easter Points 3 & 4
The 2019 racing season at Dittisham Sailing Club spluttered into action at the second attempt last Sunday, after a false start two weeks previously, where strong winds had scattered elderly/delicate gentlemen/ladies in Solos, Lasers and attendant safety boats to the furthest reaches of the Dittisham lake, necessitating eventual abandonment before racing could actually start.
Season-Opener Take Two brought forecast strong winds again, which fortunately didn’t quite materialise; suitably bolstered safety cover; and a club-line start and finish. A very healthy early season eighteen-boat fleet turned up as well, in spite of the slightly dicey weather outlook.
The first races of the Spring Series are always a time of renewal and relearning, in such matters as boat-handling, remembering where bits of rope and toe-straps are located, timing of starts to the second (or not), and just as importantly, listening to pre-race instructions. It takes some longer to relearn than others…
Given it was the very first race of the season, Race 1 saw a surprisingly competitive start, with lesson one relearned by the Albacore of Jonathan Weeks and Christine Carmichael, arriving at the line too promptly for British Summer Time and having to restart at the back. However, a storming first beat took them back to the front with the leading Solos of Jon Clark and Pete Hammond, just in time to relearn lesson two (where’s the course?), as all three headed off perpendicularly to where they needed to go; much to the glee of the rest of the fleet, led by Mike Bennett in another Solo, who planed off at speed in the right direction.
Lap one concluded with the first six boats rounding the leeward mark and sailing through the start-finish line as directed. The rest of the fleet in its entirety, not wishing to miss out on the lifelong relearning experiences on offer, somehow managed to sail past the far end of the start-finish line rather than through it, which was to cause quite some consternation later.
After three laps of long tricky beats and variable offwind legs, the Albacore received the first finisher’s hoot of the season, but having a faster handicap than its pursuers, didn’t manage to win on corrected time. First place went to Jon Clark (Solo), after a monumental tussle with Pete Hammond (another Solo), who finished just five seconds behind. Paul Honey in a Laser Radial came in third, Mike Bennett in yet another Solo fourth, Ian Wakeling in another Radial fifth. And that was that results-wise. The other two-thirds of the fleet crossed the finish line in eerie silence, having sailed the wrong course earlier. Triangles can be difficult concepts to grasp this early in the season.
Harsh lessons learned, Race 2 saw everyone start the correct side of the line, and sail the course as designed and explicated at the briefing. Boat-handling and toe-strap location still caused a few issues, with the odd occurrence of mark-hitting, falling out and capsizals clearing the winter cobwebs away, but all in all a very well contested race. Although the faster boats, the Albacore and Ged Yardy in his sleek new D-Zero took their rightful places at the head of the fleet on the water, the race was once again a Solo and Laser Radial benefit on handicap, with all the usual culprits from the first race in the reckoning. However, a brilliant tactical decision by Martin Ely (Laser Radial) on the last lap to take the side of the beat less-travelled over on the Greenaway shore took him from very much mid-fleet mediocrity to overall victory by several seconds on handicap. Messrs Clarke, Hammond, Wakeling and Honey trailed in his tactically magisterial wake.
A special mention must go to Denise Winks of the Ditsum Belles, who in the slowest boat in the fleet (her Laser 4.7), kept in touch with all the faster boats all the way round. Such was delight in her performance that she even threw in an impromptu capsize drill at the very last mark metres before the finish. But it was alright, nobody saw it…
Unfriendly tides mean no racing this weekend, and the season restarts in earnest on Sunday 14 April at 12.30pm, thereafter providing non-stop entertainment until late-December.
Easter Points 3
Easter Points 4