Mid-September can see weather that is variable, to say the least. In the few days leading up to the 2019 Grafham D-Zero Open Meeting it was looking promising.
With a good pre-entry of 17 boats and another turning up on the day a total of 18 boats, 5 of them visitors, took to the water. Unfortunately someone forgot to tell the wind that it should have turned up too and the fleet were treated to the bizarre sight of boats a few hundred meters away sailing in the gradient breeze with us sat on the other side in a light and fickle northerly. Luckily the sun was out so people took the opportunity to have a catch up and discuss the Grafham strategy (which hadn’t been working recently).
After 90 minutes of bobbing around the PRO Nigel Denchfield decided he had seen enough and sent us ashore to await further instructions. By 3.30 it became clear that the wind simply was not going to play ball so racing was canned for the day and thoughts turned to Sunday. This was a blow for a couple of locals who had only managed to secure a 1 day pass so would miss out completely.
With a 10:30 start and the race team already out when most people arrived, there was a flurry of activity in the boat park and we headed out.
Race 1 was held in a light but shifty westerly breeze with occasional larger puffs allowing the lighter guys to get up on the plane offwind. They key to the day was getting a good start and then playing the shifts upwind. Something your roving report failed to do. that combined with clipping another boat leaving me dead last (again). I could just about see Grafham fleet captain Neil Washington showing the fleet a clean pair of heels though thanks to his rather bright orange hat.
At the line it was Neil who took the win followed home by Richard Major in a borrowed boat, seems someone forgot to remind him that if you borrow a boat you are not allowed to beat the person you borrowed it from…. with Ben Stevens in 4th.
For race 2 at the front it was repeat of race 1 for Neil with him quickly getting out the front again and showing us how it should be done. This time it was another Grafham sailor, David Papworth who came home second with Richard Major posting a 3rd.
Your roving reporter managed a more respectable race this time but still seeming to have left my sailing brain ashore coming home 8th at the back of a pack of boats.
Finally in race 3 the stars aligned and I found myself right at the sharp end of the fleet. Rounding 3rd just behind local boats John Aston and Paul Murphy. John slowly sailed away from the pack behind leaving us to fight it out for the minor placings. Richard Major came through to take second and I was hold 3rd until a disaster at the leeward mark left me dropping 4 places to 7th with Gordon Stewart taking the final podium place and briefly breaking the local stronghold at the front.
With Neil only managing a 4th in this race the open was still up for grabs if Richard could win the race.
For race 4 I took an early bath, Neil takes up the story….
Having messed up the start and first half of the first beat in R3 I’d left myself work to do to in the final race to ensure Richard didn’t get the bullet he needed to knock me off the top spot. Sure enough staying with Richard for the start and up the first beat, saw us well down the ranking at the windward mark. So far, so good. Having kept Richard in place nicely the wily chap, known locally as ‘Tricky Dicky’, snuck inside for room at the mark rounding onto the second reach. Again this is OK I thought as we’re still a way to go and well down the ranking. Early on in the final beat I’d managed to pop out in front of him again and was feeling comfortable. An unfortunate encounter with an RS600, with whom we were sharing the track, saw Richard sneak through though and to make matters worse we’d gained a ton on the leaders, rounding the windward mark 3rd and 4th behind Colin Glover and John Aston. With 3 substantial offwind legs to go, (Richard’s not slow offwind) and a reaching finish, my heartrate did quicken a touch. Colin Glovers substantial lead afforded me some comfort and so it was that he and John held position leaving Richard and I in 3rd and 4th respectively. Job done and on to a fine pint of Elgood’s Golden Newt at the bar!
Ashore a quick bit of maths showed that Neil had taken the meeting with Richard Major second and John Aston 3rd. First visiting boat was Gordon Stewart from North Herts and East Beds in 7th.
The next event for the class is the Northern Championships at Prestwick SC this coming weekend followed by the Emsworth Slipper Open on the 29th September.
Full results can be found by clicking here.