As the weekend of the Sailing Chandlery D-Zero inlands approached there was much chat about the forecast as in previous years it has looked pretty good only to change on the even of the event. Happily this year people turned up to see a good breeze blowing across Grafham.. For some though the event had started early the day before with a lengthy car journey. So a special mention to Niel Ritchie, Martin Latimer and Jon Bassett all from north of the border who made the long journey down to Grafham to enjoy the event event and the hospitality of D-Zero class chair Paul Jefferies.

At briefing PRO Nigel Denchfield announced we would be sailing a trapezoid course and were likely to all weekend. Nigel had done his homework with the assistance of Grafham D-Zero Fleet Captain Neil Washington and did a great job of keep the course optimal for the boat and the conditions all weekend.

So on to the racing, this is from the perspective of your roving reporter (as always) so those in the chocolates will get mentions if they were close enough.

Busy racing going upwind Photo Copyright Rodney Cobb

Race 1

Race 1 started in a building 10kt breeze with gusts up to 20 kts (bang on forecast). Up the beat it seemed to be Ben Flower showing the 30 boat fleet a clean pair of heels in the boat he had borrowed from current National Champion Steve Bolland (this was to become a recurring theme). As he happily sailed off over the horizon (the joys of youth, fitness and a bucketload of talent) your roving reporter was busy getting dizzy having misjudged ducking a starboard boat and then had a great view of the entire fleet. Luckily for me the conditions were to my liking and by the finish i had pulled myself back through the fleet having ignored the usual Grafham advice of ‘Go left…until it is time to go right’ as going to the right seems to pay for most of the weekend.

At the gun it was Ben Flower by a big margin from Dan Wigmore, Tom Southwell and David Summerville.

Race 2

For race 2 the wind had increased a little on average to 12kts but the gusts had calmed down to 15kts. Ben did the same as he had done in race 1 and the mere mortals of us in the fleet were left to (try) and chase him down.  There was close racing through the fleet and it seemed by now that everyone had realised that going left was not the way to go so the middle and right hand side of the course was pretty congested with very few clear lanes to be had.

Ben sailed serenely on to take the gun with another youngster in the form if Finley Boon sailing the demo boat crossing the line second with Tom showing a bit of early consistency and coming home 3rd.

Race 3

For race 3 the average strength had again come up a notch to a steady 14kts gusting 18kts. By now a fair few of the fleet were beginning to ache but not that man Ben who again sailed off into the distance. Behind him Dan recovered from a poor race 2 to post another second place with David Summerville completing the podium. There is a moral here as well. those close behind David had obviously not read the course in the Sailing Instructions and a couple of them missed out mark 4 of the reach to the finish (much to the concealed delight of those who were following) so John Aston found himself having to refinish several places down having corrected his mistake and Paul Murphy who had an excellent race did not discover until he got ashore.

After racing the fleet gather in the bar to have a good meal laid on by the catering team. there was the usual chat and banter with several people enquiring what the D-Zero poster boy Tom Southwell was doing in the sequence for race 1 where, with 3 minutes to go, he decided to examine the underside of his boat. His was not the only capsize during the day bu it was in front of the entire fleet and right next to the committee boat…

Tom Southwell demonstrating inversion  recovery Photo Copyright Rodney Cobb.

Sunday morning dawned and many aching sailors convened and there was a little dismay that the forecast was 100% correct and hard hiking would be required all day long. there were discussions on whether people were going to rake the rig and lose a little leach tension or try and tough it out. Mandy Sweet decided that the grey rig was just going to be too much and came on the water sporting her blue rig which was very distinctive. Others looked on enviously on the rapid ride out to the start line with a goodly number choosing to stay ashore.

A little line shy at the start Photo Copyright Rodney Cobb

Race 4

With the wind blowing a solid 15kts gusting 18kts the race officer set us off. Once again Ben gave a masterclass and came home to take the race win. You roving reporter was very well placed on the first lap of race 4 before deciding to bin it on the reach and lose several places as a result (that will teach me to laugh at those who didn’t survive the gybe, karma was definitely having day). I recovered to finish 8th but at the sharp end  it was Niel Ritchie who crossed second, recovering after a capsize himself (the one I was laughing at ironically) with Paul Murphy making up for his misdemeanour in race 3 to complete the podium.

Despite the increased wind strength the racing was still close (aside from right at the front) with people still pushing the boat even when at the limit of the winds they feel able to sail in.

Race 5

Race 5 started with the wind becoming increasingly gusty as the cloud started to break up. There were sustained gusts of 25kts at times coupled with small but significant shift to the west giving the mark laying team a bit of work to do during the race to ensure the bottom reach was still a reach. Ben had done yet another horizon job to clinch the title but behind him there was still all to play for. Not least of which was the Hunts vs Grafham trophy which was awarded to the best placed boat over both event from Hunts SC or Grafham Water SC. At the start of race 5 it was very close between your roving reporter from Hunts and Richard Major from Grafham (who had confidently predicted I was going down…).  At the finish I was 1 place ahead and held a slender lead in to the final race. Meanwhile at the sharp end Tom Southwell posted a second place to all but seal his runner up spot with David Summerville completing the podium.

Sending it in the breeze Photo Copyright Rodney Cobb

As a footnote to race 5 Mandy Sweet in her blue rig was showing some excellent speed both upwind and offwind. Aside from on the broader reach she seemed to be able to compete with the larger grey rigs boat on boat in the breeze.

So going into the final race. Ben decided he had enough fun and took an early shower leaving a race win up for grabs. Who wanted it more?

Race 6

The wind average was around 15kts but the big gusts had moderated slightly. The sun was making the wind shift around and this was to play an important part in the race. At the end of lap 1 David and Tom were fighting it out for the lead with your roving reporter happily sitting in 3rd place. As we had been doing all weekend the 3 of us went right, me more so than Tom and David. This proved to be a costly mistake with the middle left paying handsomely to group behind with Grafham Water D-Zero Fleet Captain Neil Washington coming through the lot of us to take the lead with Paul Murphy having another good race to come home behind Neil. What of Tom and David? Somehow Tom managed to give him the slip and complete the podium. With David only managing a 5th place this means Tom secure runner up sport with David taking 3rd.

As the fleet came off the water it was clear that everyone who has gone out had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and even the young and fit (except for Ben) were aching to a greater or lesser extent.

On to prize giving and D-Zero Class Chair Paul Jefferies thanked the event title sponsor Sailing Chandlery for their generous sponsorship with a little something for everyone on offer. The PRO Nigel Denchfield and his team for their slick race management throughout the weekend and Grafham Water Sailing Club for hosting the event. Grafham Water Commodore John Aston also thanked all the competitors for travelling and making the event the success it was.

Ben Flower receives the D-Zero Inland Champion Trophy Photo copyright Paul Jefferies

The Sailing Chandlery D-Zero Inland Champion for 2018 Ben flower also said a few words. thanking all of those involved for the great running of the event. the class for welcoming him and Steve Bolland for the loan of a boat. He said he would like to come and have another go as well. Perhaps we might just give hum a bucket to tow round to give the rest of us a chance!

Top 5 overall (full results click here):

1st Ben Flower – Hayling Island SC
2nd Tom Southwell – Netley SC
3rd David Summerville – Grafham Water SC
4th Neil Washington – Grafham Water SC
5th Niel Ritchie – Aberdeen and Stonehaven YC

1st Lady and 1st Blue Rig:

Mandy Sweet – Grafham Water SC

Endeavour Award

James Gerwat – Felpham SC

Furthest Travelled

Martin Latimer, Jon Bassett and Niel Ritchie

Hunts SC vs Grafham Water SC Challenge

Paul Jefferies – Hunts SC

More photos can be found by clicking here.