Thanks to Neil Washington – GBR 71 for writing this report:
After a week of watching the forecast struggle to make its mind up 15 visiting D-Zeros joined the 13 home boats at Grafham Water Sailing Club, for the Inland National Championships, over the weekend of the 10th/11th September. On arrival on the Saturday morning competitors were met with wet and miserable weather but spirits remained high. Most managed to rig their boats in between the showers and settle down for something to eat in the cafe whilst we waited for the briefing and the racing to follow at 1pm.
The fleet launched into a steady southerly breeze of around 10 kts. The outer-loop trapezoid course, featuring a downwind gate and a reaching finish, was set and race one was underway with a clean getaway for all. The breeze remained stable creating a cracking environment for some very close racing. Ian Morgan secured the bullet with a predictably solid performance closely followed by local man David Summerville and Daniel Wigmore doing particularly well to place 3rd , despite having tipped it in on the second downwind leg.
The first attempt at a start for race 2 ended in a general recall and the subsequent restart resulted in black flags for both Rob Lennox and John Aston. Morgan once again managed to show the rest of the fleet round the course but with never a dull moment as local helms Wigmore and Summerville finished close behind. Further down the rankings Graeme Tumber went right on the final downwind, taking advantage of breeze he’d spotted and made up a significant number of places finishing 5th much to the dismay of others who’d stayed more to the middle of the leg.
On to the final race of the day, race 3. All seemed well until about half way up the first beat when the wind shifted 90 degrees to the right in a handful of seconds, the race officer quickly abandoning the race. There followed a 50 minute on the water postponement whilst the race officer waited for the conditions to stabilize and the competitors got to enjoy the afternoon rainfall. Finally the new course was set and the start sequence was underway. With the vast majority of the fleet at the committee boat end Summerville had no competition for the pin end and was soon crossing the fleet on port. Wigmore tagged Mandy Sweet’s boat at the start and had to do his turns before heading out to the right looking for clear wind. Summerville held on to the lead all the way round only to find he was UFD at the finish leaving Wigmore to take the bullet, having recovered well from his start line misdemeanour, with Morgan in 2nd and Nick Miller in 3rd.
With boats packed away for the night a good number of competitors enjoyed a very pleasant social evening the GWSC bar.
Sunday dawned a very different day with beautiful sunshine and very light breeze. A good number of hot air balloons could be seen on arrival at the club which was perhaps not such a good sign though Ben Ratcliffe did seem to be enjoying the weather reclining in his deck chair next to his van.
The race officer was keen to get out on the water and see what could be made of the conditions and the fleet were encouraged to launch in case the scheduled 10:30 start went ahead. As it turns out there was an hour long postponement on the water but the conditions were perfect for just being out on the water in a boat!
Finally the wind settled enough to set a course and the fleet were away for race 4. Rob Lennox got away well in shifty and patchy conditions closely followed by John Aston. Aston managed to pass Lennox on the first downwind and the battle continued onto the following beat with Lennox once again taking the lead, which he held on to the finish, with Wigmore managing to get through to 2nd and Aston 3rd.
Race 5 and the shifty and unpredictable conditions continued to dominate the racing. The wind went right on the first beat leaving those on the left of the course losing out badly. With the wind staying to the right the second beat was almost possible on one tack and the lead boats enjoyed a reaching downwind leg for over half the leg before the wind swung back allowing Wigmore to extend an already comfortable lead down to the leeward gate. For many though the final downwind was a painful experience with those on the left barely moving whilst others were planing in tight patches of breeze. Paul Murphy had an exceptional downwind leg managing to hold onto a puff for a good deal of the leg, gybing several times to stay in it and arrive at the leeward gate in 3rd place. Wigmore took the bullet with a leg of water between him and 2nd place Morgan then Paul Murphy in 3rd with the rest of the fleet following in very close racing right to the line.
Race 6 and it was pressure on for Morgan who needed to place 3rd or higher and beat Wigmore, in order to take the trophy home. Another tricky race with significant changes of direction and patchy pressure. The wind went left at the top of the first beat with the lead boats in a tight group as they entered the first downwind leg. On the second beat the wind again swung left with those on the left gaining on the lead pack and Aston leading around the weather mark. Aston’s downwind skills were no match for the charging pair of Summerville and Wigmore with Summerville bagging the final bullet of the series, Wigmore in 2nd and Aston taking 3rd.
After a mixed weekend of sometimes very challenging conditions, certainly more so than we’d normally expect at Grafham, Wigmore was 1st overall with Morgan 2nd and Summerville 3rd.
With the usual generous supply of prizes from Suntouched Sailboats providing a reward for the efforts of the top 10 sailors there were plenty of smiling faces at the prize giving. Special thanks also to Nigel and Fiona Denchfield for a first class job as race officers in such testing conditions.
The D-Zeros meet again for the Northern Tour event at Rossendate Valley SC on 24th September with the next Southern area event taking place at Burghfield SC on the 29th October.
The date for next year’s Inlands is set for 16 and 17th September 2017 again at Grafham Water Sailing Club.
For full results click here.