Datchet delivers

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A full fleet of Ms in powerful C Rig conditions get underway on Day 2

With another Marblehead ranking weekend was upon us, not content to wait until Saturday, some hardy folks met at the clubhouse on Friday evening to have a master class in rigging and a check of the lower rigs this was no doubt going to pay dividends for some folks later on..

Saturday dawned and 30 excited skippers arrived at Datchet radio sailing club and were welcomed by the usual fine breakfast offerings in the clubhouse coupled with the smiling face of our chairman, SailTerry Rensch and a very reasonable top suit breeze allowing a good course to be set on the north side of the reservoir.

For anyone who has yet to visit Datchet, it shares the Queen Mother reservoir with an active dinghy club which brings a number of benefits such as toilet facilities, bar, changing rooms, showers, ample car parking, security etc but importantly a very large expanse to go sailing on. I heartily recommend sailing there.

With the usual pleasantries of certificates and entry fee out the way, friends re-acquainted and new faces welcomed our Race officer for the day (Graham Bantock) reminded us all of the importance of being a willing and thereby active observer during his thorough skippers briefing and got racing underway.

The 30 boat entry was ideal for two fleets and six boat promotion/demotion and the seedings were won by Brad and Darin. Darin was airing his very familiar outfit of shorts and his fetching red Grunge while Brad opted for his 20 year old blue Paradox with Converse boots. The wind conditions stayed quite stable all morning all be it with a good serving of 5 to 10 degree shifts which were enough to keep us all focused. Boat speed was the order of the day here and the skippers settled into fine tuning their swing rig performance.

The sun was soon in full effect and if you didn’t have sun cream on and a hat you’d be the one glowing at the bar in the evening! But we’re not there yet, we had a total of 9 races (18 heats) to complete and the race team kept us all moving at a great pace.

With the prospect of qualification points for the honour of representing the UK at the upcoming 2020 World Championship, some familiar faces returned to the class. It was great to see so many current and past World, European or National champions of several different classes competing with IMHO the most glamorous class.

Race 2 saw Peter Stollery get his Up to the front of the fleet by finding the benefit of going furthest offshore and picking good pressure and direction on both beats to good effect, Brad had favoured the inshore route which gave a good lift on starboard, a shorter distance sailed to the mark but with less pressure hence less speed. A great downwind battle commenced with Darin’s cheeky red number not far behind.

Rob Walsh was in the mix too with a borrowed Starkers and Andrea Roberts rounded out the top 5 in race 2 with her very familiar pink Starkers once again proving that you don’t need to have brand new boats to be a success in the Marblehead class.

Talking of borrowed boats, there are always boats available to skippers who might want to try something different or for folks who’d like to dip a toe into the swift world of Marblehead sailing, from my reckoning there were 5 borrowed boats out on Saturday and a different 5 on Sunday! If you are interested, please do reach out to any of us but certainly as class captain I am very happy to help new comers get into this class and will do what I can to assist, just ask.

Race 3 brought more close racing and a noticeable racing incident when Darin was leading the fleet home on the last beat and collided with a running boat (no names to protect the guilty) leaving Phil Holliday to pick up a race win with his red Grunge, Brad was second with Roy Stevens sailing his Grunge into 3rd . Next was one of the borrowed fleet, it was Rob Vice who had negotiated a French fancy from Phil Holliday’s fleet and steered the Nioutram to 4th. Tony Edwards was 5thwith his bright green Grunge. Darin finally limped over the line in 7th place on the water but was given redress to 1st place after a swift protest hearing.

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Peter Stollery 39, Andrea Roberts 55, Brad Gibson 2 and Trevor Binks 19 approaching the gate on Day 1 in light A rig conditions

Race 4 and Peter Stollery was back at the front, from James Edwards who’s grey Grunge pipped Brad after a great three way battle. Phil Holliday was a solid 4th and edged out his older boat by beating Rob Vice into 5th

The fleet were growing weary as the lengthy course and constant sailing involved in two fleets with 6 boat promotion, so a brief lunch break was called and we enjoyed the hospitality of the host club and applied more sun cream!

Race 5 was another great battle between Brad and Peter settled in favour of Peter, James was 3rd, Phil was 4th and Austin Guerrier our esteemed webmaster had his best result of the day in 5th

Race 6 and this is when the breeze was getting less stable with some larger shifts but we sailed the same course, a new race winner was Duncan Ellis with his Grunge, picked all the right shifts and ended up comfortably winning from Brad and Chris Harris who had been uncharacteristically struggling during the morning with his new Nioutram, After only 1 practice event at Manor Park Chris had installed a new fin, bulb and rig in the last 2 weeks. 4th was Pete Stoll and 5th was Tony Edwards.

Race 7 saw the shifts growing in variability and the strength drop a little, the first attempted start was an abandoned due to the fleet laying the first mark in one tack and there was a short delay while Hugh McAdoo was busy in the boat resetting marks. Once complete, the breeze switched back again and the course had to be reset back.

Peter mastered these conditions with a win and John Tushingham scored his best result of the day sailing his well presented and reliable Vision design into 2nd place, Brad was third after being left out to dry on the wrong side of a big shift while well placed. Dave Potter was 4th with his Starkers and Phil Holliday was 5th.

Race 8 I can recall without my notes, while still shifty the breeze picked up a little, a big right hand shift pre-start encouraged all the skippers to head to the near end of the line and an inevitable general recall resulted.

Immediately prior to the second start the breeze shifted to the left and two boats were at the far end of the line to benefit, John Tushingham was on starboard while the other boat, Rob Vice’s Nioutram was on port, ducked John and cleared the rest of the fleet with a port tack flyer. I won’t bore you with every detail but suffice to say that same skipper went on to win race 8. 2nd was Dave Potter, 3rd was Andrea Roberts, 4th Peter Stollery just beating Brad into 5th place.

The last A fleet of the day, race 9 saw another world champion win his first race of the day, Rob Walsh beat the Grunge duo of James Edwards and Darin Ballington. 4th was Andrea Roberts and 5th was Brad Gibson, the only skipper to post top 5 results in every race, quite something when you consider how competitive the fleet is in top rig and with the variability of the shifts later in the day.

With the promise of more breeze on Sunday, we retired to the long-awaited club house bar for overdue refreshments, more sun cream and prize giving!

The score sheet shows how close it was at the top with countback separating the top two boats after discards left both on 15 points. Peter won that countback on race wins offsetting the heats where he was outside the top 5.

I should note my apology to the many great races that occurred in B fleet, whilst I observed many I didn’t note any so the above review doesn’t comment on what is regularly considered the hardest fleet to gain promotion from and the competitive level of the class means it can be all to easy to drop down and find yourself unable to get back out.

The fleet departed to their hotels, or homes to recharge their batteries and many met up at the local carvery to discuss the day’s events and recharge their fuel levels with suitable hydration taking up much of the evening, the class has been encouraging the social side of the sport for several years now and this is certainly made the two-day weekend events more popular.

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Winner of Day 1 – GBR 39 Peter Stollery

Sunday
After a good night’s rest the fleet gathered back at the clubhouse to see a rather different scene; the wind had swung enough to set an ideal course on the south side of the water and was building nicely already B rig suitable and more was to come.
Yesterday’s PRO Mr Bantock was back among the racing fleet and Sunday’s Race Officer was Dave Isset ably assisted by a team of Terry, Hugh and Les Thorn
We also gained John Taylor and Damian Ackroyd but Phil Holliday, Lester Gilbert and John Howell has other plans and didn’t race on Sunday. So with a subtly different fleet but still 30 boats, we all took to the water.
My notes are rather thin for today as I had my head buried inside a boat for much of the morning and the drizzle of the afternoon meant that my notes were only in my head, so this report won’t be recalling race by race but more themes and hopefully learning.
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Peter Stollery 39, Rob Vice 66 and Darin Ballington 98 all running hard

The seeding races were won by Graham Bantock and Brad Gibson. Peter Stollery and Andrea Roberts had second places with Roger Stollery and Darin Ballington both taking thirds.
The Datchet chop was growing as this south westerly wind direction allows the waves to grow for over a mile before coming to our sailing position and the concrete shallowing bottom generates a wave pattern that seems to upset many yachts. Despite being ‘only’ B and C rig conditions there were many yachts stalling out during tacks as they struggled to master this chop. Many races were won and lost during the beating legs when someone stalled often losing 10 places on this tightly matched fleet, especially vulnerable were boats squeezing in at the windward mark only to fall short and have to attempt two racks in quick succession.
As the score sheet shows, one man was mastering these conditions better than anyone, Brad was dishing out a masterclass and reveling in the C Rig conditions. His now familiar, jib well eased beating setup looked to be exceptionally well balanced and he seemed to retain full mobility when others were concentrating hard on tacking techniques and timing that perhaps they took their eye off of the wind shifts and tactical decisions.
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There were plenty of close calls in the overpowered C rig conditions (Windsor Castle seen in the background)

Several of us went to leading folks for personal doses of wisdom, and it’s another credit to this sailing community that everyone is very happy to lend some advice or encouragement. If there are any newcomers to the sport you really should attend one of these Marblehead ranking events to look, listen and learn.
With the morning complete the leaderboard had a familiar feel to it, a dose of rain drizzled down for a heat or two in the afternoon and this brought a change to the wind. First it eased off and most boats jumped back up to B Rig, while one even gambled on his A swing but shortly afterwards the breeze was back up to limit B and then C again.
The best of the wind was waiting for the last race where C2 and even C3 rigs were adorned by all the A fleet and the waves built accordingly into some quite wild conditions for these magnificent yachts to really show their paces. Once again Brad showed the fleet the way home by starting on the B of bang with plenty of room below him to allow him to sail fast to the shore and tack to port clearing the fleet and the rest was made to look easy.
So what else was noteworthy this weekend?
Firstly well sailed Brad, how old will the Paradox be before it’s no longer competitive? It’s not the age of the boat, it’s clearly the design coupled with some small upgrades, preparation and race execution. That’s why the same people are at the top of these events, they prepare well and don’t make mistakes. Sounds simple !
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There were new fins, different bulb weights (some heavier, some lighter), borrowed boats gave people new insights (this scribe learnt new techniques while sailing a Grunge in these strong winds and choppy waves) and I’ve not heard so many people describing their thumb movements while tacking before!
The generally agreed best practice was heard to be .. “have boat speed on the original tack, slowly luff up using partial rudder until the point of luffing, simultaneously ease the sheets to have the main boom 1 inch further out than your normal beating trim (this is to ensure your main leech is slack), and move the rudder aggressively to full travel (thereby flicking the bow through the wind). Gently ease the rudder back to half of its movement (not centering yet) to encourage an excessive angle to the wind on the new tack before slowly centering the rudder and once you’ve gained boat speed bringing the sheets back in to their beating position ”.  All of this could take as long as 3 – 5 seconds so you really don’t want to be doing two of them right at the mark, so overstand the lay lines and plan your approach. You’ll need to time this in relation to waves, boats, bouys and wind shifts so it’s not an easy task but hey, if it was easy it wouldn’t be the challenge we all love. That said, the leaders showed it not to be difficult at all so I guess more practice with thumbs and a balanced rig setup is the key!!
So far 2019 season has seen racing in A,B,C,C2 and even some in C3 proving the value of our investment in rigs and the effort of those attending the Friday night lower rig school. Never forget the 5Ps
“Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”.
Our next Ranking race will be the National Championship at West Kirby, who can take the crown from Brad if he’s still in this form??
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Winner of Day 2 – GBR 2 Brad Gibson

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24 Year old Paradox in full flight going on to win heat 9 and the day sporting 16 year old C3 rig sails!

Report by Rob Vice (UK M Class Captain)

Pictures with thanks to Roger Stollery
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