For the last three years the club has run an RYA Start Racing course to help enable members to navigate the sometimes daunting prospect of joining in with club racing.
What the course syllabus lacks is a real-life Open meeting experience, with an NoR, SIs, registration, briefing, committee boat starts and a prize-giving. So the club now stages an exclusive regatta for the people who have completed the course. The prospect of racing against your own peer group is far less terrifying than just rocking up at an Open event and competing against experienced sailors, and it’s an ideal way to finish off the course.
This year, personal circumstances, injuries and clashes of dates reduced the field to five brave souls as the hottest day of the year dawned. The forecast was for very light winds, but in fact there was virtually none! Up went the AP and Race officers David and Richard announced a rolling 30-minure review with a final decision to race or abandon by 2pm. Only one of the three scheduled races was required to constitute a regatta, and after lunch a very light but consistent breeze emerged of the southeastern side of the dam. A short windward-leeward course was set, but as the competitors set off it swung round through 180 degrees, so the windward mark conveniently became the leeward mark and vice versa.
As the countdown commenced, the five competitors showed excellent boat handling skills to position themselves close to the line, but in the extremely light airs, Anne-Marie, Charlotte and Teah seemed to drift together raft-like, and this allowed Johannes a clear lane off the line at the pin end. The raft allowed Anna to catch up but finding any consistent breeze at all was extremely difficult. As the three boats separated it looked like Anne-Marie was gaining on Johannes and was well placed to round the windward mark in second, but alas, she found a windless area and this allowed Charlotte to round next, followed by Teah.
Patience, keeping still in the boat and heeling it to leeward to allow the sail to fall into shape was key and Johannes soon established a sizeable lead, but in such light airs, big gains and bigger losses are possible, so nobody was giving up.
The prospect of having four women in hot pursuit might have been flattering and terrifying in equal measure for Johannes but he showed consummate calm under pressure and as the seconds ticked down it soon became clear he had established a sizeable margin over Charlotte in second. But – Johannes in the full rig Laser would need to give Charlotte time on handicap in her Radial.
Up went the S flag and Johannes managed to maintain momentum to take the gun as he crossed the line ahead of Charlotte in second and Teah in third. Anne-Marie and Anna wisely decided to head in, as what wind remained was reduced to barely a zephyr, but as both had completed at least one lap, a finishing time could be recorded.
As the five intrepid competitors awaited the prize-giving, the only question was whether Johannes had done enough to beat Charlotte on handicap? With a wait akin to that of a Papal election when white smoke issues from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, Race officers David and Richard eventually navigated Sailwave and emerged to reveal the final results.
1st Johannes Hellsten ILCA7
2nd Charlotte Cunliffe ILCA6
3rd Teah Sloan ILCA7
4th Anne-Marie George ILCA6
5th Anna Hellsten ILCA7