Tom Gillard and Andy Couch raced their 505 to victory in the Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash after surviving a stormy Saturday and winning the pursuit race on a much softer Sunday.
The first of seven events in this season’s GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series, the wind turned appropriately icy overnight before the weekend, after a few weeks of unusually mild November weather. Despite an apocalyptic forecast, 124 boats entered for the weekend, just six short of Draycote Water’s maximum quota.
It was so windy on Saturday morning, gusting over 35 knots, that some competitors waited longer than should have, in the mistaken belief that the race committee would delay the start. But they were caught short. “We did hold the start for a few minutes,” said club commodore Jeremy Atkins, “but it wouldn’t have been fair on those that made it out on time, they would have got cold very quickly.”
Among those that were late were Nick Craig and Sarah Bines with their Merlin Rocket, who could only catch up to 25th in that race. Reigning Fireball World Champion Gillard discovered that rigging a 505 takes a bit longer than expected and was also late, only managing a 43rd in the first race.
Meanwhile the GP14 World Champions were muscling their sturdy ship around the cans to great effect, Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe winning two of the four races on Saturday and topping the leaderboard overnight. Winner of the other two races was Draycote’s own Ed Tuite Dalton sailing a Sprint 15 catamaran. Rutland’s Val Millward also raced her Challenger with ferocious efficiency in the strong breeze - which averaged 20-25 knots but also included a few scathing gusts in excess of 35 knots. Millward’s scores of 2,6,9,6 were impressively consistent, as were those of Gillard and Couch who made amends for that first race 43rd slow with subsequent scores of 4,4,3 in the remaining races on Saturday.
It’s a great tribute to anyone who managed to complete all four on Saturday, and to the race committee for sticking it out when there would have been plenty of justification to pull the plug early. It was a war of attrition that led to plenty of retirements, even accomplished names such as Nick Craig, whose shroud broke in race 3 and forced him out for the rest of the day.
Sunday dawned to the complete opposite, the flat calm after the storm. Some boats - including some National 18s from as far afield as Lymington, Brightlingsea and even Ireland - had travelled especially for the day in the hope of racing. Draycote Water was at least sunny, but the lack of wind was a concern.
A 30-minute delay didn’t produce any more breeze and Katie Bynes’ Optimist was first to start in the Pursuit Race in little more than a drifter. “Then the wind arrived about the same time as the Merlins started,” said Jeremy Atkins. “It turned into a beautiful day’s sailing, a Force 3 in bright sunshine. But the later wind certainly played into the hands of the faster boats.” Gillard and Couch charged through from the back to win the Pursuit Race, which was also good enough to give them overall victory. Second in the Pursuit Race was the Scorpion sailed by Tom Jeffcoate and Rachael Rhodes with Craig and Bines 3rd in the Merlin.
A 7th in the non-discardable, double-points Pursuit Race wasn’t quite sufficient to hold on to the overall lead for Dobson’s GP14 which ended up 2nd overall, with Kevin Hope and Andy Stewart sailing their Fireball into 3rd. The top 10 produced a good spread of classes, with only the Scorpions and D-Zeros getting two in the top 10.
For their victory, Hayling Island Sailing Club’s Gillard and Couch were each presented with a copy of Bob Fisher’s history of the America’s Cup, An Absorbing Interest, a weighty tome worth £250, and probably as much again in postage costs.
Next on the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series is the Datchet Flyer on the weekend of 12/13 December. Already online entries are filling up, and there is set to be a good turnout from the Musto Skiff fleet, which has nominated the two-day event as its surrogate Inland National Championships after strong winds at Grafham Water forced the cancellation of the Ovington Inlands earlier this month.
Top Six overall at Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash
1st – Tom Gillard & Andy Couch (505) Hayling Island SC, 13 points
2nd – Ian Dobson & Andy Tunnicliffe (GP14) Burwain SC, 19 points
3rd – Kevin Hope & Andy Stewart (Fireball) Notts County SC, 25 points
4th – Tom Jeffcoate & Rachael Rhodes (Scorpion) Notts County SC, 26 points
5th – Stu Hydon & Richard Pepperdine (Scorpion) Shustoke SC, 38 points
6th – Sam & John Knight (RS400), Bartley SC, 41 points
Enter the Series here: www.SailJuiceSeries.com
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