Hall & Constable win the biggest fleet on a perfect day at Grafham
Near-perfect conditions attracted a fleet of 181 boats to this year’s Grafham Grand Prix, the fourth leg of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series. While the boat park was extremely muddy underfoot after all the rain of recent times, the sunshine broke through and delivered mild south-easterly winds between 10 to 18 knots, the first truly moderate-breeze event of this winter’s Series.
Club commodore Peter Saxton and his well-drilled team organised three 45-minute handicap races on three separate courses, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Bravo hosted the biggest fleet - 76 monohulls and four cats - with a 350-metre start line. The aim of the trapezoid course was to give the non-spinnaker boats a chance, and the results certainly delivered a variety of high-performing boats, with the hiking singlehanders mixing it quite successfully with the trapeze boats.
In the end though, it was that veteran Fireball duo of Dave Hall and Paul Constable of Blackwater Sailing Club who prevailed with two bullets, discarding a 5th in the first race to beat Ed Presley’s Contender by a point, with the 505 of Ben Iliffe and Richard Nurse 2 points further back in 3rd overall. The next few places were taken by hiking boats, starting with 4th-placed RS200 sailed by Ben Palmer and Amy Seebright ahead of Andy Couch in a Phantom. Former Olympic campaigner Charles Apthorp and David Rickard were the top-finishing Flying 15 team, beating a strong home fleet in the two-person keelboat class.
The trapezoid format was also used on Charlie race course for the 56-strong slow handicap fleet, which proved to be a tight battle between the top Lasers and GP14s. The GP14 World Champions Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe, 3rd at the light-airs Yorkshire Dales Brass Monkey the day before, won the day with two race wins and discarding a 3rd in the final race. They finished just a point ahead of Alistair Goodwin’s Laser, with another Laser sailed by Jack Hopkins in 3rd overall. The GP14s and Lasers dominated the top 10, Mark Lunn and Steve Blackburn racing their Enterprise to 12th overall, the top boat from another class.
Like the winners from the other two big divisions, Dave Poston took two race wins on Alpha’s windward-leeward course that was run for the 38-boat Fast/Asymmetric fleet. Poston secured overall victory in his Musto Skiff, just one point in front of the International 14 sailed by multiple champions Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane. Mark Barnes and Charlotte Jones did enough to win 3rd overall in their B14 ahead of a chasing pack of Musto Skiffs. 49er Olympic aspirant Dylan Fletcher was out on his solid-wing International Moth but had a mystery capsize when he hit a submerged object, which he believed might have been a shoal of fish. Fletcher finished in 9th overall.
There were some small multihull fleets also competing, with Stewart Smith and Molly Desorgher winning their division in a Spitfire, David Wright winning the slower fleet aboard his Dart 18, and Graham Hall racking up a perfect score of three bullets to win the Challenger fleet.
This Saturday, 2 December 2016, the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series moves on to Farmoor Reservoir for the Oxford Blue. With 105 boats already entered and a limit of 150 entries, it’s worth entering soon. Already there are very big entries for two of the new singlehanded classes, the D-Zeros and and the RS Aeros. Just £20 per boat, online entry closes at 23:59 hours on Thursday night, 31 December 2015. Entries made in person after this time will attract a supplementary entry fee of £10. As with the Datchet Flyer, VRsport.tv will be there to capture the action on video, and live GPS tracking will be provided by SailRacer.