The 2018 Allen Endurance Series kicked off over the first weekend in June at Hayling Ferry Sailing Club for the Solent Forts Race.
The entry list read like a who's who from the cat world, including Will Sunnucks, chairman of the UK Cat Racing Association competing in his high-speed foiling Vampire, crewed by Mark Self. The strong F18 fleet, included Grant Piggott and Simon Farren and National Champion Simon Northrop crewed by Caleb Cooper who were looking to defend his Solent Forts title. For the first time fast dinghies were eligible to race, with top International Canoe sailors Gareth Caldwell and Phil Robin looking to give the cats a run for their money.
Saturday brought the best weather with glorious sunshine and 10 kts + of breeze. Will Sunnucks and Mark Self in the Vampire took line honours and the highest recorded speed on the SailRacer GPS trackers, hitting over 18 kts on a sustained basis.
Sunday dawned sunny but windless, giving PRO Richard Golden no option but to postpone; after a great Saturday night Band on the Beach party, most competitors were glad of a couple of extra hours to prepare.
Gareth Caldwell during the Solent Forts Race - Allen Endurance Series Round 1 - photo © Tim Olin / www.olinphoto.co.uk
With the tide flooding in at the start and only a light breeze, it was quite a struggle to get out of Langstone Harbour. Gareth Caldwell (International Canoe) made good progress by creeping up the Hayling Shore and for some time was second on the water. Grant Piggott and Simon Farren (F18) led the fleet around Spit Sand Fort at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour and then back to the turning mark off the club at the entrance to Langstone Harbour.
First back were the International Canoes sailing the shorter blue course with Phil Robin taking line honours, after overhauling fellow classmate Gareth Cladwell.
With the wind building over the 7.1 mile downwind leg from Bembridge Ledge, the Vampires started to get into their stride and foiling, regularly seeing peak speeds in the upper teens on the SailRacer GPS trackers. Kyle Stoneham and Ross Harvey (Vampire 11) managed to overhaul Grant Piggott and Simon Farren (F18) to take the lead.
Kyle Stoneham & Ross Harvey during the Solent Forts Race - Allen Endurance Series Round 1 - photo © Tim Olin / www.olinphoto.co.uk
The fast cats were given another leg out to Winner South Cardinal, but with the breeze now falling, Grant Piggott and Simon Farren (F18) managed to snatch the lead back again coming up to the finish to take line honours and a win on corrected time. Will Sunnucks and Mark Self managed to overhaul the other Vampire to take second place over the line from Kyle Stoneham and Ross Harvey.
Combining the results across both fleets using the SailRacer scoring system, based on GPS data and dynamic handicaps on a time on distance basis, the top three were:
1st F18 521, Grant Piggott & Simon Farren (Weston)
2nd Int Canoe 328, Phil Robin (BCU)
3rd F18 1577, Tim Neal & Bob Fry (Parkstone YC)
Tim Neal & Bob Fry during the Solent Forts Race - Allen Endurance Series Round 1 - photo © Tim Olin / www.olinphoto.co.uk
The 2018 Allen Endurance Series covers three of the UK's long distance races: Solent Forts, East Coast Piers and Round Sheppey. With racing covering over 120 miles, the Allen Endurance Series will challenge sailors over some varied courses to find the UK's top long distance racers this summer. All races will be tracked by SailRacer, allowing organisers and supporters to monitor boat positions, which will also provide a wealth of analytical data such as top speeds and distance sailed. Allen will be providing over £1,000 of prizes across the Series and individual events.
Photo © Tim Olin