Multiple Endeavour Champions Nick Craig and Alan Roberts race their Merlin to narrow victory in West London
Nick Craig and Alan Roberts raced their Merlin Rocket to victory in the Datchet Flyer, which tested competitors across a variety of wind conditions. The second of eight events in this season’s GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series, the battle for overall honours was incredibly tight, with just 7 points separating the top six.
On Saturday, Datchet delivered crisp sunshine and blue skies - but a fickle 5-knot breeze. With three races scheduled, the fleet was split into two starts with the RS300 being slowest (on Great Lakes handicap) boat assigned to the fast fleet. The wind remained marginal trapezing throughout the three races. The occasional promise of more breeze never materialised, and finally died away during the third race.
With a strong port-end bias the over-exuberant Fast fleet was recalled and endured a further recall before a third start under black flag gave the Slow Handicap fleet the opportunity to get away in clear air. The National 12s of Christian & Sophie Day and Jeremy & Luke Hartley revelled in the light, shifty conditions, together with Ann Jackson and Alan Skeens in their Enterprise. Steve Bolland found great light wind speed in his RS300 to take joint 6th place with the RS200 of Jack Holden and Rosie Sibthorp. But it was Jasper Barnham and Jonny Ratcliffe who showed pace from the start in their Merlin Rocket.
The next two races had a far squarer line with both fleets behaving on the starts, despite (or perhaps due to) the Fast boats remaining under the control of the black flag. In the last race a couple of Merlin Rockets tried a cheeky port tack start, which Oli Turner & Hamish Kilburn achieved to good effect, scoring their best result of the day. At the end of Saturday, Barnham and Ratcliffe’s Merlin Rocket was in the lead with a very solid 2nd / joint 1st / 3rd scoreline. The southern P&B team of McGrane, Wade and Vidal were racing the SK2 keelboat to great effect, and sat in 2nd overall after day one.
Even counting their 21st in the 3rd race, Ann Jackson & Alan Skeens in their Enterprise were in a strong third position. The light airs didn’t suit the faster boats, however. On a testing day for the trapeze boats, Sam Barker’s Musto Skiff was 6th, the only other trapeze boat in the top 10 being Tom Gillard & Richard Anderton in the 505.
Met by substantially more breeze on the second day of the Datchet Flyer, the fleet went afloat at 10.30 for the 100-minute pursuit race. The innovative format involved the fleet being divided in two to give the faster boats more time on the water, hopefully meaning that more of the fleet sail for more time in the same wind conditions. Feedback on the day seemed very positive, but the organisers would always welcome more comments. The pursuit race was a double-points, non-discardable race, making it critical for competitors to sail well until the very end.
With this format all but four classes started within the first 15 minutes. But then the wind dropped to its lowest at just about the time the Solos, Laser Radials, Merlin Rockets and D-Ones started at the 11am datum time.
After just over half an hour of light airs, the wind started to fill dramatically and after a lap and a half, 15-year-old Cameron Tweedle’s D-One lost a narrow lead to Barnham’s Merlin. The D-One retook the lead but Barnham again passed him as the bottom reach became too tight to hold the kite on the powerful asymmetric singlehander. They again traded places until Tweedle went for a swim on the beat.
The strengthening breeze allowed first Jamie Lea and then Charlie Cumbley to get past Jackson’s Enterprise. By 50 minutes into the race there had been a number of capsizes and a couple of boats retired. In the meantime Cumbley made strong inroads into Lea’s lead in the Slow fleet.
Meanwhile in the Fast fleet, a trio of Merlins were managing to keep the 505 of Tom Gillard & Richard Anderton at bay. Ralph & Sophie Singleton’s RS800 were by this time moving through the fleet and the 49er of Graeme Wilcox & Andrew Tarboton was passing Sam Pascoe & Nathan Batchelor in the VX-One.
The Contenders were the last class to start in the Slow fleet and clearly revelled in the conditions. An hour into the 1hr 40 race and Stuart Jones took the lead in the Slow fleet and, although two legs behind him, Mike Murley’s Contender also passed all the other slower boats by the finish. Steve Bolland added a 3rd to his scoreline to finish solidly in the top 10 overall.
With 20 minutes to go, it appeared that the 505 could have it all sewn up in the Fast fleet in the lessening breeze. But then, in a matter of moments, the wind came back up with a vengeance to a solid 20kn and gusting more. After a frenetic run the Musto Skiff of Ben Schooling and the lead RS800 and 49er eclipsed Nick Craig’s Merlin on the bottom reach. At that point Barnham and Ratcliffe took a swim in their Merlin and shortly afterwards, moments from the end of the race, Oli Turner and Hamish Kilburn broke the mast on their Merlin. In the end Wilcox and Tarboton sailed their 49er to victory in the pursuit race.
The sun kept shining throughout, the results were ashore before the fleet and the prizegiving was done and dusted by 2.30pm.
With trackers on the boats throughout the weekend you can replay all the racing at Datchet Live (http://events.sailracer.org/
Despite perhaps being slightly disadvantaged by starting in the light breeze for the pursuit race, Nick Craig and Alan Roberts won the event overall with two other Merlins in the top five. Second place was filled by the SK2 (McGrane/Wade/Vidal), Barnham and Ratcliffe’s Merlin in 3rd, with 4th place going to the 505 (Gillard & Anderton).
At the prize-giving Nick Craig thanked the race officer for diligently moving the marks to maintain some great courses on Saturday and commented on how much the sailors had enjoyed the weekend's racing. Gul is celebrating 47 years for providing innovative solutions to keeping you warm. However, the 47th finisher didn’t stay for the prizegiving so the prize instead went to the first sailor under 18, which was Cameron Tweedle (15 years old) in the D-One in 19th place.
Datchet Water Sailing Club would like to thank Badger Ales for supporting the event and providing some well received prizes. The next event in the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series takes place just after Christmas, with Brass Monkey at Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club on 27 December.
Top Six overall at Datchet Flyer
1st – Nick Craig & Alan Roberts (Merlin Rocket), Frensham Ponds SC, 21 pts
2nd – Ben McGrane/ Dave Wade/ Olivier Vidal (SK2) Netley SC, 23 pts
3rd – Jasper Barnham & Jonny Ratcliffe (Merlin Rocket), Snettisham Beach SC, 23.5 pts
4th – Tom Gillard & Richard Anderton (505), Sheffield Viking SC SC, 24 pts
5th – Tim Fells & Oli Wells (Merlin Rocket 3753), Northampton SC, 27 pts
6th – Charlie Cumbley (OK), Teign Corinthian, 28 pts
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PRIZES FOR COMPETITORS, CLASSES & SPECTATORS
Thanks to generous support from Series sponsors, we have some great prizes for competitors, and also for spectators and photographers. More details to follow in the coming weeks...
In addition to title sponsor GJW Direct Insurance (www.gjwdirect.co.uk/dinghy), the UK’s largest direct boat insurer, our silver-level sponsors are:
Gul - Experts in Performance Apparel www.gul.com
Trident - The Dinghy & Yacht Shop on the Web www.tridentuk.com
Overboard - The Leaders in Waterproof Bags & Cases www.over-board.co.uk
Lennon Sails - A new brand with a great heritage www.lennonsails.com
Enter the Series here www.SailJuiceSeries.com
The website will tell you more about the events in the Series, more about the Great Lakes handicapping process, and we’ll keep you updated on everything else you need to know.
Photo Credit ©: Tim Olin