All photos © Pauline Love
What’s that expression about mad dogs...? Is there a similar one for mad cats? If there isn’t, there should be after the second round of the Sprint 15 Winter TT series held at Carsington Water in Derbyshire on Saturday 3 December. This series is becoming a firm favourite with the hardened cold weather sailors with its quick-fire format of two back to back races.
Seventeen visitors joined the two home boats of George Love and James Scott. They were joined by a further three home boats (Ray Gall, Tom Gall and Mick Steer) and one visitor (Steve Sawford) sailing in DX mode on a separate start to make a total attendance of 23 protagonists. Team Draycote were out in force, fielding the six boats of Jan Elfring, Pete Slater, Ed Tuite Dalton, Derek James (Sport), Phil Warner and Ian Hope. Stewartby SC, a club very much in the ascendancy within the Class, comprised the four helms of Jon Finch, Robert Finch, Karl Pountney and Andrew Bunyan.
The relative calm under a bright winter sun of the windward shore boat park belied conditions out on the course. Race officer, Ged Bellamy did, however, give the competitors a hint of what awaited them as he returned ashore for the briefing after setting a tight trapezoidal course around the drought affected waters. “It’s looking quite lively out there!”, he ventured in understated style.
He was not wrong! With an average wind speed of around 20 plus knots with gusts in excess of 30, his initial appraisal was on the button. The conditions were to test the sailing (and swimming) skills of all.
With the combatants fuelled and fortified by bacon and egg buns, Race 1 was soon underway and it was Mark Aldridge (Grafham) who made clear his intentions by charging off the line closely followed by master tactician Stuart Snell (Grafham) in hot pursuit. (Believe me, there’s money to be made if this guy’s technique can be bottled!) Ed Tuite Dalton, Jan Elfring, Pete Slater and Jon Finch led the chasing pack closely followed by gentle giant Simon Hare (Oxford) who put his stature to good use. He put the hammer down and revelled in the wild conditions. Further down the field, the lighter helms were in survival mode, opting for trying to stay upright and pick up places by overtaking the swimmers. It seemed to work as there was quite a lot of swimming going on. The jibe mark was the place for this as Simon Hare found to his benefit on almost every lap. The venomous gusts were scything through the field, snaking across the lake like a nest of wild sidewinders. The unwary were to be caught out on many an occasion and the safety crews were kept busy attending to those who had opted for an exciting pitch pole on the hairy downwind leg. Derek James was one of those who chose to lose his tiller extension in the process. Some thought that it was a misguided tactic to shed weight for even more speed. At the gun, Mark Aldridge was never to be challenged despite the best efforts of the ten finishers out of the starting line-up of nineteen. Stuart Snell, Jan Elfring, Ed Tuite Dalton and Jon Finch completed the top five slots.
Race 2 and the wind chose to increase another few notches. The nest of sidewinders had mutated and grown. The truly wicked gusts were now topping out at just below 40 knots and slamming into the fleet with increasing regularity. Quite a few sailors opted for an early (hot) bath and only two thirds of the fleet lined up to join battle. Once again, Mark Aldridge and Stuart Snell set the pace with Jon Finch, Pete Slater and Jan Elfring sailing out of their socks on the screaming reaches to keep pace. Halfway round and it was Mark’s turn to take a dip in the boiling waters and watch Stuart cruise past at close quarters in unruffled style. The red mist came down and Mark soon had his boat back on the rails to take up the chase. He was not to be denied and took the bullet a few seconds ahead of Stuart in a hard fought contest to the line. John Finch got the better of Pete Slater to take third, who in turn squeezed out Jan Elfring at the last mark to complete the top five.
With two firsts, Mark Aldridge was presented with the victor’s spoils which included champagne courtesy of Steve Sawford of SS Marine who also sponsored the DX prizes. There was general consensus that all those whom had taken to the water, regardless of the final standings, were just slightly unhinged but all agreed it had been a superb day out in bracing conditions and at the top end of just sailable – testament surely to their consummate skills and the superlative quality of this sturdy and evergreen little boat. One competitor was even overheard to say – “I’ve only just started to sail this boat so am still getting to grips with it. I think I’ve learned to really sail it today. Such a pity we couldn’t have had a third race because I’m sure I’d have nailed it!” What was that about MAD Cats? I’ll wager there were a few helms who didn’t need much rocking on Saturday night.
The next event of this hotly contested series is at Draycote on Saturday 7 January. Why not shake off those Christmas excesses and join the party? You know it makes sense!
|3||1890||Una-Rig||J Finch||Stewartby ||917||5||3||8|
|6||2004||Una-Rig||G Goldstone||Queen Mary ||917||8||6||14|
|8||1918||Una-Rig||S Pegum||Queen Mary ||917||9||7||16|
|9||1940||Una-Rig||Ed Tuite Dalton||Draycote||917||4||20||24|
|11||1825||Una-Rig||G Love||Carsington SC||917||10||20||30|
|12||1289||Una-Rig||A Bunyan||Stewartby ||917||20||20||40|
|12||1494||Una-Rig||K Pountney||Stewartby ||917||20||20||40|
|12||1643||Una-Rig||H Hawkes||Thorpe Bay||917||20||20||40|
|12||1838||Una-Rig||R Finch||Stewartby ||917||20||20||40|