138 Radial sailors made the trip for the first of the Qualifier series with a strong wind forecast on the first weekend of March. In fact the wind was so strong that there were several breakages on the Saturday which were capably looked after by the rescue team and wisely racing on Sunday was cancelled early, allowing sailors to get home early.
With such a large number of sailors the fleet was split into four groups, with each group racing each other once on the first day. With the UKLA online entry system already showing places filling up fast, it is likely that the fleets will be split at all three of the Spring qualifiers.
After a delay caused by a drifting committee boat, the race got underway in a gradually increasing current. In a weekend which was dominated by Ladies and Youths it was John Booth who took first blood in the first start of the first race showing excellent upwind boat speed in the choppy conditions. He was followed home by Christopher Eames but it was Olympic hopeful Alison Young who was the fastest on the course, pulling through from a poor start to take third place.
In the second start of the first race it was Jon Emmett who had the initial lead but he stayed too far left in the stronger current and was passed by the pack which was led by Hannah Snellgrove, who recently won a windy race at the Perth World Championships - definitely one to watch for the future. Snellgrove held the lead and pulled away in the second half of the run whilst Emmett clawed his way back up to second, with Andrew Green taking third place.
The second race was a confusing affair with the second start sailing the wrong course and joining the first start on the outer loop. The confusion cost several sailors dearly as the majority of the second start were disqualified (only six sailed the correct course) and many of those in the first start got tangled up in the second start when they all ended up rounding the marks together.
In the first start Alison Young got clean away and was able to avoid the general mess behind her. She swapped tacks with the ever improving Youth Michael Beckett with these two getting well clear of the fleet. Downwind it was Emmett and Jack Preece at the leeward gate for third but these got caught up in the second fleet allowing Eames to grab third.
The second start was won by Andrew Green from Hannah Snellgrove and Edward Jones picking up third. These sailors (unlike the other sixty or so) sailed the correct course. There were various protests put in but ultimately the decision stood. It pays to check the course on the committee boat.
In the first start of the final race Snellgrove was showing great pace but a leaky boat in big waves and strong wind which must have peaked over 25 knots, pulled her down the fleet. Thus gave Young the race win and therefore the event. Eames who improved with every race took second place with Robbie Gilmore taking third to allow both to make the top ten.
In the second start Beckett showed great speed to lead the fleet home. Emmett battled for second with Finn Lynch which eventually ended up in the protest room with Lynch disqualified for not keeping clear. Third place went to Booth.
The Youth second was also very close with Michael Beckett just one point clear of Andrew Green, who was in turn just two points clear of Wetherell. All the hard work over the winter is obviously paying off and it will be interesting to see the results of the Youth Nationals in Pwllheli next month.
Overall it was an extremely close series with just two points separating the top six, and places four to six split on tie breaker.
Overall Results: (top six)
1st Alison Young (and 1st Lady) 2pts
2nd Michael Beckett (1st Youth) 3pts
3rd Hannah Snellgrove 3pts
4th John Booth 4pts
5th Andrew Green 4pts
6th Jon Emmett 4pts
Full results may be found here.
Next stop is Stokes Bay in two weeks time, fingers crossed for a five race series.