The first 29er grand prix of the year got under way at Rutland on the 17th-18th of March with a record of 58 boats entered, including some from Scotland and Ireland. The hundred odd competitors were met by muddy fields and a half empty reservoir along with light breeze which would make for great tactical racing later on in the weekend.
After a quick briefing everyone got out onto the water with a gentle breeze taking the competitors down to the start at the far end of the reservoir. Due to the large number of boats the decision had been made to split the fleet into four flights and so first to start were yellow and blue where experience seemed to be the key to catching the shifts as Ollie Cooper / James Poyner (Hayling Island) won with Rob and Emma Loveridge (Draycote) and Ben Batten / Tim Gratton (Lymington / Hayling Island) in second and third respectively. Red and Green flights started second just as the first flights had rounded the leeward mark and so it was difficult to know exactly who was racing who! However, after yellow and blue had finished it became clear with Phil Walker / John Mather (Draycote) out in front and Jack Hawkins / Chris Thomas (Restronguet) and Ian Payne / Chris Berry (Rutland) in third.
The second race started with red and yellow flights first on another pin end biased line and saw very similar people at the top. Finishing in first were Ian and Chris, after taking a great gust near the shore on the final run, closely followed by Jack and Chris in second and Tom Methven / Rob Lloyd (Royal Plymouth Corinthian) in third. Green and blue flights similarly saw the same people at the top with the likes of Phil and John in second and Ben and Tim in third. Taking the bullet however were the Irish pair of Sean and Tadgh Donnelly (National YC).
By the third race the wind had built a little and we even managed to get a little lower on the wire. Starting first were green and yellow flights and, again, Phil and John sailed away from the fleet to secure their second win of the day with Sean and Tadgh in second and Ollie and James in third. Red and blue raced second and saw close racing throughout the fleet with big gains and losses to be made from the shifts coming off the trees. At the finish line, however, Rob and Tom took the bullet with second going to Ian and Chris and Vikki Payne and Stephi Orton (Emsworth / Chichester) in third.
To end the day, red and green flights started first, and by the end Ian and Chris were out in front again! Joan Furness and Abbie Page (Draycote / Chichester) came in second with Tom and Rob behind in third. The final start of the day was yellow and blue flights and saw Jovian Short and Jacob Barnett (Royal Torbay) taking the win. Following closely were the family boats of Ruth and Tess Allen (Emsworth) and Rob and Emma in second and third.
Day two brought more breeze to begin with but rain along with it. Everyone got out early heading off upwind to the racing area. Unfortunately the breeze started to die off rapidly and the first race was started in a light, and ever decreasing, wind. Most boats lined up on starboard towards the middle of the line apart from Phil and John who managed to pull off an outrageous port flier. By the time the second flights had started and rounded the windward mark the wind had dropped to nothing. After about ten minutes of subtle pumping and hoisting and dropping the kite the race committee abandoned the race.
After about half an hour the breeze filled in again from the north west, and 90o shift and so the first two flights, blue and green, quickly went into sequence. After a clean start the race got under way and at the finish it was Ben and Tim with the win followed by Rob and Emma and Phil and John. The second start was not so clean so red and yellow flights were recalled. However, the second start was sounded just as the first flights were half way down the run and so it was postponed while they got out of the way. After the third attempt, the final start of the weekend got under way. The wind continued to drop the whole race and by the end there were big glassy patches covering the reservoir. The final bullet went to Tom and Rob followed by Jack and Chris in second and Ian and Chris in third.
Congratulations to Matt Venables and Will Alloway (Sutton / Rutland) who won first juniors finishing in 12th, just qualifying as it was Will’s birthday on the Saturday. First ladies went to Charlotte Hooper and Molly Brown in 10th ending Vikki and Stephi’s reign as top girls. Only one point separated the top three boats with 3rd overall going to Tom Methven and Rob Lloyd, 2nd to Phil Walker and John Mather and 1st to Ian Payne and Chris Berry on equal points with Phil and John.
Many thanks to Rutland Water Sailing Club and the race committee for hosting and running this great event, Harken for sponsoring the series and the class association for all their support. A final thanks to everyone for turning up and making this event a great start to the series!
The class reconvenes for the next Harken Grand Prix in early May at Dabchicks Sailing Club, but before that a record 72 boats will take part at the RYA Volvo Youth Championships in Pwllheli in the week before Easter; the 29er really is the youth double hander of choice… it should be fun, and competition at the top will be very tight!