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55th Warming Pan at Hamble River Sailing Club

by Trevor Pountain on 20 Mar 18-19 March 2017

The Merlin Rockets went first on a windy, grey Saturday morning in Hamble. It was perhaps fitting therefore that "50 Shades of Grey" Stuart Bithell and his girlfriend led the fleet down the Hamble to Southampton Water. Not quite the same conditions for Stuart as his recent Sailing World Cup event in Miami, where he placed first in the 49er class. His former crew Luke Patience, with whom he won Silver in the 470 at London 2012, was to chase him all weekend in 3788, with crew Chris Birrell. Ian Doson and Rob Allen brought their brand new Merlin "Speed Machine" to the event and were indeed showing good speed until their rudder 'exploded' on Sunday morning.

Race Officer, Simon Hand sent the Merlins, Fireflys, Lasers and Solos out of the Hamble and on to a series of windward/leeward loops before reaching back to the club line. The Merlins did four loops and everyone else did three, except the Firefly's who were shortened to two.

Race 2: With the westerly building in Southampton Water, the fleet were sent on one quick windward leg out of the river, back round a mark off the Hamble Public Pontoon and round again, the number of laps being tailored to the speed of the boats. This led to a spectator spectacle and a few potential heart attacks for the owners of larger craft braving the elements for an early season trip down river. It all depends on your point of view.

The Foxer Class sailed their usual patch of water, the pool off Warsash, and their usual race team to run a series of 4 windward/leewards before beating everyone to the bar as usual.

At the end of Race 2 the competitors and volunteers headed back to the club house for something warm and a view of the Six Nations Rugby.

At the half way stage Stuart Bithell and other half led Will and Mary Henderson (Arwen) and Luke Patience and Chris Birrell in the Merlins. Ian Southgate (Gruntles) led the Foxers with a 1, 3, 1, 2, by one point from James Ross in "Fuzzy", with "Badger" Paul Lovejoy in third. Tom Lonsdale "5705" and Stas Lawicki "4454" were tied in the Solos with a 1 & 2 each and Andrew Le Grice led the Laser class with two bullets. Ben Green led the Fireflys from Alex Ogilvie.

Day two dawned with more grey skies and a wind with more South in it which allowed the RO to give a better length of beat out of the river. With that exception the course was the same as Saturday afternoon with the turning mark off the Public Pontoon giving unwary sailors a bit of a shock. Even Ray Sedgewick, in the Pink Hamble-Warsash Ferry, left for the other side as there was flurry of mark rounding. But Ray is far too experienced to let a few dinghies worry him and with a small adjustment to his course he missed them all.

Outside the conditions were quite gusty as shown by the picture Andrew Le Grice took from his Laser of Stuart Bithell, now crewed by Tom Bygall, having a moment - it can be viewed here. Despite stopping to take pictures Andrew went on to win the race. Perhaps Stuart will think twice before swapping his girlfriend, who he said was "brilliant" on the Saturday, for Tom.

After lunch, the battle for the Warming Pan's continued, though one or two crews who had broken things, sloped off for an early night. The conditions remained much the same with Merlin Rockets planing back up the Hamble making it a great and colourful view from the Hamble shore, against the backdrop of black, white and red Foxer sails on the other side.

Commodore Ken Munro presented the prizes back in the clubhouse. Despite swapping crew and sailing on the edge occasionally, Stuart Bithell and Tom Pygall won the Merlin fleet with 3pts. Luke Patience and Chris Birrell climbed up to 2nd and Will and Mary Henderson completed the podium places. Ian Southworth continued his winning ways in the Foxers with 3 firsts and a third. James Ross came second and Paul Lovejoy hung onto third despite a late surge from Sean Barber. Laser photographer Andrew Le Grice claimed the Warming Pan from Lymington's Thomas Ehler and Hamble's own Suzie Vaill. Tom Lonsdale won the Solo Warming Pan by one point from Guildford's Stas Lawicki. Stas, who normally sails on a very small pond, had a big grin on his face all weekend having both wind and waves to play with for a change. Third place, and the award for best swimmer, went to Alan Roberts, who lost two burgees in the process. Finally, the much depleted Firefly fleet was won by Ben Green with Alex Ogilvie second. We hope the Firefly fleet will return when Barney Smith completes his sabbatical.

The Commodore thanked the hardy competitors and Stuart Bithell thanked the volunteers for running a seamless event.

In two weeks' time, after the clocks go forward, the first race of the Wednesday night cruiser series will take place. The "Early Bird" series of five races will be run under the clubs handicap system. Hot food and beverages will be available in the club after racing.

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