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UK 18ft Skiff Grand Prix Round 1 at Calshot Activities Centre

by Tom Hill on 18 Apr 15-16 April 2017

The Solent was the location for the first round of the 2017 UK 18ft Skiff Grand Prix and it delivered two days of exciting racing to get the fleet up to speed after a winter off the racetrack.

Day 1

The reported 12 knots on the course made a couple of the teams question their early season ability in the possible top end No1 conditions, so two boats plugged in the No2 rig and the rest of the fleet launched on their No1 rigs.

The start of the first race was made interesting by Steve McLean's team on LED bearing away along the line in the last 10 seconds before the gun. Stewart Mears and his team on Pica kept out of the pre-start mess to lead the fleet around the top mark in first, followed by Graham Bridle in ChameleonI. The final positions were settled by the final lap with Pica coming first, LED powering through the fleet to come second and ChameleonI taking third.

The second race had a clean start with a drag race off the line lead by Tom Kiddle's GBR122. The fleet found their form in the strengthening breeze leading to some close crosses. Tom Hill and the team on Rutland pushed the starboard layline as far as they dared in by the shore, to round amongst the pack. Pica eventually came out on top, followed again by LED and ChameleonI.

The last race started in fresh conditions that continued up to the top mark leaving some boats shuffling an extra few steps back before the bearaway. GBR122 were getting stuck in challenging ChameleonI for the second spot on the first downwind leg, before a kite overboard in the drop sent them swimming. The podium places were the same as the first two races of the day. Alex Lewin's Union Rose showed determination right until the end of the day, especially impressive with their first day racing in their new boat.

Day 2

The overnight forecast had the sailors expecting a lively day on the small rigs. However, the fleet were greeted with a light breeze and a mix of forecasts that suggested wind speeds either side of the rig changeover, so it was another day of split rigs.

The ebbing tide on one side of the course made it look like tactics were all sewn up, but ChameleonI bucked the trend and found breeze out in the tide to see them lead the fleet by quite a margin at the first windward mark. The lead was maintained for two laps for them to sail to their first bullet of the season. Union Rose also got their highest finish of the regatta in this race, stealing a 4th place from LED on the last kite leg.

The second race saw the breeze soften even more and a painful race for the small rigs of LED and Union Rose struggling to keep up. ChameleonI once again got ahead of Pica in the first leg, but couldn't keep them at bay for the duration, eventually letting Pica through to another win.

The final race was the closest race of the day. Rutland lead the fleet around the top mark with all boats rounding within 20 seconds. The busy kite hoists lead to Pica and Rutland tustling and letting the rest of the fleet through. However, the back was the place to be as a new band of breeze got to these boats first and saw them sail around the rest of the fleet who were parked in very little wind. Rutland rounded first for the second upwind leg and covered the fleet for the final lap to also take their first bullet of the season.

After six races over the weekend, Pica took the title for the first round of the UK Grand Prix 2017, with ChameleonI taking a deserved second place and LED holding onto third place. Pica had some disruption from their usual dominance which will make the rest of the season interesting with some of the talent coming through.

The event was a little different to normal, being run entirely by the Class Association. It was only possible due to a long list of helpers who are owed thanks; Calshot Activities Centre for excellent launching facilities, ChameleonI for supplying RIBs, Forward Sailing for lending race marks, the Mead family for providing an excellent committee boat and Ian Bullock and the army of Race volunteers that set a great course and quick races.

The UK fleet are now competing at 3 European events over the next couple of months. The first Euro Grand Prix will be raced in Ammersee, Germany, followed by Balaton, Hungary and Lake Garda, Italy. The UK fleet will host final round of the Euro GP in September at Sandbanks, Poole.

Overall Results:

PosBoat NameHelmR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1PicaStewart Mears1112126
2ChameleonIGraham Bridles33312312
3LEDSteve McLean22254414
4RutlandTom Hill44433115
5Union RoseAlex Lewin66545525
6GBR122Tom Kiddle55777731

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