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Ocean Elements 2016

Marblehead Vane Classic and Vintage weekend

by Tony Wilson 15 May 06:28 BST 6-7 May 2017
Marblehead Vane Classic and Vintage weekend © Tony Wilson

Six boats entered what was to be a very rewarding weekend. Three for each class but there was four Trophies up for grabs, two for each class. Vintage era is 1930 - 1960 and Classics up to the 1980's.

Saturday started off the action and it was an Easterly for the whole day and big suits were the gamble to start with as the conditions seemed perfect if you had good legs to keep up with the running.

Race Officer Eric Watkinson had moved the start line down a little as the wind was swirling a bit just under the bridge.

Some great chats with Peter Whiteside and Alan Bell discovered a little background information. The Marblehead class was formed in America in the Town of Marblehead and the length of boat was determined by what would fit across the back seat of a chevvy. 50 inches.and then a suitable sail size maximum 800 sq. inches allowed. Also for the Vintage a 2 inches disc radius must be able to fit in the arch of the fin and hull. Later longer keels and bulb were introduced and this was the new decider between classes to form the Classic.

Alan Bell had teamed up with his son David and had along his beloved vintage Tempest, one he says that was put together when he was only 14 back in 1961 and what a stunner it looks.

For any not too familiar with the class, 3 points are rewarded for a beat and 2 points for the run leg to which of the two yachts is the first to arrive. As there were 6 boats 10 legs would have to be sailed if we were to get in a full round.

By lunchtime all was going well as the waves had started to splash over the sides and some Skippers were starting to think of downsizing. Peter Isles didn't have any smaller sails so he just put up with the white horse chop. It did actually start to ease again a bit later to his luck.

A bit of a mixed bag of results for the day giving most some share of the points, but Peter Whiteside and David Bell seemed to be doing the better with their individual boats.

Derek Priestly and John Plant with their Blood Axe Classic won the day in the modern, while David Bell and Dad won the Vintage.

On to Sunday and it looked like a complete different day. The sun was out full but the wind had dropped and swung to the North. The far edge of the lake seemed to be ripple less and most guys were opting to reach along the nearside. Peter Isles wasn't available today but had been replaced by Damian Akroyd also with his Blood Axe. Derek P. had other business for the day, so John P. had teamed up with Eddie Greenwood and also decided to swap boats and they took out another classic 'Riptide' for the day. Even though Derek wasn't sailing, he had brought in a box of goodies for the guys to wonder and drool over. A collection of his Vane gear that he'd put together over many years, some a work of art.

By lunch time it was getting desperate. The lake was more and more starting to resemble glass. Some Skippers were circling and returning the start, while others managed to crawl to the finishing line.

Early lunch was called with just four heats sailed, 'was the day over'.

After a lengthy break and some chatter in Vane, the wind had decided to return to good. The lake was fully filled with no dead spots, maybe the tide had turned. The direction seemed to have swung right round to the West.

In quick succession the remaining races were sailed to complete the round. By about 2:30 it was down to a draw for the Vintage. Peter Witeside and David Bell were equal on 17 points each. In customery fashion it was now down to a sail off. 2 Beats so that each can have the favoured side for the start. If each skipper wins one each then a downwind leg run is to ultimately decide. Peter had won both beats so had the Sunday Trophy in hand.

I learnt quite a bit from this weekend and as some say it's the truest form of sailing. I saw how the 'guy' was being used, this is to bring the vane back over after a short distance to repeat the same tack. Also more practice of the term 'thumb towards you' when adjusting the vane angle. As some were saying, i'ts funny how the tables have tuned, from vane gear being ten a penny many years ago and Radio Control sets costing you probably six months wages. (and even then it was non proportionate, very crude on or off with bang bang button) but a good well engineered vane could now probably be worth hundreds, while radio Fifty pounds all in.

Also very noticeable, there's more of a gentlemanly like atmosphere with no screaming or shouting at each other. If your boat doesn't perform on the day, you have only yourself to blame.

Winners for Saturday:

Vintage: Walter Jones Trophy: David Bell and Alan Bell
Classic: Mayoral Cup: John Plant and Derek Priestly

Winners for for Sunday:

Vintage: Hayes Trophy: Peter Whiteside
Classic: Pearson Trophy: Damian Akroyd