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Phantom Open at Alton Water Sports Centre

by Chris Roberts on 19 Oct 14-15 October 2017
Phantoms at Alton Water © Henri Miller

The final event in the Eastern Travellers Series took place at Alton Water over the weekend of 14th / 15th October in glorious weather with blue skies and a shifty force 2 to force 4 breeze.

As usual for this event a training session was held on Saturday morning with three short races for the 13 boats that had arrived early. The races were on a flight basis with three starts at one minute intervals. The idea was to allow the newer sailors to get to grips with being at the front of the fleet and making the tactical decisions without the pressure of a crowded start line and congested first beat.

Newcomers Simon Neale, Gareth Thomas and James Oxley were soon receiving "words of wisdom" from the fleet and having boats checked over and tweaked. Such enthusiasm to help newcomers master the technical aspects of Phantom sailing is the key feature of the fleet.

In the first race this strategy seemed to work well as James Oxley sailing his newly acquired boat at his first event leapt into the lead and never looked troubled by the chasing fleet. The so called "fast flight" had a battle on their hands getting through the fleet and former Class Chairman Ian Miller was highest with a sixth place.

The second race went to Jon Pulfer from the first group again, whilst the third race saw Bob Portway having a boat swap with Matt House and revel in the increased breeze to win ahead of Roberts.

After a break for lunch the fleet headed back on to the water for the first qualifying race for the open meeting. During lunch it had looked as though the wind was going to drop a little but as soon as the boats were launched the breeze kicked in again with great planing conditions across the reservoir on the leeward reaching leg.

The start was hotly contested after so many practise starts in the morning with latecomer Daren Pike doubling back on hearing the recall gun. Roberts and Miller having reassured themselves that Pike was the culprit sailed on but were disappointed on passing through the line on the next lap to see their sail numbers displayed.

This race saw local hero Bob Portway get to the front with Matt House in hot pursuit. Paul Church made up the Alton Water clean sweep at the finish. The racing was however very close throughout the fleet with many place changes. Jon Pulfer had clearly gained something from the mornings practice with a great fifth place just behind Roger Smith from Creeksea.

Sunday saw the arrival of Ben Falat from Waveney and Oulton Broad to make a total entry of 15 boats. Four races were planned with as many as possible to be sailed back to back.

The first race of the day saw the fleet struggle to start on a heavily biased line and the inevitable general recall was sounded to allow the committee boat to be repositioned to give a better line.

The fleet eventually got away with all four laps being dominated by Daren Pike from Rollesby Broad. Having stepped back into his boat after a long break from the fleet this was an impressive performance by Pike who had been earlier commenting on how during his absence everyone seemed to be using larger sails. Nonsense of course and whatever it was that was in vogue 3 years ago (CST mast and North sail) still seemed to work pretty well now!

Second and third places went to Matt House and Ben Falat respectively. A capsize when throwing in a short tack at the finish continued Roberts run of luck.

Race three saw Falat win ahead of Portway whilst House took the fourth race ahead of Roberts.

By now the leading helms were trying to work out who needed to beat who to win the event and it was just as well that a break was called for lunch.

Most of the fleet were delighted to see that the Alton catering team had developed a new super size burger named after the class and several were wolfed down by the hungry sailors. Phantom sailors drinking Lattes and Cappuccinos added to the (almost) continental atmosphere of Alton sur Mer (or was it Lac?). Such is the sophistication of the revised catering at the club.

Returning to the water for the final race it looked as though the wind had if anything increased but at the start it again settled down to a steadier force three or thereabouts with the lower afternoon sun creating a dazzling scene on the upwind legs with Mylar sails glowing and spray flying. Just superb racing throughout the fleet and hugely enjoyable.

Matt House having pulled off an audacious port start (shades of Ian Sullivan here) looked set to take the race win but Roberts made him work hard and took the lead on the penultimate lap by sailing over House on the fast leeward reaching leg. Whilst comparing their respective weights on this leg (13 stone versus 15.5 stone if you must know) House declared he wasn't worried as he would overtake on the next upwind leg. To the amazement of them both it transpired that it wasn't on the beating legs of the course that House would regain the lead but on the penultimate run.

Matt House took the gun ahead of Roberts and Miller giving him a consistent scoreline of two seconds and two wins to take the meeting. Ben Falat took second place to separate Bob Portway from his clubmate.

It was refreshing to see newcomers to the fleet enjoying the close racing and banter; hopefully much was learnt in the training sessions and the fleet looks forward to the next year's Eastern region events.

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1Matt House143222‑3116
2Ben Falat1266(DNS)313411
3Bob Portway13341527(DNF)15
4Darren Pike13496145(DNS)16
5Paul Church141534‑74516
6Roger Smith13204‑756621
7Ian Miller1305(OCS)668323
8Chris Roberts1395(OCS)1282224
9Graham Dale‑Jones11848‑999733
10James Oxley124198‑1010936
11Bill Taylor12447(DNF)1114840
12Eric Howe14041011‑13111042
13Jonathan Pulfer137851014(DNS)DNS45
14Gareth Thomas105711‑1312121146
15Simon Neale10981214‑15131251

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