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RS400 Racing Circuit at Hayling Island Sailing Club

by Bill Handley 23 Jul 2009 09:06 BST 18-19 July 2009

On the 18th of July 64 AD a fire was started in Rome (allegedly at the instigation of emperor Nero) which destroyed two-thirds of the city and left total devastation in its wake. Some 1945 years later to the day the RS400 fleet went to Hayling Island Sailing Club for their racing circuit event and experienced a weekend of destruction which fell only a little short of that experienced by the ancient Romans.

The entry at 25 was disappointingly low, no doubt driven by the weather predictions which confidently forecast dogs being blown off leads and seagulls walking for the whole of the weekend. Those who decided to stay away and not risk the time and expense of travelling were, on balance proved to be right with only one race completed on the Saturday and two on the Sunday but what was lacking in quantity was more than made up for in quality. In the post race conversations on Sunday I don’t think I have ever hear the words “that was the fastest I have ever been in an RS” spoken so often.

On Saturday, with the harbour running out of water and what water there was filled by Swallow keel boats holding their championships the race team had no choice but to send the fleet out into Hayling Bay in conditions that could at best be described as challenging. The wind tended to stay in the mid 20 knots range with gust in the upper 20’s but with an ebb running and wind over tide the very confused sea state meant that it was much tougher than just the wind strength would suggest.

All went comparatively well on the first beat although 15 starters out of 25 competitors tells its own story. The reach (definitely two sail) to the outer loop was an exciting slog with boats staying upright and fighting their way through the steep short chop. On the downwind leg things stated to unravel as bows buried, kites trawled and boats rolled in. The gybe (and there was only going to be one each lap) took its toll so that on the second beat only 5 boats were still racing without having had a swim.

The attrition continued lap by lap until by the third gybe only Steve Middleton and Chris Rowland had avoided a dunking and as a result had an “easy” win. Second were Jonathan Hughes and Jonathan Wells (number of swims unknown), third Bill and Lynda Handley (1 swim), next Tim Garvin and Jason Harbour (also 1 swim) and fifth and the final boat to finish James George and Simon Kinsey (2 swims I think but could be doing them an injustice).

With the gybe area situated near to Hayling Bar and inversion almost a certainty when you went over in those sea conditions, the toll on masts was inevitable. At least 9 broken or significantly bent masts was the final tally, and one wayward rudder (fortunately for Sam Parker and Stuart Jagger they didn’t even get to the start area so avoided losing a second rig in 12 months). With the rescue services at full stretch towing disabled boats back to shore the race team decided to call things off for the day in the name of safety.

On shore Nick Peters looked a worried man. Whether it was the problem of trying to find so many replacement masts or, given the state of the banking industry, the problem of where to put all the money he was about to make we shall never know. Seriously though the guys from LDC did a fantastic job rustling up new or second hand masts so that any boat that wanted to race on Sunday were ready to go – great work lads.

Sunday dawned sunny but with more wind if anything and even more than that in the forecast. The race team took the only decision possible in the conditions to race us inside the harbour which meant a hurried rewriting of the course instructions of which more later.

The racing got away in 25kts gusting 30kts of wind with the strength steadily rising throughout the day. 400s and 200s were on a windward/leeward course with a leeward gate set further up the course than the gate for the 800s and a down wind finish. After a long beat to windward mark just by the clubhouse the fleet took off on a screaming reach across the Winner Bank on a falling tide and Nick Peters was back on the phone again, this time checking the price of gold bullion.

Whether it was the drinking the night before, the red mist or the fog of war we shall never know but the leading group of boats suffered collective brain failure and ignored their leeward gate and raced on to the 800s gate some 300 metres further down wind. The fleet was again decimated at the gybing point such that only two boats sailed to the correct gate – Howard Farbrother and Nathan Pinch and the Handleys. That looked like it would be the finishing order until Farbrother/Pinch showed that just because they could read sailing instructions didn’t mean they could count and proceeded to sail an extra lap. Much to everyone’s surprise (not least their own) this left the Handleys to sail to the finish and win. Next Michael Sims and Andy (the first of the long distance fleet, driving down for just the day, based on the forecast!). Garvin/Harbour 3rd and George/Kinsey 4th completed the finishers but a special mention must go to Middleton/Rowland for actually being enthusiastic enough to be OCS in those conditions.

With the wind rising many competitors felt that enough was enough and voted with their feet. Only three boats completed the third and what proved to be the last race Sims/man of mystery 1st, George/Kinsey 2nd and Farbrother/Pinch (now using both fingers and toes to count the laps) 3rd.

So in a three race series with all races to count the decision went to George/Kinsey as the only boat to finish all three races, a fantastic effort in the conditions. Second was Sims/Andy counting a DNC from the first day but still good enough. Third the Handleys and fourth Garvin/Harbour. The third and fourth boats both decided to call it a day before the last race and were left to contemplate that had either of them just completed it in last place then the meeting would have been theirs – however as someone once said results are about what happen and not what might have happened.

A final word – as usual when a large number of boats sail the wrong course a scape goat is looked for and this is usually the Race Officer. As there will be muttering I would want to make it clear to anyone who wasn’t there (and to a few who were) that the race team did a great job in difficult conditions. The change of course instructions were clear, unambiguous and posted properly and in plenty of time. Why so many boats sailed the wrong course remains a mystery but the fault for doing so sits squarely with the competitors and not with the race management – thanks for a great weekend Hayling.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3Pts
1st1139James GeorgeSimon HinseyQMSC54211
2nd1328Michael SimsMan of MysteryCarsingtonDNC2125
3rd1353Bill HandleyLynda HandleyRestronguet31DNC26
4th976Tim GarvinJason HarborQueen Mary SC43DNC29
5th215Steve MiddletonChris RowlandBurghfield SC1OCSDNC45
6th1301Jonathan HughesJonathan WellsRCYC2DNCDNC46
7th1251Howard FarbrotherNathan PinchQMSCDNCDNC347
8th1090Daniel HawkinsCassie BeasleyWestonDNCDNCDNC66
8th427Ian BurransCharlotte BurransLocks SCDNCDNCDNC66
8th944Winston LordFred LordWestonDNCDNCDNC66
8th453Simon PalmerJames PalmerLocks SCDNCDNCDNC66
8th948Tim MillerMatthew HoldenLocks SCDNCDNCDNC66
8th470Iain HorlockAdam WoolleyExe SCDNCDNCDNC66
8th1263Simon HerriottJane BaileyGreystones SCDNCDNCDNC66
8th896Ian GrayCarolyn TobinQueen MaryDNCDNCDNC66
8th1114Sam ParkerStuart Jagger DNCDNCDNC66
8th689Matthew WrightBob JarvisTIWSCDNCDNCDNC66
8th1172A Fleming  DNCDNCDNC66
8th1121Henry MaplesAnna LudgateMount Batten SCDNCDNCDNC66
8th1134Nick SimmonsLou HoskenWestonDNCDNCDNC66
8th1287Tom PetersAl Peters DNCDNCDNC66

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