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RS Vision Nationals at Mayflower Sailing Club

by Dan Jaspers 8 Aug 2009 10:18 BST 25-26 July 2009
RS Vision National Championships 2009 © Nikki Buckler

If any one deserves to be crowned RS Vision National Champions it would have to be those that underwent the most heartache and ordeal. Friday the 24th July 2009 must have been the worst day in the history of driving and with all but one of the Visions entered coming from over 200 miles away the scene was set for a mammoth influx of visiting owners.

My story started just 3.5 hours away with 2 boats on a double road base. After a wobbly start (due to some seriously low tyre pressure on both car and trailer) we got into our stride and managed to eek out the obligatory provision crisps and chocolate in the car to make it to the Plymstock area of Plymouth to get our Fish and Chips at 22:00 hrs. Boat park space located, the Mountbatten Bar was set as the next target and at 22:45, with the last order bell ringing in our ears we had our welcome pint. What a relief! It was then that I found out that the rest of the crews had fared less well with an 8 hr journey being notched up by the families from Kent. Ouch!

Saturday am and the boat park filled with the sound of ratchet straps being undone and rigging rattling on masts being stepped. It was race day 1 of the inaugural RS Vision Nationals. For a class designed as a cruiser / trainer, to have 8 sets of race keen owners, it marked a real turning point in the classes’ future. Matt and I spent a good 2 hours pimping the assembled masses, re running control lines, adding bobbles, measuring lengths of tack lines, adjusting rig tension and generally getting everyone to a point where they were ready to hit the water safe in the knowledge that they had a boat as capable as anyone else of doing well out on the water.

Registration was a short ferry journey away at the Mayflower SC on the other side of the harbour. With Plymouth regatta polo shirts purchased and welcome packs in hand, we made for the nearest watering hole, shelter from the baking heat and had a good natter about how far we had all come from last year. Watching the crews chatting, I was truly overwhelmed by the fact that every boat (other than mine)entered had a family team. 3x Father and Son teams, 1x Husband and Wife, 2x Father and Daughter, 1x Mother and Daughter and then me, with my unknown crew Hannah, waiting for me at the Mountbatten Centre, found the day before by the Operations Manager of the Centre.

Back at the launch site and with 1 hour to go before race 1, we gathered for a final chat and then it was off down the slip for launching. This was to be the first time for one particular boat, which had only been commissioned a week before. Exciting and yet nervous times for the lucky new owners.

14:55 and honk went the preparatory for the first starting class of the 5 regatta fleets. The Visions would have their own start and we would go 5th. 20 minutes to wait. We all checked the course and set up in the holding pattern that racers become all to familiar with. Honk, Honk, Honk and there we were with 5 minutes to go until our first Class start.

Race 1: Triangle, sausage, triangle – predicted 6 laps. SW 9-10kts of light warm breeze.

Great start by team Lloyd in 509 and team Stannett sailing number 610 at the committee boat end with 939 and 1066 getting stuck in slightly below. The question was where was Team Beal in 67? Thanks to a slightly confused laser sailor that had not been informed of their later re-start they were told that the Visions were being put back by 5 minutes, thus missing the start by 30 seconds…not that it put them off. Determination and clever tactics saw them catch up 4 places by the first mark.

The battle at the front of the pack was hotting up with several cross overs between the Hogben and Jaspers boat, ever so slightly behind the light wind torpedo boat of the Lloyd duo. Kites up at the windward mark and over to the spreader buoy. Hogben and Jaspers being closely followed by team Beal, their lighter weight paying dividends in the shifting breeze. The battle behind the leading pack was hotting up with the Stannett boat playing their kite, like never before, to try and real in the Butterfield boat in 5th.

Standings at the top didn’t change and as the shortened course flags flew, 509 crossed the line in first, closely followed by 939 and the Hogbens in 1066.

With the second race cancelled due to some dubious reason the 8 Visions decided to go for their first ‘cruise’ up the Tamar River and were relishing the open water and the chance to fly their kites for fun. This was all great until we decided to come home and were faced with around 5 knots of flood tide, an area of river where wind was not present which held half the fleet back for a good hour. Just as well that the sun was still beating down and the wind in the Sound was still around 8 knots. It was a beautiful sight and nobody minded being a bit late back. It was great to be able to sail in close company.

Day 2. Race 2. 18 knots of breeze and rain. Nice!

With Lasers and Toppers capsizing all over the line, it was a good thing that we had all reefed. Wise decision, well rewarded.

All 8 Boats made the line. Good starts from everyone this time, nobody missing the gun. Trapeze kits were being used on boats carrying harnessed up crew and the heavyweights were loving it. Matt and David in 1066 led up the first beat followed by the Lloyds and the Beals. The helm in 939 lying in 4th was trying to convince the crew to get out on the wire. Spreader mark in sight it was off on a flat out 2 sail reaching leg and places were changed with the Lloyds dropping into 3rd and the Icom sponsored boat of Jaspers moving into second. Janet Beal, at the helm of 67 was proving that old boats can hold their own in any conditions.

Most boats hoisted their kites and most stayed upright on the way downhill.

The superior weight of 1066 gave the Hogbens a convincing win at the final turn. Some very relieved faces could be seen gathering in the shelter of the Island near the start.

Day 2. Race 3. 20 Knots and building.

With everyone shivering and the waves getting larger all the time, this was to be a race of nerves versus skill. Keeping upright and getting a result was what was needed. The start was again a little tentative with most boats choosing to go left up the course and not get bashed by the waves too much. On the first tack the 939 boat of Hannah and Dan capsized in a massive gust, opening the for Matt and David, who slid into first. The rest of the pack stayed left to make the lay line for the windward mark. David and Steven were chasing hard and the battle for 1st and 2nd was evident from right the way down the course. They may have pushed a little too hard as a capsize and total inversion just next to the mark let Dan and Hannah slide past into 2nd with Janet and Jen and Gary and Esther not far behind.

The bear-away on the wing mark proved cosy with The Beals bowsprit forcing its way over the transom of 939 and causing a near capsize. No fault found it was kite up and power on. 939 had never been so fast. A quick glance over the shoulder indicated that Janet and Jen had capsized after a spinnaker hoist and Gary and Esther were closing in. The Lloyds were now in 7th with Paula and Neil moving up into 6th. Result!

The shortened course flag must have come as a welcome relief to everyone as energy had well and truly been zapped. Matt and David getting line honours again for their second bullet of the day.

A quick check of all the boats proved that everyone was ready to head back in. Race officer informed of this the fleet limped back to the slipway for the wettest de-rig and pack up in the classes’ history. During this time, the race officers abandoned racing for the other regatta classes for the following race as conditions were worsening in Plymouth Sound.

Over all results breakdown shows the way in which one windy, capsize filled race can make a real difference in points and places.

What a weekend. Lets hope next years nationals will be a little less filled with contrast.

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