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Footy New Years Eve Event at Hill Head Sailing Club

by Roger Stollery 6 Jan 2012 06:39 GMT 31 December 2011
Hugh McAdoo's violet sailed ICE leads Roger Stollery's footy up the beat © Roger Stollery

The Hill Head SC is on the north-eastern shore of the Solent, just west of Lee-on-Solent, where the River Meon discharges into the sea through a small harbour sheltered from the prevailing south westerly winds. Sailing is only possible close to high tide and there is frantic dinghy launching down the ramp as soon as there is enough water. Through the enthusiasm and encouragement of Scott Wallis, the Club arranged a Footy event on Boxing Day 2010, which was cold and windless with ice in the harbour. Although only having 6 entries the club regarded it as a success and invited Footy sailors again in 2011, as you will have seen from the NoR in one of Peter Jackson's recent memos.

This year's event was very different with 16-23 mph winds from the WSW forecast and a big swell and breaking waves as the water broke over the shallow ground near the entrance to the River. Everyone in the club was very welcoming as Hugh and Roger arrived before lunch for the 2.30 start, which was determined by the high tide at around 4 o'clock. After lunch and discussions about hulls, materials, rigs etc a few of us keen to get sailing launched from the shingle beach to test the conditions in the big waves and found that it was tremendous fun, with the Footys sailing incredibly well once we were in the right rig. The powerful boats like my ICE felt comfortable in the 400 high swing rig, whilst Scott's long thin double diagonal measured Haggerup RANGER opted for a smaller balanced una rig.

Quite a few more boats joined the sailing on the big waves in front of the clubhouse, including MYA secretary, Chris Durant sailing his ANT for the first time in ages and local 11 year old Rhys Morgan sailing my SUPABUG. Roger thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sailing his ICE (and racing it for the first time!)and onlookers were amazed how well these little boats performed even when they disappeared in the trough between 2 huge waves. Surfing down the waves offwind was great fun, but perhaps the most amazing performance was sailing to windward parallel to the waves where one could sail downhill for an extended time with an added boost to the already wonderful performance.

As the starting time approached, more and more local Footys joined the fun, but some found that their rigs were too big to sail in the exposed conditions and race officer David Perkins set a long triangular course inside the harbour. There was a total of 12 entries mainly home-made chine boats including RAZORS etc. Apparently one of them was started just a couple of days before the event; a magnificent effort! There was a dedicated rescue boat, lots of spectators and family team supporters and several club members recording the scores and checking the order where the leading boats were lapping those further back in the 3 lap race.

Hugh got the best start and sailed away to win Race 1 easily, with Roger 2nd and Scott 3rd. There was a short break whilst a simple windward-leeward course was set closer to the launching ramp from which we were sailing, as many had found great difficulty in judging the rounding of the distant windward mark. In the Race 2 Hugh was leading, but missed the ‘starting line gate‘ on the first lap and had to go back. This allowed Roger to take the lead and win with Hugh 2nd and with another young member taking 3rd place with SUPABUG. By this time some of the dinghies, who had been racing had got into trouble and were returning to the launching ramp and this caused some difficulty with them being slightly out of control and sailing in the Footy racing area. As some of the organisers were getting cold and it was starting to get dark, it was decided to call a halt to racing.

This did not prevent a few of us returning to the exposed open water and having tremendous fun sailing in those big waves. Whilst the waves are so big and the boats so small there seems to be very little effect on the performance, as they don't pitch up and down as they would with small waves, but just cream along.

This was not just the end of the event because despite the fact that there was no entry fee, the club had prizes to present. Young Commodore Luke Morrison presented prizes to Amy Barr, the first Hill Head SC skipper, the rescue boat team, a bottle of wine for Hugh, who was declared 2nd and a magnificent glass trophy for Roger as the ‘last race winner' broke the tie.

Hill Head SC created a very friendly event and a lot of enthusiasm for these little boats and intend to run another event in 2012, so the Footy class must put this on the official class calendar. The actual date is determined by the tide times and the date will be fixed in due course but will be sometime in the Christmas holiday. David Perkins, Luke Morrison and his team were congratulated for creating a very enjoyable and well-supported event.

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