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DX 15s at the Isle of Sheppey Sailing Club Round the Island Race

by Robert England & Ray Gall 4 Sep 2012 09:56 BST 1 September 2012
DX Cats line up ahead of the Round Sheppey 2012 © Kevin Dutch

Four DX 15s were among twenty catamarans which set off in the 2012 Isle of Sheppey Round the Island Race on 1st September. The light Force 2 to 3 westerly breeze was not advantageous to multihulls in the overall scale of things but there was keen competition amongst the cats and between the 15's in particular.

Kevin Dutch (Seasalter SC) led Steve Sawford (Rutland SC), Ray Gall (Carsington SC) and Robert England downwind over the start line amongst a mixture of Dart 18's, Spitfire, Hurricane, Prindle, Hobie, Shadow, Topaz and Mystere entrants. England was unhappy being fourth in the fleet and gradually overhauled Gall and Sawford to chase Dutch against the tide along the 10 mile north coast of the island. With a choice of fighting more tide or having less wind, Dutch and Sawford gybed away from the shore whilst England held his line in the lighter air leaving the two leading boats neck and neck as the two-up Sprint 15's, which had started 30 minutes sooner, were overhauled. A couple of fortunate puffs of heading breeze saw England edge ahead but he was soon overtaken by Dutch once more as the course turned into the East Swale. A sizeable gap had opened up between the first and second pairs of DX's on the downwind section of the race but the heading wind and the now out-flowing tide of the river section of the course saw the fleet closing together once more.

Whilst England and Dutch crossed tacks close to the shore towards the shallows of Shell Ness, Sawford opted to hold on and cross the stream until he could almost see along the Swale. This proved an expensive decision as the ebbing tide had all but killed the wind on his chosen course and he was overtaken by Gall as Dutch and England laid close to the Island and continued to pull ahead, dealing with Dart 18's and a Shadow X in the process in the long haul up the Swale. Very occasionally it was possible for them to get out on the wire and at such times the DX's began to show their capabilities but these moments were short lived. Conditions of wind and tide created an anomolous beat from Leysdown almost to the Kingsferry Bridge where the twisting river allowed a few bursts of speed to blow away the cobwebs.

In keeping with the Sailing Instructions, boats have to be capsized and walked under the side span of the old lifting bridge and this provided some entertainment for onlookers. Dutch kept his cool, having had several years' practice negotiating the current and parapets, and got through cleanly. England was close behind and observed the procedure with interest, passing without incident. A little while later Ray Gall arrived, having led Steve Sawford all the way up the Swale in what must have been a tense tacking battle against the ebbing tide. At the bridge the tide had reversed and was helping competitors along.

It would seem that Sawford then either saw an opportunity, or lost way and steerage in the deeper water before he could reach the shore. As Gall rounded a pontoon and pulled his boat over at the water's edge his competitor opted for the shorter course and continued a little too close to the bridge parapet. Having fended off the barnacles he then used his mast against the low bridge to sink his transoms with the assistance of the following tide. Realising that the mast against the bridge was still slowing him down he decided to capsize manually after all but unfortunately sustained some gelcoat damage against the adjacent parapet in the process. Onlookers watched with interest as Steve single-handedly waded and swam his boat through, overtaking Ray Gall in the process to right his boat and sail off one place up. Undeterred, Ray righted his boat with the statutary assistance of a race marshall and sailed on, only to overtake Steve again to leeward by the time the new road bridge had been passed. Sawford overhauled once more through the moorings at Queenborough and it was very close up the end with Gall proving the victor with intact dignity, overhauling Sawford once more just before the finishing line.

Meanwhile, Dutch had led England through the finishing line a little while earlier for the 2006 overall winner to take the 1st multihull prize.

DX Results:

1 Kevin Dutch, 1938 (Seasalter) 05:05:52
2 Robert England, 1351, 05:07:26
3 Ray Gall, 1914 (Carsington 05:30:20
4 Steve Sawford, 1733 (Rutland) 05:30:30