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GJW Direct SailFest 2013 at Weymouth - Day 1

by Brenda Hoult 25 Aug 2013 09:01 BST 24-26 August 2013

Intense racing and exhilarating first experiences in the sunshine at Weymouth

120 sailors in boats ranging from Toppers to an International 14 were met by sunshine and 16 knots for the first race of the GJW Direct SailFest regatta at Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy on Saturday 24th August. Resident WPNSA race officer James Gollop had the fleets on their toes running 5 starts for each race at 3 minute intervals with fleet starts for the Bytes, Fireballs and Phantoms. A perusal of the mixed handicap entrants had resulted in a slightly unconventional split of spinnaker or spinnaker-less as the cut-off between the fast and slow handicap fleet. Which seemed to work quite well.

Virtually all starts got away cleanly, resulting in all 3 scheduled races for the day being completed and everyone back off the water within 4 hours of launching. Fresh in people's minds was perhaps Peter Aitken's reminder during Friday's coaching that even a generous bit of windward heel putting the mast over the line could merit an OCS. A change to the standard sailing instructions for the event has enabled Peter to continue his coaching throughout the weekend, not only his well attended briefings before and after racing but also further pointers out on the race course.

Gusts of up to 20 knots coming through during the afternoon resulted in a few capsizes as the sailors became more tired and a few retirements.

A damaged rudder pintle for Duncan Jenkins resulted in bending the other one and an enforced retirement after race 1. However, once ashore, the tenacious RS300 sailor called on the services of local boatbuilding legend Richard Woof, on hand to give boat preparation advice throughout the weekend, to get him back on the water for race 3 with moments to spare. Dave Barker in his lovely Farr 3.7 also had problems but returned to the race course after a brief pit-stop.

The middle of 3 generations of Tweedles sailing, father Jon says the family are "...having a ball. The racing has been fantastic with awesome conditions and it has been nice to sail the trapezoid courses." Lying in 9th place overall, Jon is sailing his Alto with 14 year old son Cameron whilst his daughter Caitlin is in her Radial. Jon described the strong winds as "testing" but took only one brief dip in Race 3. Grandfather of the clan, 65 year old Gordon, is sailing his Supernova.

First on the water in the morning were actually visitors to the academy to try watersports for the first time in the windsurfer fleet of the OTC, SailLaser's dinghies and Weymouth College's kayaks. Deemed a little to windy for Pico tasters, sailing novices were taken out in the harbour for an exciting blast in the Bahias, with plenty of grins on return to shore. A few of the regatta entrants took the opportunity to try the J/70 sportsboat before racing and as the good breeze held into the evening the J/70 was the last boat out on the water.

Overall the International 14 of Sam Pascoe and Alex Knight hold the lead overnight and perhaps to be expected with the conditions, coupled with the pedigree of the some of the fleet, it is the Fireballs taking most of the top places below them. Matt Burge and Richard Wagstaff lead the Fireballs by one point from Tom Gillard and Tim Hartley. Within the other 2 fleet starts it has been Will Gulliver taking all three race wins in the Phantom fleet currently therefore holding a 1st place as his discard. Louis Saunders in the Bytes leads Charlotte Gough though it was Charlotte who had the upper hand to win race 3.

Tris Best of the OTC Windsurfing Centre set of with his team shortly after racing to sail the pilot event for the Will Mackaness Trust Charity Water Duathlon. Setting off from the WPNSA slipway by windsurfer it took only a few minutes to reach the north entrance of the harbour, but a windshift meant a beat all the way to Overcombe Corner before picking up bikes. Tris himself completed the course in 57 minutes, a good bench mark for next years full event.

A hog roast at the Academy was followed by an insightful talk by Peter Allam, Olympic bronze medallist in the Flying Dutchman in 1984 and now 6 days into his role as the new CEO of WPNSA. During the 2012 games Peter was LOCOG's deputy Sport Manager for Sailing and he shared memories of the immense organisational issues of the Games, where security and logistics were taken to a whole new level.

Sunday dawns bright an clear here in Weymouth with slightly lighter winds forecast but a much earlier programme with the first of three starts scheduled for 10.30.

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