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Vortex Inland Championships at Rutland Sailing Club

by Nick Ireland and Mike Gower 23 Oct 2013 12:44 BST 19-20 October 2013
Vortex Inland Championships 2013 at Rutland © David Wilkins

The Vortex Inland Championships took place over the weekend of the 19th/20th October 2013 as part of the Laser Multi-Class event held at Rutland Sailing Club. Fourteen Vortex sailors out of a total of 59 competitors attended the event, having travelled from all four corners of the country to enter battle at the last Vortex event of the year.

Saturday morning heralded a light southerly breeze, albeit rather overcast and with clear evidence of the autumnal season in full swing. Whilst the wind never got much over 8 to 10 knots, battle was joined with three back to back races scheduled for three laps each of the usual asymmetric upwind/downwind course. The Race Officer managed to muster three clean starts with the slightly faster (in light wind) Laser 4000 class following on three minutes behind.

The first race saw the Vortex sailors congregate to the slightly biased pin end of the line. Neil Spink was first away, a feature he was to virtually replicate most of the weekend. Those that went left upwind, including Neil, led at the windward mark and pulled away from us in the second tier who went either down the middle or slightly right.

Downwind the fleet tended to split into leftish and hard right, a feature again repeated all weekend, whatever happened to going down the middle? Guess us Vortex sailors have clear opinions! Neil continued to show us all a clean pair of heels, until he did just that, go down the middle. At the finish the near becalmed Spinky had to watch whilst he was mugged by Mike Gower, Angus Winchester and Jonathan Carter, who finished in that order.

The next race saw Neil get another flyer towards the centre of the start line, how is that he and Dave Hotten can trapeze flat when the rest of the fleet are crouched by the mast waiting for divine intervention? Full marks to Angus (on starboard) for pinning a sleepy downwind headed Laser 4000 crew in the most audible crunch of the day, 1-0 to the Vortex fleet.

In the middle of the fleet there was much place changing with real gains to be made downwind, however this time Neil wasn't to be denied and he nailed on the second race with National Champion Phil (only capsize of the day) Whitehead finishing close behind followed by trapeze artist Dave Hotten. Near the back, Ireland, Jones and Trice became acquainted with each other as they rotated places at will, albeit without much forward momentum up the fleet.

The final race of Saturday had a similar feel to both the previous two, but the sun put in a brief appearance which showed Rutland Water at its best and lifted the spirit of the competitors as the aging fleet (not you Alex) dug deep into their reserves for energy. From where I started, right behind Neil, the start was pretty even, with the fleet getting to the top mark in quick succession, the usual culprits (or is that clever dicks) leading the way.

Alex Benfield had been showing good downwind speed all day and joined the fray at the front. This race also turned into the scrum down between Vortex and 4000s as the lighter wind had allowed the 4000 fleet to become embroiled in the heat of battle, testament to the 'whinges' from the 4000 sailors in the locker rooms later, the uber-competitive near-pensioners of the Vortex fleet winning the scraps at the bottom marks, game over!

Sailing-wise Spinky wasn't to be denied and got his second bullet of the day followed by Jonathan, Mike and Phil. Those of us at the back would like to ask Alec and Jim why they felt that three laps wasn't enough and missed the finish line to let us gain a couple of places quite undeservedly. The fleet then sailed back to the club to embalm ourselves at the bar with what was left of the class association funds courtesy of our treasurer Phil.

The Vortex fleet had a gathering at the local pub, imbibed with Tiger beer and hearty food, a truly agreeable experience and one reason why the class continues to survive through its camaraderie and friendship. Debate about the new boat in build, disrespectful 4000 sailors (only joking) and Phil's preoccupation (it's a secret) were amongst an array of topics echoing across the bar room at the amusement of the locals.

Sunday dawned with a much more purposeful feeling to the day, with cooler and much breezier conditions evident on the water. Asymmetric sailing to the start area highlighted the senses as the memories of casual gybes and lazy tacks the previous day quickly subsided.

Race 1 started in familiar fashion but good to at last stretch those legs trapezing. With the extra breeze, getting across to the wing mark with the kite up was now more challenging and some were caught out by the gusts downwind. Mike G managed to get past Phil on the first downwind leg but then had kite troubles on the next downwind allowing Phil and Alec past. At the end Phil held his lead with Mike second and Alec third. By now the breeze had increased again by a notch or two with some vicious gusts which were taking their toll on the fleet.

The next start again saw Phil powering off the line chased hard by the rest of the fleet. Alec was now on top form and managed to stay with Phil, out of trouble and hold onto second place. Behind Neil, Jonathan and Mike G were battling for third. At the end Mike almost managed to get across the line in front of the other two who were coming in on starboard and forced him out.

So going into the final race, all to play for. With the wind still strengthening Phil was overtaken by Alec but a couple of capsizes pushed him down the fleet. Martin Jones was also up there for a while revelling in the conditions. At the end of four laps though, Phil had pulled out a considerable lead followed in by Jonathan and then Neil. Pete Varley had come up through the fleet to finish fourth.

This left Phil as overall winner (again) and Inland champion for 2013. All in all a fantastic weekend of sailing and everyone went home exhausted but with big smiles; many thanks to Rutland for once again providing us with excellent racing.

Overall Results:

PosHelmnSail No Club
1stPhil Whitehead1045 Yorkshire Dales
2ndNeil Spink1048 Yorkshire Dales
3rdMike Gower1013 Wilsonian SC
4thJohnathan Carter1153 Rickmansworth SC
5thAngus Winchester1181 Castle Semple
6thAlec Glendinning1175 Annandale
7thDave Hotten1123 Draycote Water SC
8thPete Varley1222 Stokes Bay SC
9thAlex Benfield1089 Stokes Bay SC
10thMike Collins1117 YDSC
11thMartin Jones1132 Wilsonian SC
12thJim Trice1152 Lympstone SC
13thEd Corteen1066 Penning SC
14thNick Ireland1177 Stokes Bay SC

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