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4000 Class Open at Eastbourne Sovereign Sailing Club

by Richard de Fleury 6 Jul 2017 16:38 BST 1-2 July 2017
4000 class © Renato Tebaldi

After a very successful event at Grafham Water two weeks earlier, when the numbers were swelled by two international teams from Italy and Belgium as well as several local boats, it was a somewhat depleted 4000 fleet that arrived at Eastbourne last weekend. Several regular faces were missing due to injury or work commitments, but those that made the effort were greeted by a very hospitable club, with excellent race management and shore teams to help with launching and recovery on the tricky, steep pebbly beach.

We were sharing the event with the RS800s, Musto Skiffs and B14s. The first race got off promptly on Saturday, in an offshore F3 north-westerly wind. John Reynolds and Fran Howell (4682) hit the left-hand corner of the beat to maximise the lee-bow effect of the current, a strategy that paid dividends as they reached the top mark with a comfortable lead. As the sun started to break through, the wind became lighter and more fluky, but they maintained their lead to the end of the race. By the start of the second race, the wind had died almost completely. So we were treated to the spectacle of a B14 and two Mustos becoming wrapped around the committee boat in the strong current, and some Mustos within their starting sequence looking more likely to be swept off towards Dover rather than ever making their start line. Inevitably, the race officer abandoned the race, and there followed a long wait on the water before the wind finally re-established itself after a wind shift of over 90 degrees!

With the top marks repositioned near Beachy head, race 2 eventually got off in a south-westerly. Martin and Tom Burgess (4467) went hard left out to sea, a decision which proved correct as they were able to cross the fleet when they tacked back; however John & Fran managed to overhaul them towards the top of the beat, and maintained their lead to the end of the race, followed across the line by Neil Heffernan and Jo Morrison (4343). By race 3 the wind was strengthening and although this was more closely contested, John & Fran snatched their third victory of the day, this time ahead of Alex Cramp and Charlotte Heffernan (4600). Richard de Fleury and Harry Kennedy (4572) were testing their brand-new black mast in readiness for the Europeans at Quiberon in two weeks' time, but unfortunately salt-washed it when they capsized, while trying to recover the lazy kite sheet from beneath the bow.

Sunday dawned, with a lighter north-westerly wind which was due to gradually drop and track left during the day according to the forecast. Again there was a strong current, this time running from right to left across the course. So at the start of race 4, the fleet tacked onto port almost in unison, as it was soon obvious that we could almost fetch the top mark on a single tack. Richard & Harry were so excited on reaching the top mark first that they decided to hug it! They hadn't quite allowed enough for the aforementioned current, and were briefly trapped against the mark. John & Fran were second around the mark, but were able to soak lower than Richard & Harry on the downwind leg, overtaking them and maintaining this lead in the dying wind until the end of the race.

There followed another long wait on the water, hoping for the wind to stabilise. First, race officer Clare Day set the top marks a little further left, off the pier; yet still there was no starting sequence. We couldn't quite understand it when we watched the top marks being repositioned off Beachy head, well to the left of the wind we had in the starting area. But all credit to Clare, who had complete faith in her rib drivers who had assured her there really was a south-westerly over most of the course. As we proceeded up the beat on starboard, the wind became increasingly challenging with huge shifts, holes and some vicious gusts tumbling off the cliffs. One such gust caused John & Fran to capsize; even though they had seen it coming, John was unable to dump the main in time. This allowed Alex & Charlotte to lead for most of the race, apart from a close tussle with Richard & Harry near the final bottom mark. Richard briefly got through, but Alex regained the lead to take the win.

With time running out before the deadline, the race committee sent us ashore after race 5.

Overall Results:

1st: John Reynolds & Fran Howell (4682) 1 1 1 1 (4) 4pts
2nd: Alex Cramp & Charlotte Heffernan (4600) 3 (4) 2 2 1 8pts
3rd: Neil Heffernan & Jo Morrison (4343) 2 2 3 (4) 3 10pts

Many thanks to Clare Day and her team, for some excellent race management in difficult conditions. It was refreshing to see that, despite several individual recalls among the other fleets, not once did she resort to a general recall. We had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Roll on the Europeans in two weeks' time!

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