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Salcombe Yacht Club Summer Series - Race 6

by Graham Cranford Smith 17 Jul 2017 15:43 BST 15 July 2017

You would have thought that enough was enough, really. Many of the resident Salcombe Solo fleet had lately returned from a week of the annual ritual humiliation that is 'The Solo Nationals' at Royal Torbay Yacht Club. Law and Hicks are veterans of many international events, including in Tim's case the Laser Masters Worlds.

Law and Hicks, alone from SYC dominated the very tricky conditions at Torbay and were placed. Very well done to them.

But of the rest of us, the less said about our results ‎the better. We were all firmly in the character building/soul-searching territory. "Salcombe: probably the best Solo fleet in the world" our event t-shirts did vouchsafe. Next year, we will amend the moniker: "Salcombe... has a Solo fleet". Upside, we can look forward to a saving in embroidery costs. Every debit has a credit.

However hot from the totally impenetrable final races in Torbay on Friday, here we were on the start line again twenty-four hours later in numbers. Sixteen Solos. This is truly impressive fleet racing at club level. This is to be cherished. In this regard, we pay particular tribute to Adrian Griffin our very dear Solo fleet captain of many years who maintains the lifeblood of this anachronistic but popular Jack Holt class, here in Salcombe. We are truly blessed: thank you Adrian.

And, not entirely a non-sequitur, for men of a certain age (for example, the average Solo helm) the wind and water combined make for an alluring but cruel mistress. Her blue green eyes ‎and thousand-watt smile have to them and for so long now, been irresistible. She only occasionally favours a reward save to a selected few. For ordinary mortals, she frequently confounds. After a lifetime studying her charms, one is left none the wiser. One should add that the simile may not survive extrapolation across the genders (or play very well with Mrs Cranford Smith) but the hope is, however faint, no offence will be taken.

Your correspondent can report that exposure to the best sailors in the country by way of Merlin Week (and incidentally, resulting in a highly popular and excellent win from SYC veteran Tim Fells and Fran Gifford, whom we claim as our own) and thence Solo Nationals is a sobering experience. Despite this, the balance sheet in regard to sailing as a pleasurable past-time, remains positive even after such a bruising to one's ego: just.

W S Churchill who knew a thing or two, remarked that: "‎Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm". It is notable that he is silent on the matter of enjoyment as part that process. One suspects Churchill did not "do" enjoyment. Or much dinghy racing.

Of our mistress being the sun, the sea and the wind, in Salcombe, she was this Saturday, in charm offensive having been so recalcitrant all the preceding week. It was in short, a stunning sailing day. It would be a hard-hearted person who did not overlook the challenges and bitter disappointments of the previous days when taking in the scene. A survey upwind to Blackstone revealed a blinding kaleidoscope of sun, sparkling waves on the ebbing tide, sand, fabulous scenery and incidentally, some serious bullet gusts from the West South West of considerable amplitude. Upwind Cunningham: ON. No wait: OFF.

It certainly pays to start this game young but even allowing for that, one may not be excused life as a sailing "journeyman/woman". However, Salcombe has already produced some excellent sailors from the cadet fleet which owes all to those who culture it. Salcombe is now home to names like Ben Meek, Evie Booth, Ruari McColl. George Alexander and several others. Their nascent talent is obvious and a delight to see.

Two cadet boats finished in these very challenging conditions. Race office Wylie set a course from Blackstone to Gerston: twice. Prescient or not, this turned out to be an epic decision. Emerging from the bag, the journey to Mark 7 was accomplished in about four minutes flat, even in a Solo, the wind being at least 25 knots. The conditions were outright planing with sheets of spray and wild gusts of perhaps much more than 25 knots. The cobby Holt single hander and stout but over-canvassed Yawls, remained on the plane all the way there and all the way back. Quite brilliant. To accomplish this also, in the close company of one's peer group of many year's sailing friendship was all the sweeter.

This correspondent can report most closely on the Solo race. Of note, Malcolm Mackley, 70, did quite superbly on the first lap remaining in close touch with the leaders fading only slightly in the graunching upwind leg from Snapes to Blackstone. As an antidote to less sparkling results in the previous week he is reported, like many of us, to be completely reinvigorated post-race.

Gybing a Solo in a breeze on an ebbing tide can be tricky and this resulted in attrition at Blackstone on the second lap by which time it was seriously windy. Even the legendary Phil King succumbed. He wiped out in a gust. This was appalling rotten luck we all thought, as we raced past with him clinging to his upturned hull. The mistress, for she did punish him for not looking over his shoulder. Oh, she is no respecter of talent or remarkable sailing CV. Never to be dismissed, Phil recovered to third. Good effort Phil.

But for most, possibly irrespective of outcome, a truly great day's sailing. We can almost forgive her, so gullible are we.

Race 6 Results:

PosBoat TyleSail NoHelmCrew
Fast Handicap
1Phantom1357Alistair Morley 
2National 123431Simon BallantineKaren Ballentine
Medium handicap
1RS Feva XL4186Andrew GrovesLewis Groves
2Laser Radial155962  
3Aero 71517Claire Booth 
Yawls
1Yawl (R)159Dan BridgerGail Bridger
2Yawl (R)154Graham PikeTessa Pike
3Yawl (B)97Andrew WoodTim Petitt
Solos
1Solo5573Chris Cleaves 
2Solo5444Graham Cranford‑Smith 
3Solo5568Phil King 

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