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Gul Wrecker at North Devon Yacht Club: Round 1 of the SSW Winter Series

by Jonathan Miles 12 Oct 2018 06:56 BST 6 October 2018

The weather forecast all week was suggesting a hairy 25-32 knots with Northerly winds veering North East. The morning of the Wrecker brought several phone calls and messages to check if the race was on – apparently, the South Devon Coast was suffering strong gale-force winds, but on the north coast we had just 5 knots.

Nevertheless the weather resulted in a depleted fleet of 33 entries. As competitors started arriving in sunshine and force 3 winds, it looked a great day for sailing.

As the committee boat took station off the Appledore shore, the wind started increasing. By the time the intrepid Mirror sailed by Matt Hill and his young son Eddie got the 2hr pursuit race started, it was 4-5 gusting 6. Soon a steady 5-6 gusting more was blowing and as more of the fleet got away, the race team were stretched with several early breakages and gear failures. At one point, rescued boats had to be parked on the beach. Clearly this race was "Wrecker" by name, "Wrecker" by nature!

All boats were equipped with TracAce™ GPS Trackers from Sailing Southwest and the action can be watched back on or through

By the time the quicker boats were starting it was pretty wild. Ben and Simon Hawkes broke a shroud before starting and snapped their mast. A few minutes later a laser was jury rigged and sailing home with a broken mast. The Dart 18s together with Sprint DX took off up the beat flying hulls but 20 seconds into their race Frazer Manning & Dave Grant suffered another mast failure. Retirements everywhere with only 18 finishing, but those who made it were grinning from ear to ear.

Laser sailor Ben Flower took the race lead with 30mins to go and looked strong, but Iain Horlock in his Contender was chasing hard. Tony Blackmore in his B14, crewed by Charlotte Horlock, were being given a rough ride but fought their way past the Sprint 15 fleet. The Sprint DX helmed by Sam Heaton and leading Dart 18 crewed by Jon Farr and Erica King were proving too fast though.

At 20 minutes to go Ben was still leading Iain Horlock in 2nd and Stacey Bray in a D-Zero was holding onto 3rd. Iain Mairs and Abi Campbell in an RS500 in 4th were making up ground on Stacey and Chris Dyer in his Blaze not far behind, producing some exciting top speeds. The leading cats of Jon Farr and Sam Heaton continued to put the pressure on as they chased through the field.

As the finish approached, Iain Horlock was closing in Ben Flower fast – It was going to be close... very close! The leading cats now established themselves in 3rd and 4th ahead of the RS500 and D-Zero. At the finish it was incredibly tight on the water between Ben and Iain but the RO gave the win to Ben after reviewing tracker data. The Jon Farr and Sam Heaton took comfortable 3rd and 4th places respectively. The battle for minor places again went to RO call aided by trackers. 5th was awarded to Iain Mairs and Abi Campbell in their RS500, marginally beating Stacey Bray in the D-Zero and Tony and Charlotte in the B14.

Pursuit racing in a near gale is certainly exciting from start to finish and this second running of the Gul Wrecker was no different.

TracAce™ recorded some amazing statistics from the event with the fastest speed recorded going to a Hurricane 5.9 heading down to the committee boat at 20.4kn before a spectacular nose dive resulting in gear failure and retirement.

Amongst the mono hulls, Chris Dyer in a Blaze recorded a record of 17.4 kn, with Charlie and Lawrence Maunder in their RS400 achieving 17.1 kn and junior Dom Brittan hitting a remarkable peak of 16.4kn in a Laser 4.7. Jon Farr maintained the highest average speed at 10.7 kn.

All speeds and results can be found at

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