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International 14 Easter Tray at Itchenor Sailing Club

by Rob Struckett 24 Apr 15:35 BST 20-22 April 2019

For many, the Easter Tray means dusting off the sails and getting out on the water for the first sail of the season. This year, it also meant digging around for those summer wetsuits and sunglasses that have been stowed away in a corner since August.

The "warmest Easter on record", 8-10 knots, the buzz of a new season and news of a set of brand new boats in the production line what's not to love? Two teams from Germany even came over to see what all the fuss is about - so a total of 20 boats made it to the start line.

The usual 14 bimbling / chatting / breakfast-sandwich-eating led to the now traditional postponement in Race 1. When racing did finally get under way, the North-Easterly breeze was dying and the fleet bunched up as it rounded the windward mark. Most boats favoured the left hand shore downwind, but a few chose not to gybe around the windward mark and test out the other shore. They were almost rewarded until a fresh line of breeze from the East saw the boats on the left hand side come in twin-wiring directly to the mark. Given the inconsistent breeze, the race committee decided to cut its losses, abandon and start again (and, since the defending champions from 2018 were leading at the time, the fleet agreed). When the breeze picked up again from the East, it was Andy Shaw and Rob Struckett who made the most of a left hand shift on the first beat. They led the re-started Race 1 to the finish, although the dying breeze meant that a lead of about half a leg was cut to a nervy few boat lengths by the finish.

Race 2 was won by Douglas Pattison and Mark Tait who, along with Neale Jones and Ed Fitzgerald, put a significant distance between themselves and the rest of the fleet. With the breeze so up-and-down, finding the puffs was more important than any tidal gains on the racecourse. Neale/Ed led overnight with a 2,2 followed by Andy/Rob with a 1,4 and Douglas/Mark with a 5,1.

The second day looked like being more of the same, but, with the fleet arriving on time (!) and the breeze holding steady for a bit longer than the previous day, Race 3 was held in a solid 8-10 knots. Neale/Ed were in a titanic battle with Douglas/ Mark which lasted until the final lap when Neale/ Ed managed to squeeze through on the final leeward mark to take the win ahead of Douglas/Mark and Archie Massey and Dave Bosnia.

The fleet was a little over-eager in Race 4. The unfamiliar "U" flag caused a bit of confusion (for anyone else who doesn't know it's like a black flag, but you can compete in a re-start if there's a general recall), but the result was the same five boats got a nice 20 points to take home to their families on Saturday night. Big gains were on offer for those willing to flirt with the Thorney Island sand downwind, with some "pulling the board up and hoping for the best". Douglas/Mark either didn't pray hard enough or didn't raise the board far enough, as they took a nice centreboard casing repair home to their families instead. Neale/Ed took Race 4 as well, and managed to sail away from the fleet to almost a leg in the lead of second place, World Champions Andy and Tom Partington. By the end of day two, Ed/Neale were sitting pretty on top with 8 points, with Douglas/Mark and Andy/Rob tied for second on 14 points. Dan Holman / Alex Knight and the Partingtons led the chasing pack.

The final day was not the sort of day to be a Race Officer, with the breeze threatening to shut off throughout. Remarkably, given the tide was pushing teams over the line, Race 5 got away cleanly in a very light North-Easterly. The boats on the left hooked into a left shift and pressure about half way up. With the breeze still in its left phase, most of the fleet headed right down the run to the Thorney side of the channel. An intrepid band of three set off left, looking to go the long way round and hug the East Head shore (i.e. praying for a new Easterly). The right seemed to pay early on, with the left in danger of drifting back past the windward mark for a while. But about half an hour later, with the right struggling to round Thorney point, the left started to creep back into it... In the end, there was no point to any of it, though, as the breeze filled in from the South and both sides arrived at more or less the same time. The first four came from the right (with Douglas/Mark taking the win, followed by Kimball Morrison and Jez Fowke) and the next three came from the left. Thankfully, the race was shortened after one lap and the Race Officer went looking for a better course area.

Sadly, the better course area was already taken by the HISC committee boat, so the available spot was a very short beat across the channel which looked a lot like a boat handing exercise akin to a "gut-buster". However, the Southerly held true for the whole of Race 6 and led to some very close racing, with Ed & Neale rounding off their weekend with a win. Congratulations to Neale/Ed for defending their title and well done to Dennis Gehclein and Lasse Nielandt for taking away the prize for first foreign boat in 7th overall.

Next up it's the Walker Trophy on 18 May hoping to see a good turnout then as well!

Full results can be found here.

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