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Gul B14 TT Series event 3 at Whitstable Yacht Club

by Mark Barnes 4 Jun 2019 13:02 BST 1-2 June 2019

The latest instalment of the GUL B14 TT series headed to Whitstable for oysters, fish and chips, and those fabled summer sunsets.

After a successful and close fought B14 Nationals at Restronguet at the beginning of May, who would take up the mantle and throw down the gauntlet leading into the Europeans and Worlds in Carnac in July, to retain the Ashes and keep the Aussies and Europeans at bay?

Master of ceremonies PRO Howard Patterson, a one-time B14 sailor, was to give the fleet a good test prior to France.

As the B14 Flying Circus assembled their steeds in readiness for a full on day on the water it looked as though a delay would be likely - would the sea breeze cancel the gradient or would they combine and give champagne sailing? An hour before the first warning signal the wind turbines began to spin and a 7-9 knot Easterly filled in.

The race track was set and the lighter teams were salivating about the possible rich pickings to be taken from the heavier ones. As it transpired the wily old foxes in Blue Badge (Beezer & Ferret) would be in their element; it would be a day when sniffing out the breeze was at a premium and as everyone knows those with the biggest noses win at that game.

Race 1 got under way and leading around the first weather mark were The Anthill Mob (Tim Harrison/Jonny Ratcliffe) followed by Brightmile (Mark Watts/MJ) and Leaky Pipes/Torq (Gerry & Leaky Fermor). On the run Blue Badge smelled more pressure inshore and gybed off to take a sizeable lead at the bottom gate, which they extended up the next beat. Trunky (Kathy Sherrat (Watts)/Josh Wilce) took up the charge, only to be passed on lap 3 by Team GUL/North Sails (Mark Barnes/Charlotte Horlock).

Blue Badge threw most of their lead away with a misjudged gybe drop at the final leeward gate, wrapping the kite around the rig and then trawling for prawns. Team GUL/North Sails smelled blood and rounded the opposite gate mark to take advantage of a large left shift, closing in further on the final beat. Down the last run Blue Badge got the yips and when they hooked a large clump of weed the writing was on the wall; in a grandstand double-gybe finish Team Gul/North Sails completed their comeback to take the gun.

For race 2 the wind had shifted left and softened. After a quick reset of the course the fleet was away. Leaky Pipes/Torq lead comfortably at the first weather mark pursued by The Anthill Mob and Harken (Simon & Nikki Hadley). This time the bulk of the fleet gybed towards the shore, but big gains were made by Brightmile and Blue Badge who sniffed out more pressure on the right hand side. At the bottom mark Blue Badge just squeezed ahead to take the lead. The 3 of them swapped places up the next beat, and again the run was a nail-biter as the pressure began to fade. Trunky and Team GUL/North Sails worked their way back into it and took 2nd and 3rd behind Blue Badge at the finish followed by Leaky Pipes/Torq.

After the bulk of the fleet had finished race 2 the wind fizzled out inshore at this point it looked as though the day was done but then the gradient SSW returned and began to build. A quick course turn-around and race 3 was under way in 10-12 knots of very warm breeze. Trunky took a commanding lead at the first weather mark chased by Blue Badge, who eventually ground their way through to take the bullet. Team GUL/North Sails kept the pressure on by taking 3rd place with The Anthill Mob pulling through to 4th ahead of Harken.

So after a full afternoon on the water the fleet retired to pasta followed by fish and chips with many drinks on the veranda including a little football match in Madrid and games of pool with nightcaps.

Sunday dawned with an early start due to the forecast. There was some mildly fuzzy heads, but by the miracle of bacon and coffee all were on time for the 10:00 start. The breeze was forecast to be on and would build throughout the day. The teams boarded their chariots and headed out into the bay to gorge themselves on the SW breeze ranging from 1220+ knot gusts. So the event was to be a tale of two halves - the lighter teams had their chances on Saturday, but the heavier ones would feast on Sunday.

Out of the blocks in Race 4, and over a 1.2 mile beat there was little to choose with the first seven teams rounding together and setting off downwind with pace. The breeze was patchy but building slowly with big gains and losses to be made downwind depending on whether you were in a line of pressure or a vacuum. Brightmile led with the others chasing hard. Blue Badge briefly took the lead on the second beat, but Brightmile soon grabbed it back and never looked like being beaten thereafter. Down the final run Team GUL/North Sails were closing in on Blue Badge, but ultimately ran out of race track. Trunky took fourth.

Race 5 and the breeze was becoming more solid. Upwind mode: rig fully depowered, 8" of board up, ease the jib and send it. Brightmile took it by the horns sailed away on their own. There was a race long battle-of-the-centenarians for second and third between Bondforce/Alnmaritec (Dave Hayes & Sean Dwyer) and Blue Badge in which the former finally prevailed. Trunky took fourth from Leaky Pipes after the latter stopped to wash their sails a few hundred metres short of the finish line.

With the breeze still building and the chop starting to kick up Blue Badge, who had done enough to take the event, headed for the beach to rest their weary bones.

With 1 race to run and the minor places still to be decided, a depleted fleet was rejoined by Team GUL/North Sails who had returned to the beach for a brief pit-stop in race 5. Who would reign for the rest of the podium was too close to call. Out of the start Trunky gave it all chasing Brightmile hard out to the left with Team GUL/North Sails taking the middle left. Over the first lap there was little to choose between them. Brightmile began to take charge and as Trunky's challenge faded in the building breeze Team GUL/North Sails put the pedal down and opened the throttle. Alas although they closed in on Brightmile the latter still held a lead at the end to complete an impressive clean sweep for the day.

Ashore the numbers were done and Team Gul/North Sails got second by 1 point from Brightmile who in turn beat Trunky by 1 point. Very close racing with little to choose between the teams at the Nationals and Whitstable, it will come down to a bit of luck and race craft in Carnac. Classic fleet winners were GBR 707 (Amir Shamsuddin/Nick Pye), showing some great speed in the conditions and mixing it with the Grand Prix B14s.

The prize giving was held promptly with many departing with well earned (and much appreciated) tokens from class sponsor Gul.

Next event is Carnac 25.07 02.08.2019 where the big prizes will be up for grabs. See you there!

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1771Mike BeesMartin WorthBrightlingsea SC21123(DNC)9
2795Mark BarnesCharlotte HorlockWhitstable Yacht Club1333(RET)212
3797Mark WattsM JWeston SC4‑6611113
478Kathy SherrattJosh WilceWeston / Rutland SC322‑44314
5774David HayesSean DwyerWhitstable Yacht Club7‑8772427
6786Geraldine FermorLeaky Fermor 64855(DNC)28
7758Tim HarrisonJonny RatcliffeGurnard SC5746(RET)DNC36
8768James GardnerAnne GardnerHayling Island SC991086(DNC)42
9770Simon HadleyNikki HadleyWhitstable Yacht Club855(DNC)DNCDNC46
10707Amir ShamsuddinNick PyeKing George SC121313117(DNC)56
11755Kelvin MooreStuart MooreNetley SC1110129(DNS)RET56
12775Rhys TriffittAbbey K‑HBough Beech SC(DNS)12910RETDNC59
13766Dan CowinBarry PriceBurghfield SC / Grafham Water SC101111(RET)RETDNC60

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