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Scorpion open meeting at South Cerney Sailing Club

by Malcolm James 12 Sep 22:04 BST 7 September 2019

The sun most definitely shone on Lake 16 in the Cotswolds Water Park this weekend as the regular fleet of six home Flying Fifteens and four visiting boats was joined by four Scorpions eager to contest the shiny new 'Cerney Scorpion' trophy.

Race officer Dave Whittle and his team made optimum use of the 90 acres of sailable water and a gentle westerly breeze of 6-10 knots, starting the fleets with a five minute interval and setting an overlapping triangle-sausage type course to test all points of sailing.

Race 1 was arguably the closest fought for the Scorpions with the fleet tightly grouped all the way round the course for the first two laps and constant place changing on both upwind and downwind legs. Visitors John and Peter Rose from Chew Valley Lake SC sailed 1933 'Executive Toy' into a clear lead by the end of the first lap but were slowly reined in as the race progressed by Al Sim and son Matt sailing 2001 'Zephyr'.

Challenging wind shifts combined with a rogue patch of weed slowed 1933 to a crawl on the penultimate beat, allowing the Sims to round first and then sail clear ahead down the long broad reach hotly pursued by Malcolm James and Adam Napier in 2042 'Prestige Worldwide'. Less than 50 seconds separated all four places for the 43 minute duration race and observers were heard to remark on how close the Scorpion racing had been; the first time in at least 25 years since a fleet of Scorpions had taken to the water at South Cerney SC.

A quick turnaround for both fleets allowed Race 2 to get under way quickly and this time it was the youngsters Max Buswell (16) and Monty Hampton (11) setting a lightning pace in 2011 'Must Try Harder' (and they certainly were doing, that's for sure) who rounded the windward mark first. Top spinnaker handling by Monty combined with an all-up helm/crew weight of around 100 kg (our conservative estimate) saw 2011 power ahead down the broad reach to the gybe mark. The duo's proven skills in the Cadet dinghy were clear for all to see in the way that they handled the 'bag-equipped' wooden Scorpion; 2011 essentially being a scaled-up Cadet although Monty did admit that the single pole was "a bit heavier" than he was used to!

By the start of lap 3, however, Max and Monty's lead had been reduced to 25 seconds as the Roses' slowly gained with impressive three-sail performance on the close reach. Dramatic wind-shifts and tactical miscalculations up the second beat narrowed the gap even further, allowing 1933 to round the windward mark ahead and sail off downwind to a clear victory. The Sims came in second, narrowly pipping Max and Monty into third place by a mere five seconds. All credit to the youngsters though for showing us how to sail the Scorpion fast in light airs and with boundless enthusiasm.

Race officer Dave Whittle had apparently been quite serious in his decision to run four races back-to-back and so there was barely time for a quick energy bar let alone a rest before Race 3 got under way. Veering of the wind to the north-west saw a change of course to an elongated 'figure of eight' giving longer beats and off-wind legs. John and Peter had by now just about got to grips with the vagaries of sailing on Lake 16 and the often perplexing 'pattern' of wind-shifts generated along its western shore due to the new waterside housing development. They powered 1933 into an early lead which they then progressively extended on each of the four laps to win by a comfortable 50 seconds margin ahead of 2042.

Race 4 followed a similar pattern for the Roses and so with first place and the 'Cerney Scorpion' winners decided, all eyes focused on the perpetual duel being fought between 2001 and 2042 for the 'Scorpion Downwind' runners-up shield; one which was decided in the Sim's favour as the two Scorpions jostled for position amongst the Flying Fifteen tail-enders.

Overall results for the NSA 'Cerney Scorpion' Trophy and 'Scorpion Downwind' runners-up shield:

1st place; 3 pts - 1933 'Executive Toy', John & Peter Rose, Chew Valley Lake SC.
2nd place; 5 pts - 2001 'Zephyr', Al & Matt Sim, South Cerney SC.
3rd place; 7 pts - 2042 'Prestige Worldwide', Malcolm James & Adam Napier, South Cerney SC.
4th place; 10 pts - 2011 'Must Try Harder', Max Buswell & Monty Hampton, South Cerney SC.

Under-24 Category for South Cerney SC 'Horse & Groom Challenge Trophy':

2011 'Must Try Harder', Max Buswell (16) & Monty Hampton (11), South Cerney SC.

Special Achievement Awards (kindly donated and framed by Alison James):

Adam Napier - First time crewing in a Scorpion
Monty Hampton - Top spinnaker handling, youngest competitor and all-round cheerful enthusiasm!

Thanks to Race officer Dave Whittle and his assistant officers Jackie Vale and Chris Jefferies for excellent on-the- water race management and overall event organisation, in addition to some superb action photography using Dave's monstrous new telephoto zoom lens! Also, thanks to Jackie Vale and Sue Cowlishaw for manning the Galley and coordinating the Saturday evening take-away food orders/ collection respectively. The two new Scorpion trophies were generously donated by Alison James who worked resolutely behind the scenes in her normal quiet, modest way and was more than happy for Adam to take her place at the sharp end of 2042!

It goes without saying that the reinstatement of the South Cerney Scorpion Open Meeting would not have happened without the generous support of the club, notably Mike Round (Sailing Secretary) and Vernon Perkins (Commodore), to whom I am most grateful. I'd also like to thank Al and Matt Sim, Max Buswell and Monty Hampton for sailing my boats and demonstrating that they really are quiet fast when sailed properly! John and Peter you were amazing in showing us the way around Lake 16 and proving yet again just how competitive the Scorpion dinghy is regardless of age (I think 1933 must be at least 27-28 years' old now?). You were worthy winners of the 'Cerney Scorpion' trophy; well done, thanks for joining us and clocking up many miles to/ from Bristol and Tenby in the process!

Special thanks go to Stevie Graham and the team at Pinnell & Bax for their ongoing support of the Scorpion class nationally and entrusting their Scorpion 2042 to me for the weekend. Stevie's intervention guaranteed that there would be a minimum fleet of three boats to race, thereby ensuring that the event would go ahead.

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