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B14 Season Opener and Inland Championship at Rutland Sailing Club

by Mark Watts 23 Mar 10:48 GMT 19-20 March 2022

With a long-range forecast showing sunshine and a nice breeze there was a lot of pre-event excitement to open the season with the annual trip to Rutland. Sadly a few hiccups along the way led to a reduced turnout, excuses ranging from the now old excuse of Covid, to car accidents (on the way to the event) and what seems to be a sudden shortage of crews (scared off perhaps after a lack of winter training by the pre-event news article mentioning big guns!).

Saturday dawned with a sunny Rutland SC Dinghy park, Rutland water looking warm and inviting with teams catching up after the winter break and casually rigging up. After coffee and second breakfast the briefing indicated a mass start with the 4000's 800's and the Cherubs and a simple windward-leeward course, all seemingly nice and easy.

The calm illusion was shattered as boats rolled down to the waters edge and hoisted sails. First to enjoy the cold Rutland water was Ferret, who left to hold onto the boat whilst his helm leisurely wandered off with the trolley was dragged off his feet by a big gust and led to the first capsize of the day.

The beat out the start was pretty eventful with gusts firing off the shore with huge range in both pressure and direction waking everyone up before the kite run down to the start.. Flat water, 20+ knots, sunshine, and smiles all round as everyone was reminded how much fun a B14 flat out is. This was especially true of Nick Craig/Toby Lewis recalibrating after a winter in the GP14!

Race 1 saw 5 laps of what was seemingly a large course with the windward mark pinned up in the east corner. The fleet got away cleanly with no clear view on the right way up the beat, boats taking varied routes to arrive relatively bunched at the top mark, the B14's storming away with a lone 800. The first run can only be described as full on, the challenge being calling the gybe point correctly with the wild swings in pressure and angle. After a few squeaky bum moments the leaders all nailed the first gybe and then set up for a charge down to the bottom gate as it became clear everyone had to varying degrees overstood. At the bottom mark it all kicked off. A group arriving together in one of the biggest gusts of the day. First to hit the tide were 796 "Harken" Nick Craig/Toby Lewis as Toby realised his GP14 kite packing technique wasnt going to work and the kite dragged in the water leading to an impressive pitch pole. Next to go were 771 "Blue Badge" Mike Bees/Ferret who reserved their pitchpole until the kite was just in the bag, sadly leading to their retirement for the day. Coming out of the chaos to lead as one of only 2 boats left standing were 797 "Brightmile" Mark Watts/Matt Johnson, relishing the big breeze. They were followed by new pairing 791 "DOT (Dads On Tour)" Josh Wilce/Matt Hollis who after only a few hours in the boat were making an impressive start to their campaign. Up the next beat 774 "Highland Girl" Dave Hayes/Pete Nicholson decided to test their 12 year old boom to destruction and sadly had to sit out the rest of the day.

The next 4 laps became something of a blur of wrestling the boat upwind (at times with barely any main and jib) to sending it down the run. Brightmile had a good battle with the lone RS800, coming out on top. DOT did a great job to come in second from a recovering Harken in third.

Race 2 and with a very depleted fleet the race officer set a shorter 3 lap course with the wind still gusting 25+.

At the start Brightmile to port tack the fleet only to totally mess it up and end up crash tacking into the pin to avoid a 4000. There were still mixed views on the tactics up the first beat with a split between the left and right hand side. At the top mark it was Harken leading, closely followed by a recovering Brightmile from DOT. At the bottom mark there was nothing to choose between the leaders with Brightmile out-dropping Harken to round to leeward and setting up a crazy drag race out the right hand corner, the boats going toe to toe separated by just half a boat length as they fought for supremacy. Sadly with their focus on each other they forgot about DOT who hit hard left and came into the top mark in the lead. Down the run Brightmile gybed off early leaving Harken and DOT to battle it out. At the bottom mark DOT led from Harken but both dropped early leaving the door open for Brightmile to charge in from the right on starboard. Plenty of shouting saw DOT shut the door on Brightmile to take the win with Harken aggressively luffing Brightmile on the 2 sail sprint to the finish to just clinch 2nd in a photo finish.

Race 3 and the wind had picked up again to similar conditions to race 1. Brightmile just made the start in time having had to replace a broken tiller extension. Note to self, dont tape the spare so well into the wing tube and forget a knife! port tacking through the middle of the start to take the now favoured right side and lead from Harken at the top mark. At the bottom Brightmile underlayed the bottom gate and coming in slow opened the door to Harken to get right back on terms. Up the next beat the boats split, Brightmile again heading for the right to take a commanding lead which they held through to the finish. Harken rounding out a consistent day in 2nd from DOT in 3rd. Kudos must go to 795 Amir Shamsuddin/Nick Pye who showed well in all 3 races and rounded out the day in 4th.

Saturday saw many bruised bodies but massive smiles as the fleet heading to the pub for some hard earned calories. A big shout out to Alex Hayes for her Boom delivery mission to get team Hayes back on the water for Sunday. Thanks Alex!

Sunday morning dawned cold with thankfully (for some of us) less wind, ranging from 8-12 knots and oscillating 10-15 degrees either side of ENE. There were plenty of sore bodies to be seen, but due to the feisty conditions of the previous day no sore heads.

Race 4 got away promptly with Harken making the best of the start and first beat to round first, followed by Blue Badge, Highland Girl and the rest in a tight gaggle. The catchphrase of the days "Get the 2nd beat right and you'll win the fight", and Highland Girl started the trend by picking up nice right-hander from mid pack to get into phase with the shifts and round the windward mark with an unassailable lead. Harken held a safe 2nd place with Blue Badge dropping back behind Brightmile on the final beat.

For Race 5 the wind strength was trending upwards a little, with crews spending most of their time on the rack upwind. Again Harken lead around the first windward mark from Blue Badge, closely pursued by DOT and Highland Girl. This time it was Blue Badge's turn to get in sync with the shifts on the 2nd beat and round ahead of Harken. The latter kept the pressure on but Blue Badge held on for the win with Harken rolling the dice at the start of the final run. Highland Girl came in 3rd followed by Brightmile and DOT.

A prompt turnaround for race 6 was welcome as the breeze appeared to be fading with bigger swings around approximately the same mean direction. Just after the start a vacuum enveloped the fleet. Harken and Brightmile chose to exit it stage right, whilst Blue Badge, Highland Girl and DOT worked their way out to the left. Halfway up the leg the right hand side was looking famous, but then it swung back with some good pressure coming in from the left giving Blue Badge the lead from DOT and Highland Girl. Approaching the leeward mark another vacuum descended shuffling the pack, with Highland Girl emerging ahead of Harken and Blue Badge. By the final windward mark Highland Girl had a healthy lead from Harken who in turn was pulling away from Blue Badge, with Brightmile and DOT having a private battle for 4th & 5th. Harken closed up on Highland Girl down the final run to the finish to put a bit of pressure on, with the rest staying in order.

And so Nick Craig and Toby Lewis in Harken become the first B14 Inland Champions since the heady pre-Covid days of 2019. No mean effort after several years out of the boat and consistency won the day taking out the title without a single race win!

Big thanks to the team at Rutland for running the event, and especially the race team for setting a course which perfectly split the average wind direction down the middle and not being distracted into moving marks around chasing the oscillations either side of it.

The next B14 TT event of 2022 is at Stokes Bay Sailing Club on 23/24 April, we hope to see lots of you there.

Overall Results:

1. Harken, 796, Nick Craig/Toby Lewis. (3), 2, 2, 2, 2, 2
2. Brightmile, 797, Mark Watts/Matt Johnson. 1, 3, 1, 3, 4, (4)
3. DOT, 791, Josh Wilce/Matt Hollis. 2, 1, 3, 5, 5, (5)
4. Highland Girl, 774, David Hayes/Pete Nicholson. DNF, DNC, (DNC), 1, 3, 1
5. Blue Badge, 771, Mike Bees/Martin Worth. DNF, DNC, (DNC), 4, 1, 3
6. 795, Amir Shamsuddin/Nick Pye. 4, 4, (DNF), 6, 6, 6

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