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Stoneways Marine 2021 - LEADERBOARD

RS Vareo Sprints at Rutland Sailing Club

by Paul North & Chris Abbott 8 Apr 06:12 BST 2-3 April 2022
Luke Fisher during the RS Vareo Sprints at Rutland © Don Munro

Day One (by Paul North)

I was one of just three RS Vareos to travel to Rutland Water for the RS Sprints the first event of this year's Rooster National Tour. It was great to sail again with Luke Fisher and Chris Abbott, both are excellent sailors and it was a good chance to get some pointers in improving my own skills.

Unfortunately due to another commitment I could only compete in the first day of this two day event. With that knowledge in mind, at the registration on Saturday morning Clare handed me my third place prizes (a bottle of beer and a natty stainless steel collapsible re-usable drinking straw) before I had even changed!

Although only able to do half of the event I was keen to compete as I've never sailed in a sprints before, and with its central location and good access from the A1, Rutland is an easy trip for the day - and any chance to sail with other RS Vareos is always worth taking.

So how do sprint races work? The course for all fleets was the same. The course was "point to point". A 3,2,1 start then a beat to a windward black mark, turn left for a short reach to a yellow mark, another left turn downwind, hoist the kite, and sail downwind to another pair of black/yellow marks, turn right twice and back upwind again. Beat to another pair of black/yellow marks, two left turns and another downwind leg to a final black mark. Turn left and cross the finish line. Now sail back along the bottom of the course to the start line just in time to see the fleet in front (the RS400s for us) get away and it's 3,2,1 and you're off again. Six races literally back to back.

Arriving at Rutland on a very chilly morning it was clear that the forecast of a light wind of around 6 kt gusting to 10 was going to be blown away! There was a healthy 10-12 kt blowing with some long gusts up to 18kt giving great conditions for most of the short races.

With the race team having laid all of the marks the wind took a dramatic shift just at the time the racing was due to start and a long delay ensued while the course was completely re-laid. Once that was sorted the starts came thick and fast.

With low numbers in other fleets as well, our start was combined with the two RS500s and we were the second fleet.

In race one Chris got caught in irons right on the start line as Luke and I headed off with the RS500s. Luke sailed away quickly and although I was finding the conditions and chop hard going I managed to stay ahead of Chris who didn't hoist his kite. The wind strength had obviously surprised the race team as the target time of 30 minutes for the race was cut almost in half.

In race two Chris got a much better start and I trailed after him and Luke round the significantly lengthened course. Luke won comfortably and I learned a lot about finding better speed upwind by trying different angles and hiking options!

Race three was pretty much the same as race two with the same result but the wind began to die down in the closing stages.

Before the start to race four Luke encouraged me to be more aggressive and try to win the committee boat end of the start line as there were so few boats and "the RS500s will get out of the way". With the wind dropping off significantly to much nearer the forecast 6/7 kt I managed a near perfect start while Luke hung back to keep an eye on what I was doing (and give me feedback later in the bar). I led round the first two marks but made a complete mess of the downwind leg allowing them both to pass but kept close behind going back upwind. As we set off down the final downwind leg, I caught a fantastic long gust at just the right angle and with the kite up and fully hiking out over the very rear quarter of the RS Vareo really lit her up and skimmed down the outside to pass them both and take the win. I DO love sailing this brilliant boat! Chris took second with Luke third, his only non-bullet of the day.

With another bit of help from Luke on sail settings (lots more outhaul and cunningham) I was able to manage the re-strengthening winds much better in race five. I was close enough on the final downwind leg to hope for another helpful gust but this time it wasn't to be and in a rash attempt to try to sail above Chris in the reach to the line and gybe round the top ended up taking a swim.

Race six was pretty much a repeat of five but without the swim then it was up with kite and a good blast back to the beach.

After changing and packing the boat it was up to the bar for a beer and a debrief of the fun of the day followed by the evening meal laid on by the catering staff.

I really enjoyed the format; it was the first time I had sailed a "point to point" course rather than one with laps and the quick nature of the back to back racing kept us warm, even during the couple of light snow flurries!

I'm now looking forward to the rest of this year's tour events. If you own an RS Vareo pop it on a trailer and come and join us. The fleet are remarkable friendly and welcoming. It's a great chance to sail this brilliant boat with others and learn to go even faster in it. Hope to see you soon.

Day Two (by Chris Abbott)

The Sunday brought more constant medium winds and flatter water with the wind direction change. After the surprise of finding ice in the boat when I took the cover off, by the time we got on the water the day had warmed up and I changed to a set of full fingered gloves to protect the missing skin from the previous day's occasional gusts - I don't use a spinnaker on the river and so I only normally have half fingered gloves with the mainsheet cleat.

For Sunday, there were six similar races where I spent most of the time following Luke and trying to identify the points where I dropped back, (often those times when you say "I think I should tack now but I'll just hang on a little longer"), whilst he was just ahead keeping up with the RS500s who were on the same start line. On one race, Luke dropped in behind at the start to sail behind me and give me some pointers and on the last downwind leg. I found some good angles and some gusts to stay ahead to the finish line - well he did promise me one win because it was my birthday!

Although six races back to back may seem daunting, Rutland managed to get us quickly into a start sequence within a couple of minutes of getting back to the start line. With each race around 23 minutes, we were finished within three hours of racing - less than a normal event where it's three or four back to back races.

This sprint type event is certainly a good wake-up call for the season ahead and much needed spinnaker practise for me. It's a great way to practise starts and try different angles upwind and down, then re-start and try again, rather than spending the next few laps trying to get back into a race where you've had a bad first leg. Yes, I managed to use the spinnaker in all races on the Sunday. I only left it in the chute for the first two races on the Saturday, where the wind was much more than advertised with strong gusts from the snow/hail/light rain fronts coming through, where I figured planing without the spinnaker was better than swimming in that cold water. Having said that, there was a point in the fifth race when I realised I was tiring because I automatically threw in a few role gybes downwind - not a good idea with a spinnaker where you're trying to keep in the gusts.

Thank you to Rutland SC and to our National Tour sponsor Rooster and RS Class Association sponsor Noble Marine. Thanks to Luke and Paul for some great fun - hope we'll have more RS Vareos joining next year's RS Sprint event 22-23 April 2023 and see you all at Chichester YC at the end of the month on 30 April.

Results can be found here

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