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Graduate Open at Swarkestone Sailing Club

by Fresh Abendstern 28 Sep 08:03 BST 25 September 2022
Swarkestone Graduate Open © Annabelle Coppinger

Snakes & Ladders - A tale of 5 Graduates "enjoying" the perplexing conditions at Swarkestone

Swarkestone has slowly been building its Grad fleet with a handful of Grads now at the club. There were two home boats, joined by three visiting boats from Chase SC & Toddbrook SC.

The Toddbrook visitors were borderline too keen, with the first boat arriving on Friday morning, and sailors arriving later in the day to sample the local pub!

With no racing on Saturday (the open was scheduled for Sunday racing only), there was of course a trip to the local climbing centre, before heading back to the club to rig boats and rehydrate with a beer or two.

Sunday dawned, and the wind was looking light and fickle. Fortunately, the forecast was for the breeze to build, so after some delicious bacon butties we launched for the first race of the day.

The home boat of Patrick & Jonathan Hill had the best start, tacking and crossing the fleet, before being hauled in by the windward mark by Brynster Abendstern & Ross Southwell, as well as Fresh Abendstern & supercrew Fiona Edwards (who was only stepping into a dinghy for the 3rd time ever). Needless to say, as we were approaching the windward mark, and Fiona asked if we had started racing yet, the fleet were most amused!

Adam Froggatt & Michelle Williams were fighting hard to catch up after missing the starting gun, but snuck into 3rd place after Lap 1. From there on, positions remained the same and the race finished with Brynster & Ross taking the bullet (despite running aground on the final beat), followed by Fresh & Fiona, Adam & Michelle, and the Hill twins.

A quick pit stop for snacks, and we were back out on the water, this race being joined by Tim & Caz Hand, local experts who are always quick - Tim having won 4 national titles back in the day, and a race winner at the Nationals earlier in the year.

The second start was hotly contested, all boats heading for the starboard end of the line. Again, the Hill twins won the start (clearly, they've been eating their Weetabix!) and a shout of "protest" from Brynster had Tim & Caz doing spins off the line. However, Tim's local knowledge paid dividends, as he was able to quickly catch back up, and as the fleet bunched up at the windward mark, he promptly rolled over the top of Brynster - that must have been satisfying!

Down the first run, there was jostling for position to get the inside advantage for the next mark, but Fresh & Fiona managed to sneak round the outside, going from last to first in the process. Leading the fleet for the next leg, they gybed round the next mark and sailed straight into a hole which allowed Adam & Michelle (who had started on time this race) to sail over the top and get room on the next mark.

Tim & Caz were hot on the heels of Fresh & Fiona, with the two boats overtaking each other on each leg for the next 2 laps! Brynster & Ross then joined the battle, before Fresh & Fiona managed to utilise the club racing Laser of Sam "roadblock" McKay to sneak into a comfortable 2nd place while Brynster & Ross and Tim & Caz seemed to arrive together at almost every single mark, providing them with some excellent opportunities to practice their boat-on-boat manoeuvring and tactical awareness, Brynster & Ross eventually coming out on top.

Race 2 final positions: Adam & Michelle 1st, Fresh & Fiona 2nd, Brynster & Ross 3rd, Tim & Caz 4th, Hill twins 5th.

Another break between races, soup and sarnies scoffed, and back out for the decider. With Adam & Michelle, Brynster & Ross, and Fresh & Fiona all on equal points, this one was going down to the wire, all to play for, winner takes all.

Another starboard end biased line, but Fresh & Fiona finally decided to have a good start, tacking late under the Hill twins (who would have been on course for another perfect start), and leading the fleet to the windward mark, followed by Brynster & Ross, then Adam & Michelle, then the Hill twins. The first lap was looking pretty stable without a positional change, however on the second lap the Grad fleet caught up to the club racers.

This led to a big pile up at the leeward mark, with Adam & Michelle sneaking past Brynster & Ross into 2nd place. On the following lap, Fresh & Fiona got into a bit of difficulty navigating the now very light, very very shifty conditions at the bottom end of the course, and once again Adam & Michelle were ready to pounce, rolling Fresh & Fiona to take 1st place, with Brynster & Ross sailing underneath to take 2nd.

Up the next beat, the 3 Grads were tussling for prime position, sniffing out any hint of a gust, but rounded all in the same order. Fresh & Fiona took good pace into the windward mark and looked to be rolling Brynster & Ross, and gaining on Adam & Michelle, however by the next mark Brynster & Ross got their noses forward and sailed underneath the other two boats and into the lead. From there, they weren't letting go and took the final race of the day, followed by Adam & Michelle, Fresh & Fiona, and the Hill twins.

With one discard, the overall results mirrored the results of the final race:

1st - Brynster Abendstern & Ross Southwell
2nd - Adam Froggatt & Michelle Williams (1st Lady Crew)
3rd - Fresh Abendstern & Fiona Edwards
4th - Patrick Hill & Jonathan Hill
5th - Tim Hand & Caz Hand

Huge thanks to Swarkestone SC for being so welcoming, and to all the Grad sailors for coming along and making it a fantastic weekend with great racing even in some really testing conditions.

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