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Dart 15 Winter TT at Datchet Water Sailing Club

by Jenny Ball 14 Feb 06:39 GMT 12 February 2023
Dart 15 Winter TT at Datchet © Dave Clarke

The Dart 15 Winter Series continued with its fourth Winter TT at Datchet Water Sailing Club. The February TT does not have a great track record - with the last few years lost to either Covid or storm force winds. So it was with some irony that competitors monitored the forecast in the prior week showing a hefty 1-2 knots. However, by Thursday the forecast was showing 5-7 knots and that was enough to entice 9 visitors to turn out for the event (The Six Nations and injury meant a couple more regulars were not sailing).

The fleet arrived in good time for the 9:30am briefing - an early time as the Race Officer needed to brief us and then get out to run the first race of club racing before we headed out for our three races. However, the prospect of Dart 15s apparently scared off the locals and no-one turned up for club racing. Or it might have been the very light wind forecast in cold temperatures that put them off. Either way, we were the spoilt with the whole of Datchet Water to ourselves.

The Race Officer, Mike Beckett and his team got the course laid about half way across the lake where he expected the best of the wind would be and the fleet headed out for the start. Those of us not from West London, ie all of us, never did quite get used to the Heathrow traffic thundering across the lake at regular short intervals but we were all very impressed by the imposing sight of Windsor Castle on the far side of the reservoir.

In the time between the pin being laid and the first race start, the wind had swung left making a starboard tack start more marginal. The Association Chair, Vice Chair and Events Secretary all did the decent thing anyway and started on starboard at the Committee Boat end whilst all the other reprobates attempted port hand flyers, to greater or lesser degrees of success. Fortunately, in 5-6 knots of breeze, it all unfolded in a very genteel manner. Those reprobates who had started on port struck out to the right of the course whilst the other three went left which, for a time, looked like the breeze was slightly better. But as the fleet converged on the windward mark, it was a mixed bag. Reprobates Liam Thom (Shanklin), Jon Pearse (Marconi) and Nigel James (Marconi) got to the windward mark first but Nigel could not quite lay the windward mark which allowed Responsible Ed Tuite-Dalton (Draycote), George Love (Carsington) and Jenny Ball (Marconi) in behind Liam and Jon. Liam steadily extended his lead in clear air whilst the rest of the fleet battled behind him. After two laps, Jenny had managed to claw back and take second place, followed by Jon, then Ed and Nigel.

As the fleet were finishing, the wind did a 90 degree shift which obliged the Race Management team to re-lay the course. The RIB driver borrowed the Assistant Race Officer from the Committee Boat and they set about moving all four marks of the course plus the pin to reflect the new wind direction. Which was probably more work than either of them were planning on with such a light wind forecast. Liam took the opportunity to complain to Jenny (Events Secretary) that it was really quite cold and he was not wearing enough pairs of socks. Nigel had also complained to Jenny about the cold when rigging up before racing. Jenny patiently reminded them both that (a) it was February and (b) it's a Winter TT so the clue really is in the name.

With the course duly re-laid, Race 2 got under way and most of the fleet decided to revert to form and start on starboard with the remaining few die-hard reprobates starting on port not doing quite so well as in Race One. However, those in the fleet that chose to tack off early to the right of the course still fared better than those that stood on - particularly as a big concrete tower was now right on the lay line to the windward mark. Ray Gall (Carsington) put in a particularly impressive performance rounding the windward mark first, with Ed hot on his heels, followed by Liam who had to put in an extra tack to clear the mark, having had to tack before hitting said concrete tower and George who had sailed the other side of the tower and had a clear track into the mark. Ed managed to overhaul Ray to take the lead but Liam was hot on his heels. Having gone through the start/finish line at the end of lap one, Ed, Liam, Ray and Jenny headed left whilst George headed right. Liam then deployed the Shanklin Chat Manoeuvre by observing to Ed that George might be gaining on them having gone right. Ed considered this observation and tacked off. Liam left it a bit longer before tacking and managed to sneak inside Ed at the windward mark. Jenny had also stood on further than Ray and followed Liam and Ed round the windward mark. Despite Ed and Jenny's best efforts, Liam held on to the win, followed by Ed and Jenny with George making a comeback to take fourth and Keith Chidwick (Queen Mary) taking fifth.

Race three got under way with ever lighter winds. Everyone started on starboard this time as the wind had bent right during the start sequence although it did shift back again. It was a close run thing at the windward mark with Jenny just managing to sneak in on port and tack on the mark, with Keith Ed and Liam coming in on starboard behind her. Ray had followed Jenny into the mark but was not lucky enough to have a gap so ended up tacking onto the mark and duly took his turns. The wind by now had gone very light indeed and the fleet were only inching forward with the coastal sailors very glad that there was no tide to contend with. Jenny and Liam were neck and neck on leg two with Liam just getting inside on Mark 2 and half a boat length in front at Mark 3 and Mark 4. The Race Officer wisely decided to shorten the course at Lap one which resulted in cheers all round as the shortened course signal sounded when Liam and Jenny rounded Mark 4. Jenny tried to sail a little higher than Liam on the final upwind leg but stalled out and Liam pulled ahead. Liam and Jenny were then left looking over their shoulders as the wind shifted to the advantage of the fleet behind who, for a time, looked like they might lay the finish in one tack. But the wind shifted back allowing Liam to take his third win, Jenny to take second, whilst George just snuck third from Keith in fourth and Ed in fifth.

The fleet headed home, very happy to have got three real races in despite the light winds but still very distracted every time a large aeroplane flew over which was every five minutes. Marconi SC had brought a full pit crew comprising of three Clarke family members and Dave Russell so with their assistance, all the boats were recovered and up the slipway in good time.

The caterers kindly stayed open for the fleet to get hot drinks and a snack for the journey home and then RO Mike Beckett did the honours with the prize-giving - Liam Thom 1st, Jenny Bal 2nd, Ed Tuite-Dalton 3rd. On behalf of the competitors, Liam thanked everyone at Datchet for hosting us and running a great event, despite trying wind conditions.

This now means the whole series is to play for at the final Winter TT at Grafham on Sunday 12th March. Watch this space!

Overall Results:

PosHelmBoat NameSail NoR1R2R3Pts
1stLiam ThomNo Quarter20341112
2ndJenny BallCatbert Too20252324
3rdEdward Tuite DaltonDart 202320234256
4thGeorge LoveFly by Wire20197437
5thJon Pearse198819883769
6thKeith ChidwickRitardando20169549
7thNigel Jameswolf201559813
8thRay GallYaHooo!!202886713
9thYvonne PikeSootica196568914

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