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Gill Dart 15 Winter TT at Grafham Water Sailing Club

by Mark Aldridge 16 Mar 12:07 GMT 12 March 2023
Gill Dart 15 Winter TT at Grafham Water © Paul Sanwell / OPP

The Gill Dart 15 Winter TT at Grafham Water got underway in near perfect sailing conditions for the 13 hardy competitors braving a cool, fresh mainly South-Westerly breeze with a steady 22 knots on the start line for race 1 of 3 scheduled back-to-back races.

Our race officers for the event were the ever-efficient team of Nigel and Fiona Denchfield, kindly assisted on the day by Grafham cat sailor Tony Stokes. With the assistance of the superb mark laying/rescue team from GWSC a trapezoidal course was set with the beat approx. 850m (extended for race 3 to 950m). The Dart 15’s were the first fleet away with a fairly neutral line seeing all boats starting on starboard tack. The breeze was steady and predictable although some gusts that would catch out any ‘sheeted in’ sailing techniques. The first beat saw Mark Aldridge around the windward mark in pole position, closely followed by Steve Sawford, Jenny Ball, Charles Watson and Jon Pearse. Race 1 continued around the trapezoid in much the same order with some foresight needed around the mark rounding to allow all club racing classes room given our approach and exit angles were differing.

Race 2 was efficiently underway with a similar start line and again it was Mark Aldridge who took a central approach to the beat making it first around the windward mark. Following closely were Dart 15 Association Chairman Ed Tuite Dalton, Charles Watson, Jon Pearse, Simon Farthing who had now woken from winter hibernation and Steve Sawford. The downwind leg saw Farthing gain some places as Sawford was also gaining throughout lap 2, but not enough to get past our Chairman who was holding a solid 2nd. Jenny Ball who clearly doesn’t like 22 knots was sailing strongly quietly moving up the fleet and finishing lap 2 in 4th position. Lap 3 became lively with some good gusts and Aldridge buried both bows approaching the wind ward mark in a poor attempt to sail upwind of an ill-positioned fishing boat and was extremely lucky to keep it upright. In the fleet Jan Elfring managed a pitch pole whilst Jacob Aldridge having not sailed a Dart 15 or anything else for that matter for 7 years was going well and enjoying the conditions and having a good 3 race battle with Ray Gall, with Yahoo!! coming out on top. Race 2 finished after 3 laps with Aldridge, Tuite Dalton, Sawford, Ball, Farthing, Watson and J.Aldridge being the first 7 boats over the line.

Race 3 saw a slight softening of the wind and a longer beat now up to 950m in an attempt to keep the fleets apart a bit more. Sawford was first to the windward mark having tacked slightly earlier on the first beat and was just ahead of a charging Watson and Pearse who had tacked off even earlier and were fast approaching on Starboard tack. A careful mark rounding was needed with these boat speeds and the odd capsized Laser to contend with. The top reach still provided entertainment for our loyal band of spectators and as the boats rounded mark 2 the order was Sawford, Watson, Farthing, Aldridge and Pearse. The downwind leg was now favouring a starboard tack although Aldridge ducked the leaders and took an inside line to make the post of some extra pressure and reached mark 3 now in the lead with Sawford, Watson, Pearse and Farthing in hot pursuit. Lap 2 was underway and as the boats circulated once more ahead of the final lap of the day the order was Aldridge, Farthing, Watson, Sawford, Ball and Pearse. Some tactical sailing ended race 3 as the finishing order was Aldridge, Farthing, Watson, Sawford and Ball.

A by now weary fleet retired to the shore for some boat packing up, a hot shower, some excellent food courtesy of Lisa and crew in the GWSC wet bar with prize giving to follow in the GWSC Top Bar.

Winner of the Gill Dart 15 Winter TT was Grafham sailor Mark Aldridge who received the Chris Black Memorial Trophy and a Gill voucher from Judith Black, with Steve Sawford (Rutland Sailing Club) 2nd receiving a blue Gill wet bag and Simon Farthing 3rd (Grafham Water Sailing Club) also receiving a prize of a Gill Hat.

More photographs of the event can be viewed at the Grafham Water SC Photo Gallery.

Grafham Water SC is based in Cambridgeshire and offers some of the best inland sailing in the country. The club is open to all classes of boat with strong fleets of Dart 15’s, catamarans, Lasers/ILCAs, Solos, D-Zeros, RSs and Flying Fifteens. For more information about the club please visit the website at or call the club on 01480 810478. Follow the club on Facebook at

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewR1R2R3Pts
1st66Mark AldridgeGrafham Water Sailiing Club‑1112
2nd2033Steve SawfordRutland Water Sailing Club22‑44
3rd1898Simon FarthingGrafham Water Sailiing Club‑5527
4th1942Charles WatsonYorkshire Dales Sailing Club4‑637
5th2025Jenny BallMarconi Sailing Club34‑57
6th2023Ed Tuite DaltonDraycote Water63‑79
7th1940Derek JamesDraycote Water‑129615
8th2028Ray GallCarsington Sailing Club7‑10916
9th1962Jacob Aldridge 97‑1016
10th1988Jon PearseMarconi Sailing Club‑88816
11th2015Nigel JamesMarconi Sailing Club1111(DNC)22
12th2030Jan ElfringDraycote Water10(DNC)DNC26
13th2022Stuart SnellGrafham Water Sailiing Club(DNF)DNCDNC32
13th1522Andrew ClarkeGrafham Water Sailiing Club(DNC)DNCDNC32
13th1917Jason ClarkeMarconi Sailing Club(DNC)DNCDNC32

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