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Phantom Open Meeting and Training at Ardleigh Sailing Club

by Eric Howe & Ben Falat 17 Mar 09:23 GMT
Phantom Open Meeting and Training at Ardleigh © Lee Kelly

The first Eastern Area Phantom Open event of the year took place at Ardleigh Sailing Club over the weekend of 11th and 12th March and attracted a dozen boats from across the region.

Our hosts at Ardleigh gave us a very warm welcome - which was surprising as Saturday morning was absolutely freezing. Luckily the sun made an appearance from time to time and there was only a gentle breeze.

Racing would not start until Sunday but 12 Phantoms lined up on the bank for the start of a training day organised by Matt House, one of our hosts from Ardleigh and Chris Roberts long time class supporter and Creeksea Sailing club tweaking expert. Also in attendance was Richard Nurse from class supporters Pinnell & Bax.

The day's session started with a quick check of boats for any "tweaks" that were thought necessary. The first recipient of such advise was Simon Robinson whose mast was notably stood up in the line up of boats. After a quick rake measurement and adjustment of shrouds and lowers his boat was soon sporting the oh so fashionable fully raked look. After a good hour of chatting and fiddling with boats everyone knew exactly what to do so we hit the water for some much needed start practice.

Matt and Chris went out in the RIB and they split us in to two groups. After two short windward-leeward races to get everyone back in a racing mode the principle exercise of the day started. Each flight was requested (okay, shouted at a bit) to get onto the start line with a minute to go and hold position before the start. This is a particular challenge in the Phantom with it's raked rig and large mainsail and some managed better than others on the first attempt.

Boat control and the ability to "pull the trigger" were the objectives and by the second start it looked like the lesson was being learnt. As a reward for their efforts a longer race to give a tour of the reservoir rounded off the day.

I'd rather not say anything about my own precision starting or anyone else's but we were all rusty and Ardleigh likes to interfere as much as it can as well. Great fun, no pressure and got everyone in the mood for Sunday. I would like to thank them from all of us for giving up their time to do this on a very nippy day.

On return to the club the fleet were delighted to tuck into muffins kindly made the day before by Matt's wife Maureen. After some had a crafty nap, whilst others watched a game of Rugby, the fleet gathered again at the local hostelry the "Wooden Fender". This is a perfect Phantom diner as the food portions were huge. I went for the one pound steak and kidney pudding and plenty of beer as the forecast for Sunday was a fresh breeze. A great end to a great first day back in the boat.

Sunday started much, much warmer but as we all signed on at the start hut and looked out across the blackened streaky race course all 12 of us knew what was coming. Ardleigh takes no prisoners in strong gusty wind. It can veer from so many directions and strengths, you never feel settled in the boat and if you do settle it will take you down in the blink of an eye.

Joining in on Sunday was stalwart Eastern Area sailor Ben Falat from Waveney and Oulton Broad. His assumption that perhaps he didn't need any training advice was perhaps prophetic.

The plan for the day was to have three races back to back with two races of around 45 minutes duration to match the club races and a longer third race to make sure the Phantom sailors were completely exhausted.

The race officer for the day was local Solo sailor Steve Ede and he was ably assisted by his partner Sam. It was looking like one of those days where being the Race Officer looked like it may be the warmer sensible option.

The start of the first race saw with a sizeable veer and several boats appeared stranded at the start to leeward of a bank of trees. Having got away into the main open area of the reservoir the shifts also hit home with a freshening breeze making for a game of snakes and ladders. The leaders battled it out in a three way battle between Richard Nurse, Matt House and Ben Falat.

Richard & Matt were always a step ahead and had a very close battle with Ben trying to get within touching distance but not quite making it. The leaders finished in that order and the fleet generally had plenty of place changing and weird moments of being becalmed or pummelled by the downward blasts of wind over the dam wall or banks.

The second race got under way in a similar manner with those attempting to start at the far end of the line finding that the trees were preventing a clear run at the line and those starting at the club end of the line having too much wind. At the last moment Richard Nurse and Chris Roberts were able to coax their boats forward onto the line and set off into the main race area whilst the rest of the fleet struggled to get away.

A theme to the days racing should by now have become apparent. It was shifty, it was gusty, it was lully (is that a word? - it should be). Showing their mastery of these conditions it was again House, Nurse and Falat who pulled through to the front and had a real ding-dong battle.

Eventually during the second beat Ben who was lying in third place enjoyed a very personal lift-and-gust to get into the lead (even Eric trying to track Ben was to be denied the full Ben-efit) and whilst Richard put up a late challenge and crossed the finish overlapped it was Ben that had sneaked it with Matt House in pursuit only four boat lengths behind.

The final race had been planned as a longer race but by now the wind had built up further and several helms decided that enough punishment had been taken for the day. Eight boats did however take to the line and provided some cracking entertainment for the spectators. Perhaps due to a lack of "match fitness" or the increasing unpredictability of wind strength and direction there were to be more capsizes and retirements in this race.

Having missed out on the Saturday starting practise (ahem..) Ben took an otherwise good start but couldn't tack off and was held-on away from the favoured side, watching both Richard and Matt disappear into another postcode and resume their personal battle. Whilst apparently contemplating retirement Ben nevertheless hung-in since 'anything' could happen in the unsteady windy-to-calm conditions.

And so it was.... first to swim was Richard, letting Ben into 3rd. Richard then obligingly threw in a 2nd and 3rd capsize and decided to call it a day. Meanwhile with no-one challenging him Ben pursued his own course to reel in Matt and sure enough on a third round bear away Mat capsized, head butted the boom and went for a swim.

Ben, perhaps "slow-n-steady" as maybe are most Grand-Masters (70+), consequently took his second win which gave him the meeting with two wins to his credit.

Finally mention should be made of Creeksea Sailing Club member Lee who joined us this weekend and took some great drone footage in what can only have been the toughest conditions possible. Footage has been posted on the Eastern Area Facebook group for those that wish to observe the shifts for themselves.

The next event in the Eastern series calendar is at Stone Sailing Club on Saturday 29th April.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3Pts
1st1266Ben FalatWOBYC‑3112
2nd1337Richard NurseNorthampton SC12(DNF)3
3rd1432Matt HouseArdleigh SC2‑324
4th1273Bill TaylorCreeksea SC44(DNF)8
5th1404Eric HoweCreeksea SC‑6639
6th1233Pete SarbuttCreeksea SC55(DNF)10
7th1482Andy HuntGuernsey YC‑99413
8th1433Warren MartinCreeksea SC77(DNS)14
9th1305Ian HillArdleigh SC‑1111516
10th1214Nick ThorpeAlton Water SC88(DNS)16
11th1279Ian PaveyArdleigh SC1010(DNS)20
12th1395Chris RobertsCreeksea SC(DNF)DNFDNS26

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