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Grafham Water Sailability Challenger Regatta

by Marion Edwards 12 Jun 18:59 BST 10-11 June 2023

Fourteen Challengers gathered at the Grafham Water Centre for the Grafham Water Sailability Challenger Regatta held during the weekend of 10-11 June. There were eight visiting sailors, five of whom were kindly loaned boats by Grafham Water Sailability. After an absence of some years, Kirsten Pollock (293) was making a welcome return to the fleet and soon showed she had forgotten nothing.

The weather was forecast to be very hot, which it was, with the possibility of thunderstorms, but thankfully there were not.

At the race briefing the race officer said the intention was to run four races on Saturday because the forecast was for very light winds on Sunday. This proved to be a wise decision. The intention was to use a trapezoidal course throughout the weekend.

Launching was not easy as the wind was F3 NEly which made it not far off a leeshore. John Stokes (265) had only gone a few yards when his rudder downhaul snapped but a quick pitstop and help from one of the Grafham Water Sailability volunteers got him back on the water for the start of Race 1 - definitely one of the benefits of launching early. This was the only breakage of the event though a number of potential others were thwarted by Richard Johnson before the boats reached the water.

In Race 1 Val Millward (312) was first to the windward mark. She led across top reach and down towards the gybe mark where Graham Hall (270) got inside her to take the lead across the bottom reach. Alex Hovden (304) began pushing Val so they ended up fighting each other which allowed Graham to extend. Kirsten was fourth. These four boats occupied the four top spots all weekend.

Graham led Race 2 from start to finish with Kirsten and Val fighting each other and finishing in that order. Alex was harrying them from behind waiting to pounce on any errors. John Simpson (256) sailed his best race to come ninth which is no mean feat as he sails with an electric winch which gives much less feel of the wind.

The fleet then returned to shore for lunch. The results showed a second group of sailors, consisting of Alan Bradley (289), John Stokes, Diana Faulks (288) and Barry Funnel (311), starting to share places fifth to eight amongst themselves.

In the afternoon the wind picked up a bit with some F4 gusts, it also veered more easterly which made launching easier.

In Race 3 Val led from start to finish with Graham chasing. Barry picked up a useful fifth and Sarah Whitelock (264), another sailor using an electric winch, had her best result of ninth.

In the stronger winds of Race 4 Kirsten was going higher and faster than Val and Graham and took the win. Sarah Threapleton (298), sailing in her first "away" event, was delighted with seventh place and Barry picked up another fifth.

At the end of the day, Graham had a slender one point lead over Val who in turn had a one point lead over Kirsten. The Silver fleet was led by Barry, followed by Diana and Sarah T. It was very tight in the Bronze fleet with Margaret Grummit buddied by Peter Smith (210) leading Carol Jones and Robin Stephenson (242) but only on countback. Neil Bartlett and John Morrow (211) were doing well in third - this was a new pairing as Murray Palmer had unavoidable work commitments and John kindly stepped into the breach.

Even by 9am, Sunday was hot and sunny with a very light NNEly wind. The race officer took soundings from the more experienced members of the fleet. Graham asked the race officer "Would you send Lasers out in this?" and on receiving the answer "Yes", said "Then we can go". So the decision was made to try to complete the series with two further back to back races.

Unfortunately Barry was unable to race but Pauline Shaw was able to take over Challenger 311 to form a Silver fleet syndicate entry.

In Race 5 Kirsten arrived first at the windward mark closely followed by Val. Kirsten rounded the mark cleanly but a cruel wind shift left Val struggling and she touched the mark and lost places doing her penalty turn. Kirsten was able to extend and built a substantial lead over the rest of the lap. Alex, Graham and Val formed the chasing pack. Unfortunately disaster struck Kirsten on the second beat when she went right and the way to go was left. This allowed the chasing pack through and they settled on the order Graham, Val then Alex which held to the finish. Sarah T. achieved by far her best result of fifth. The wind faded during the race and the race officer took pity on many of the sailors by finishing them either after one lap or at the second windward mark.

Going into the last race, Graham had a one point advantage over Val and Kirsten was not far behind. As at Oxford a few weeks before, Val took the win, this time with Kirsten second and Graham third. As at Oxford, this was not enough to give Val the event win as Graham's third place was sufficient to give him it on countback, with Val second and Kirsten third.

Diana saved her best race to last and fifth place gave her a one point victory over Barry and Pauline in the Silver fleet. Sarah T. claimed third.

In the Bronze fleet the battle between Margaret and Carol was not to be as Carol was unable to sail on Sunday. Margaret wasn't sure if she would have a buddy for Sunday but Graham Cox was able to leap onboard and enable her to complete the series. Carol's results on Saturday were just sufficient to give her second, one point ahead of Neil.

At the prize-giving, Pauline Shaw (regatta organiser) thanked the race officer David Williams, Grafham Water Sailing Club, the Grafham Water Centre and all the volunteers who made the event possible. Pauline also noted the distance travelled by some of the sailors with the most distant representatives coming from Yorkshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. In addition to trophies for the top three in each fleet, there were two perpetual trophies for Grafham sailors. Kirsten was awarded the Gail Force Trophy as the first Grafham boat and Margaret was awarded the Judi Figgures Trophy for the best Grafham effort.

Overall Results:

PosHelmCrewSail NoClubFleetR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1stGraham Hall 270Rutland Sailing ClubGold112‑3138
2ndVal Millward 312Rutland Sailing ClubGold2‑312218
3rdKirsten Pollock 293Grafham Water SailabilityGold‑42314212
4thAlex Hovden 304Papercourt Sailing ClubGold3‑4443418
5thAlan Bradley 289Rutland SailabilityGold5576‑8629
6thDiana Faulks 288Rutland SailabilitySilver686‑96531
7thBarry Funnell and Pauline Shaw 311Grafham Water SailabilitySilver8755‑9732
8thJohn Stokes 265Peterborough SailabilityGold76‑887836
9thSarah Threapleton 298Rutland SailabilitySilver9‑1210751041
10thSarah Whitelock 264Grafham Water SailabilitySilver1110910‑121252
11thMargaret GrummitPeter Smith/Graham Cox210Grafham Water SailabilityBronze‑1313111110954
12thJohn Simpson 256Grafham Water SailabilitySilver1091213(DNC)DNC59
13thCarol JonesRobin Stephenson242Grafham Water SailabilityBronze12111312(DNC)DNC63
14thNeil BartlettJohn Morrow211Oxford SailabilityBronze141414(DNC)111164

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