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Bala SC Long Distance Weekend

by Rob Sloggett 28 Jun 2023 16:21 BST 17-18 June 2023

With the opening race of Season 4 Sail GP taking place on the same weekend in Chicago, it was fitting that it coincided with one of Bala SC's Blue Riband events, the Long Distance Weekend (17th & 18th June 2023).

This annual event taking in the full 3.7 miles of the lake is very popular with visiting clubs travelling from across the country to take advantage of a great stretch of water. The comprehensive safety boat cover also encourages less experienced club members who do not normally stretch their legs down to the weather station to do so, safe in the knowledge that if they get into trouble, support is close to hand.

This year saw 44 boats take to the start line on Saturday and 27 on Sunday. This is a brilliant increase over 2022 which saw 31 boats on the Saturday and (due to very heavy wind conditions) only 7 boats on the Sunday.

The event was during a period of hot weather in North Wales and unlike last year, the met office forecast was for lighter winds and periods of thunder and lightning, making the Race Officers weekend very challenging. With the title "Long Distance Weekend" sort of setting the course as a simple windward/leeward sausage, the decision was very much about timing the start and duration to take advantage of when the winds where present as well as not sending boats around on another 45 to 60 minute lap when the potential of a storm breaking was present.

The entry list was very eclectic, with a little bit of "pre marketing" encouraging some of the Bala SC cruiser members to take part. Therefore the 3 minute start countdown started with craft ranging from a F101 foiling trimaran, a good selection of multi-hulls, some great asymmetric mono-hulls, Blazes, Lasers etc and then a small fleet of Drascombe Luggers.

Experience also ranged from very well seasoned competitors with over 40 years at the helm to a great effort by Luke Chadwick in a club Laser who only completed his RYA Lvl 1 & 2 Learn to Sail at Bala, 2 weeks previous!

With a target time on water of 4 hours, but thunderstorms predicted, the final third of Saturdays race saw times drop quite considerably as the wind dropped making the decision to shorten the race and the impact of average lap times a difficult call for the RO. Sunday was even more challenging with an 11:00 start time planned but the local forecast predicting heavy thunderstorms around 13:00 to 14:00. Light winds meant that instead of the full lake length, the windward mark was bought about 1/3 of the distance up the lake on Sunday, still giving a Long Distance feel but minimising the recovery point for boats if the wind dropped off and boats needed to be towed to the clubhouse prior to any storm breaking.

It was great to see a number of returning competitors, especially Chris Pickles and Matt Sharman (RS400) aiming for a back to back win from 2022.

Andy Todd (RS100) took 5th place overall (with a 6th on Saturday and an 8th on Sunday) to secure the highest place Bala SC member and lift the John Hunter trophy. John is a longstanding member who provides a lot of the high quality photography behind the scenes and this year saw the inaugural presentation of the trophy in his name as a thank you for the support he provides to the club.

Finley Partington (Laser Radial) also took 9th place overall (with a 13th on Saturday and an 15th on Sunday) as the highest place youth and also another Bala SC member.

Highest place female helm went to Kath Broatch, assisted and crewed by Joy James (Port Dinorwic SC), Their 13th place overall was made up of a 16th and 13th in a Fireball.

With the top 5 places shown below, Chris and Matts 4 hour trip from Bassenthwaite paid dividends, as a 2nd on day 1 and a 1st on a tricky day 2 secured their back to back success. Congratulations to both of you.

1st - Chris Pickles and Matt Sharman, Bassenthwaite SC, RS400
2nd - Luke Fisher, RS Vareo, Emberton Park
3rd - Martin Spencer, Devoti D One
4th - Richard and Kate Butler, Tasar, Covenham SC
5th - Andy Todd, RS100, Bala SC

Putting the actual sailing to one side, the organisation of the weekend with such a large number of boats on the foreshore (and start line!) was nothing short of clockwork. A huge thanks needs to go out not just to the volunteers on the safety boats but also the galley team who provided hot food and snacks over the duration of the weekend. A fantastic time was had during the Saturday evening (thank you bar staff) with a live local singer (Ffion Rees) booked who put in an incredible set.

It is also appropriate to say a HUGE thank-you to every person who travelled and we look forward to seeing you next year or at our other open events including our Summer Regatta. The following clubs were represented over the weekend; Bartley SC, Bassenthwaite SC, Budworth SC, Covenham SC, Delph SC, Emberton Park, Hurst Castle SC, Leigh & Lowton SC, Port Dinorwic SC, Pwllheli SC, SCYC, Yorkshire Dales SC. Apologies if I have missed any from this list!

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