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Sailing Chandlery 2024 LEADERBOARD

Sailing Chandlery RS400 Southern Tour at Salcombe Yacht Club

by Paul Smalley 7 May 12:58 BST 4-5 May 2024

12 RS400's enter 'The Bag' at Salcombe. Double Olympic Silver Medalist Ian Walker emerges victorious. Some probably never came out.

Salcombe is a unique place to sail. I like I'm sure many others have read the stories coming out each year from Merlin Week and marvelled at how seemingly every 50 fathoms of the river mouth at Salcombe has a name, likely associated with something you were drinking the night before and certainly also associated with a magic eddy, or wind bend, or name your disastrous tidal/weather/wave effect known only to those who have studied the topography of the local area in absurd detail both above and beneath the waves. Suffice to say it should be on everyones bucket list of places to go racing. And whilst mortals might experience the occasional dispiriting result in their series, it is unsurprising that the calibre of sailors who manage to win here is high in any fleet. And those guys and girls that win don't tend to be all that inconsistent!

I am sadly not one of those peoples, either that has studied the intricacies of Salcombe for years or that is capable of consistency in such a unique venue. I have no idea for example what happened in race 2 since at one point we were stone last, and upon rounding what I assume could have been originally intended as a leeward mark I couldn't see another RS400 in my estuary. Conservatively we may well have been over half a mile behind the next boat. Fortunately over the next 1.5 miles of sailing we managed to catch up again, a feat I'm certain couldn't be accomplished at any other venue and I can only imagine the frustrations going on ahead while we hooked into our magic gusts that brought us back to the pack!

Anyway, I managed to read everything I could find on the internet while I should have been working in the week prior to arriving in Salcombe. Mostly this ensured we turned up for the open meeting with a pre booked parking space and boat park space and entry fee and harbour dues and a vague idea of how the weekend was going to run. I also knew that I should definitely steer clear of Scoble point, or possibly Ox point in an ebbing tide with an easterly unless there was some South in it, or maybe in a flooding tide with a south westerly but not when the trees are in bloom. I'm sketchy on the details. (It's actually all very simple, the only rule is whatever you do don't take your boat to the sailing club. Instead plan to race out of Batson Creek - like most of us newbies did... or Mill bay... or Smalls Cove... or seemingly anywhere you think you might be able to launch an RS400 from that is within range of the start line.) And don't worry too much about the details of which way to go. Winners seemed to come out of every direction, odds seem to be you'll hook into something good eventually if you just keep sailing into random shores and don't hit any rocks. Or maybe just lightly kiss the rocks, who knows?

Racing at Salcombe runs according to the Mayan Calendar. The internet reckons the race start for the RS400's on May Bank Holiday in 2054 will be at 10:25 prompt and will co-incide nicely with the apocalypse. The apocalypse is less of an issue in Salcombe than in the rest of the country. The microclimate it experiences means that more often than not the apocalypse results in a cloudy start followed by bright sunshine and a moderate southerly wind.

So how did the racing go... Well it was a two horse race between multiple previous Salcombe weekend victor Figs Cain sailing with Barney Dearsley in RS400 no 411 (Yes the 11th one built) and Ian Walker with Anna Warren who need no introduction but were Salcombe Virgins. Ian even came up with the unique practice of starting the deciding final race of the weekend 'Hard Aground' somewhere near Smalls Cove. As previously alluded to, you can do whatever you like when racing at Salcombe as far as I can tell. Odds on sometimes it might be a quick way to go. The next 8 boats out of the 12 entered were tied within 4 points of each other after two days and three long hard races in conditions ranging from light fart on the sails to full on hiking downwind (albeit briefly). Almost everyone in the fleet could have taken the final podium spot on the last day and everyone had their moment in the sun, only to soon after find themselves very much back in the shade and wondering what on earth had just happened in the last 50 yards that had resulted in a 500 yard loss of position. The only exception being Stevie Beckett and Lucy Rutter, whilst in a really tight fight amongst the top 6 boats up the first beat of the last race this intrepid duo stupidly tacked out into the tide with only 300 yards to go to the mark. I was relieved since we were close on points and one less boat in the hunt was definitely a good thing, I hoped not to see them again that race and was only slightly concerned they might not make it back to shore that day. Anyway, they rounded about a mile, possibly more, in front of the chasing pack and despite the best efforts of the fleet and Salcombe to drag them back they maintained an advantage, taking an impressive last win of the weekend.

Overall I'm a Salcombe convert. Racing here in a 400 is challenging, there are a lot of expensive things to run into. If you miss the expensive things there are very cheap rocks that can probably cause smaller expenses to your little dinghy. If your fleet is dim enough to experience a general recall you will be waiting a long time to get back into the sequence. The Mayans did not account for general recalls when programming racing at Salcombe. Fortunately, having been duly warned of the consequences together with the blindingly obvious fact that the start at Salcombe accounts for nothing of the overall race result the 400 fleet was well behaved. See Mr Walker for tips on ground anchoring while starting. The various weather effects could take a lifetime to learn, but rest assured, if you're a professional sailor with a history of Olympic success you'll probably be fine. The guarantees are that the racing will be tight, the social will be whatever you want it to be, the beaches will be sandy and the club and town will be as welcoming as any I've ever sailed at. Can't wait to come back next year, might even try launching somewhere more exotic now I understand the sailing instructions.

Yours, very confused,

Paul & Sunsail RS400 1020

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4Pts
1st1481Ian WalkerAnna WarrenWarsash11‑324
2nd411Figs CainBarney DearslyStarcross2‑3136
3rd1020Paul SmalleySunsail Kerslake 3‑94411
4th1309Stevie BeckettLucy Rutter 4‑117112
5th1078Peter JacksonDave Philips 62‑10614
6th1981Howard FarbrotherLouise Hosken 5102(DNC)17
7th1548Mick WhitmoreSarah Whitmore ‑876518
8th1329Peter ColcloughChris LaycockSalcombe‑1065718
9th1534Paul EngelmannKaty EngelmannSalcombe‑948820
10th1471John McLarenAnnie McLarenSalcombe759(DNC)21
11th1130Martin WestonMike Webb (DNF)811928
12th1382Andrew HuntMatt Hunt (DNF)RETRETRET37

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