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Rutland Sailing Club Cat Open 2024

by Gordon Upton 20 May 14:22 BST 18-19 May 2024
Race start. Paul and Arthur Warren 207, Finn Caddy on the Nacra 15 and Mark Rushton on the A-Cat 101 during the Rutland Cat Open 2024 © Gordon Upton /

Rutland Sailing Club hosted its Catamaran Open in their traditional mid-May slot this weekend. Unfortunately, this year for some reason, attendance was somewhat below the usual numbers who would flock to this big and picturesque venue.

A few overseas events seemed to have reduced the numbers somewhat. The Nacra 15s and 17s have been busy away recently, together with the Hurricane fleet also holding a TT at Stone, had sucked away several of the regular attendees.

However, all the most beautiful cat sailors remained and were in still attendance to enjoy good old Rutland hospitality and sailing. 29 boats, with the A-Cats, F18s, F20s, Shearwaters, Catapults and a lone F15, an F16 and a Dart 15 made up the fast and slow handicapped fleets, on two separate courses.

As we all know only too well, the weather patterns have changed over recent years. We now seem to get many more windless or very light days, and more very high wind ones. Maybe it's me getting old, but those lovely mid-range 10-15kt gorgeous sailing days seem to be fewer, especially at weekends and when we hold events at inland venues where sea breezes don't happen. In the run up, we all find ourselves frantically checking the online forecasts, and our personal built in confirmation bias isn't helping. In your head, it's all 'Is it going to rain?... I don't like rain. My tell-tails stick, then I don't know what to make my sails do. And is it too light for me, as I'm a bit fat, and I'll sail into a hole, then the thinner lads will sail off ahead' That sort of thing or am I just oversharing here?

And so it was that the Saturday had promised pretty light NNW winds. A nice direction for Rutland though, as it comes from the dam end and tends to be less shifty than in some other directions at this venue. The two courses were set up in what is known by the club as 'The Big Lake' area, up at the Eastern end in the direction of the dam and the opposite direction from the Rutland's famous Osprey nests. First start was due at 12.55, but the winds were not playing, and on both courses, the postponement flag was limply flown. The left side course, the Northerly one was for the Slow handicap fleet, ie the Catapults, the lone Dart and the Shearwaters, who always arrive like the circus in town and seem to have a fun party culture like few other classes I know of. I love them. Their course was the triangle and sausage, so it made sense to put them on the left side. The bigger fleet of the Fast Handicap had their Windward Leeward course set to the South, near the Normanton Church landmark.

After some 30 mins, wind had arrived, and both race committees could get the fleets corralled and set off. They were both split into two starts with the fastest upwind sailing boats away first, meaning the fast downwind boats would tend to catch up over the 3 laps, and in theory, the whole race time is within the 45 min limits. The fleets both had broadly similar winds, that is 3 to 8 kts or so all day, although the third race was the slightly windier one.

On the Fast course, the middle was the place not to be as the wind seemed to concentrate at the edges. Those who tried to cross to the other side could haemorrhage places. The Slow course had fewer tactical choices as they all had to go to the left side on their triangle leg on each lap. As a result, there was less of the 'Snakes & Ladders' effect in the Shearwater and Catapults fleets. However, even so, Gareth Ede, John Terr and Eamonn Cotter took turns in winning a race each.

But over on the Fast Course, the positions in the classes were very fluid, other than the Nacra 20 where Nick Elmore ruled supreme, no sailor won more than one race making it rather fun for them all in this tactical minefield. But it was back to the club, for a lovely hog roast and a live musician in the bar. And of course, the wind had arrived and yet again, made the sail back to the shore the best sailing of the day. Plus Ca Change.

Sunday was promised to be better. Cats don't really do light airs. Those big double bed trampolines just encourage lounging rather than racing when it's minimum wind conditions and requires inordinate amounts of concentration. Their manoeuvring is more laboured, and the crew have to sit in weird places in order to try and minimise the hull drag, particularly at the sterns.

Indeed, Sunday was so. The beautiful people enjoyed a spot of champagne sailing at times. The nice 10-12 kt breeze was there from breakfast. The PROs would have no trouble getting the second half of the series completed, and in these conditions, they could all be off the water by 1:30 pm, nice and in time for those travelling from Largs. The wind stayed reasonably constant most of the day. But this time, unusual for the venue with this wind direction, it was the centre and left that offered the best outcome for a change.

The fleets were set of with little fuss, the odd individual recall, but mostly in good order, not much screaming at least. On the fast course, the A-Cats are first to go and get a chance to play with their blistering upwind pace and were pretty much up towards the top of the course when the boats carrying laundry were set off. Leading their pack was Hugh MacGregor the current European A-Cat #6. He is working up with his sights firmly set on September and the Worlds in Punta Ala, ITA, trying to preserve sails and is looking for a top ten finish this time after his 15th last year in Toulon. But he was closely chased by the GWSC Commodore Mark Rushton who managed to stay in touch. The odd ones out in the first fleet were Finn Caddie's Nacra 15 and Paul Warren in the F16. This was crewed by his young son Arthur, the little lad is now proving himself rather handy to dad, now having the strength to pull up their kite and run about doing all the real jobs that Cat helms appear to feel is rather beneath them...

The F18s and the big F20s were then let lose. Whilst not having that uphill cheetah like speed of the A's, when they get to the top and deploy their huge acres of asymmetric fabric, they just eat up any lead in those mid conditions, so both fleets arrived at the bottom gate together, sometimes with hilarious consequences. Leading their pack is a close battle between Nick Elmore, Kev Dutch and Tony Stokes on their massive Nacra F20s. Then moments later the F18s arrive with Jon Sweet and Tim Neal battling for the honours.

This is the pattern for the other races. Down the fleets, little battles happen, but no accidents other than our Largs sailor, Hugh having his little used sail blow to pieces, destroying itself after the thing came apart at the 6th batten down, ripping it from the boltrope. The incensed/bemused Scotsman was left with little option to sail back on a dead run, looking like something after the Battle of Trafalgar with his sail in tatters. I understand words were spoken.

Over on the sausage course, the Catapult Gentlemen had settled into some sort of order, led by Gareth from John in conditions they enjoyed. The lone Dart didn't appear on Sunday. The Shearwater partyboats were also having great fun chugging around. Full of character and Old Skool charm, these boats have a lineage going back to nearly 80 years, and a couple of years before that other famous open class design, the A-Cat! No fancy asymmetrics for them, their 'proper' spinnakers need deploying in real fashion, from a big trunk, with poles, giving the crew something interesting to focus on. Shaun Allen was unlucky as his jib halliard failed in the first race, removing him from the show for the duration. So, Pete Jary was the victor, with 3 bullets on his lovely former RYA Dinghy Show Concourse d'Elegance winning boat, and Mark Norman battled him for second.

The weekend thus finished nicely. It was a pity to have low turnouts at cat opens, our national cat fleets do need to get their heads together early and look at each other's calendars to rule out at least one reason for this. However, most of those who did come went home sunburned or near to, but with a satisfied feeling of having done something enjoyable, in nice surroundings and alongside lovely people. Rutland SC was at it's best, their new caterers were on the ball, with a great BBQ and bar for those who arrived on Friday, and their hog roast on Saturday. Thanks go to Brenda and Richard, the two race officers and their teams, and to Mikey Vernal who pulled it all together. Hopefully you will sample the delights of the biggest water in the smallest county in May 2025.

Overall Results:

PosHelm (& Crew)Boat typeSail NoR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
A Class
1stMark RushtonA Class1011‑332118
2ndBen DaigneaultA Class70‑31232210
3rdHugh MacgregorA Class182211(DNF)DNC13
4thRichard EdwardsA Class84‑5553320
5thChris GriggsA Class73‑66444422
6thMatthew BotfieldA Class71546(DNC)DNCDNC29
1stGareth EdeCatapult91‑3122117
2ndJohn TerryCatapult533‑4211228
3rdEamonn CotterCatapult5051‑4334415
4thStuart EdeCatapult53123‑443315
5thSydney GageCatapult506555(DNC)DNCDNC27
Dart 15
1stSteven SawfordDart 1520331(RET)DNCDNCDNCDNC9
1stPeter JaryShearwater20111‑221116
2ndMark NormanShearwater1994‑2112228
3rdSam VaughanShearwater1976‑44433317
4thShaun Joseph Allen & Emma AllenShearwater1999333(DNF)DNCDNC21
5thMichael ByrneShearwater2006(DNC)5544DNF24
1stTim NealF18518‑4223119
2ndJon SweetF18158113‑412411
3rdnicholas barnesF185143‑4124212
4thAdam PiggottF18350‑51343314
5thWilliam SmithF1831125555(DNF)22
Nacra 15
1stFinn CaddyNacra 15166‑1111115
Nacra 16
1stPaul WarrenNacra 16207‑1111115
Nacra 20
1stNick ElmoreNacra 20167111‑2115
2ndKevin DutchNacra 203522213(DNC)10
3rdTony StokesNacra 2090‑33332213
4thChristopher KingNacra 209844444(DNC)20

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