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Zhik Paris 2024

HD Sails Scottish Solo Travellers at Helensburgh Sailing Club

by Ross Watson 19 Jun 10:14 BST 8 June 2024

Once again the Scottish Solo fleet travelled to Helensburgh for the latest in the HD Sails travellers series. As well as a warm welcome from the club there are several Solos here and the race management is excellent.

The forecast was for lots of wind from the west, and it proved to be accurate. We were due to share the event with a club regatta and the Blaze class but in the event only the Solos and Blazes went afloat.

Fortified by coffee and a bacon roll we rigged up. Tony King has just bought David Parkin's boat and was chatting about how it felt subtly different but did feel more stable downwind. At the briefing there was some banter as to which fleet had the highest average age! The Blaze sailors certainly seemed taller though. At times the sound of the wind whistling in the rigging almost drowned out the race officer. Despite the wind the club were happy to give it a go and had four rescue boats on the water.

The racing area was to be over a mile downwind of the club and the strength of the wind plus the long beat back afterwards meant that only eight of the sixteen entries launched. The run down to the start was pretty full on with the waves getting bigger and more choppy the further down we sailed. The committee boat looked an awfully long way downwind! With water pouring over the foredeck a few times on the sail down your scribe decided that gybes were to be avoided. Once at the race area I didn't bother sailing upwind to assess the course as I was worried about getting back downwind.

The Blaze class were away first and it was clear there was a bias to the starboard end. Ross Watson started by the committee boat with Kevan Gibb just below him. Up the first beat the fleet was quite close as legs were fresh and the wind about F4-5. Charlie Brecknell was first round followed by Tony King and Kevan Gibb. The first reach was quite broad but certainly not easy given how rough the conditions were. Charles was first to the gybe mark and capsized - that decision to avoid gybes looked correct! The next couple of boats gybed without problems but a few at the back decided to tack round. Up the next beat Charlie recovered his lead before the start of the run. This was again pretty hairy but even your scribe managed to gybe without incident, although if you ease the traveller upwind you need to lean in a lot further to grab the mainsheet for a gybe. The race finished after three rounds, Ross passing Stuart Gibson on the last reach after he capsized on the gybe. One nameless sailor wondered why he could barely hold the mainsheet up the second beat before realising that the ratchet was not turned on.

The start sequence for race two had just started when the wind increased again the and the postponement signal went up. At this point the committee boat recorded the wind between 26 and 29 knots for several minutes. Stuart Gibson managed to shout across to Ross as they were hove to 'getting dodgy now!' It really was. Given how rough it was many clubs would have decided enough was enough and sent everyone back in. Not at Helensburgh though, and race officer James Miller kept his nerve and started the second race as soon as the wind had eased a bit. This time the fleet was stretched out much more quickly in the tough conditions. Charlie just powered away upwind whilst some of us were just hanging on. I decided that whatever happened two races were going to be enough for me. Tony King capsized at the last gybe mark and spent a long time struggling to haul the boat back up, doubtless ruing the only change he had made to the boat - removing the righting lines! On the last reach to the finish Bruce Birrell was heading for the leeward mark which was a few yards to windward of the finishing line. The Blaze that was overlapped with him was calling loudly and your scribe who was thirty yards behind thought he was in prime position for some entertainment but amazingly both boats managed a sharp bear away onto a run in a F6 without capsizing.

The third race was to be a windward leeward course and only five Solos and a few of the Blaze class came to the start. In the event the race was shortened after two laps when a big shift in the wind made the course a fetch and a broad reach. Charlie Becknell won again followed by Stuart Gibson and Alan Jeffrey.

The beat home was nearly one and a half miles and everyone was exhausted by the time they got back although the wind had eased a bit by then. Usually everyone packs up their boats before getting changed. Not today. We all needed a hot shower and some sustenance - and the huge slices of home made chocolate cake were amazing!

Full credit is due to James Miller and the team at Helensburgh who knew just what to do in the prevailing conditions. An experienced team and good rescue cover meant that the two classes were able to enjoy some tough but exciting conditions. Well done to everyone who went out, especially the five who completed all three races.

With three impressive firsts Charles Brecknell was the clear winner ahead of Stuart Gibson and Kevan Gibb. The next event in the HD Sails Scottish Solo travellers is at Loch Lomond where conditions are likely to be very different.

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoClubR1R2R3Pts
1Charlies Brecknell4975Chanonry SC1112
2Stuart Gibson5948CCC Bardowie6325
3Kevan Gibb6043Largo Bay SC3245
4Alan Jeffrey5269Helensburgh SC4437
5Bruce Birrell4502Largo Bay SC75510
6Ross Watson5841East Lothian YC56DNC11
7Tony King5889Derwent Reservoir SC2DNFDNC19
8Kenny Manderson6109Helensburgh SCDNF DNCDNC34

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