The B14 Flying Circus arrived at Stokes Bay to be greeted by light cold northerly winds. Sharing the event with the Musto Skiffs, it was looking to be a good weekend. With the windward mark tucked up under the lee shore and big shifts and pressure lines over the course, place changes were to occur throughout the day. Real snakes and ladders stuff. A case of holding one's nerve and taking the knocks to get to the pressure.
Race 1 was to show that it was going to be a battle royal all day. North Sails (Dave Hayes/Tom Pygall) led off the line chased by the pack. At the top mark they led by a couple of boat lengths from Anthill Mob (Tim Harrison/Johnny Radcliffe), Seavolution 1 (Mark Barnes/Pete (Pistol) Nicholson) and Seavolution 2 (Steve Hollingworth/Chris Murphy). Over the next two laps, the top three swapped places with all three leading at some point. Going into the finish, North Sails snatched it from a closing Anthill Mob and Seavolution 1 with all three overlapped at the finish, followed by Ullman Sails (Mark Watts/Charlotte Jones).
Race 2, more of the same with Seavolution 1 leading out the charge to the middle right followed Anthill Mob, Seavolution 2 and Harken (Simon Hadley/Nikki Hadley). Over the race the front two played cat and mouse with North Sails recovering from a poor first beat. On the last part of the last beat the Anthill Mob snatched the lead from Seavolution 1 followed by a recovering North Sails. At the finish these three had little between them, finishing in that order followed by Seavolution 2.
Race 3, Harken led up the beat, chased by the marauding pack. At the windward mark the fleet rounded in close formation chasing the pressure downwind. At the leeward mark the fleet split left and right with the left paying. Seavolution 1 slipped a place with North Sails hitting the front at the top mark. Over the next lap, the fleet settled down into formation covering the boat behind. North Sails to take the win from Harken, Neil Pryde Sailing (Mark Emmett/Allan Stuart) and Seavolution 1.
Race 4 and a number of boats where over early. North Sails headed for Hayes Corner with Blue Badge (Mike Bees/Ferret), current National Champions, finally making an appearance near the front playing the middle of the course. Blue Badge lead round the mark followed closely by Marlow (Dan Cowin/Al Storer) and then Neil Pryde Sailing. Whilst Blue Badge stretched out to as near a comfortable lead as it’s possible to get in such conditions, North Sails ground through to second and pressured Blue Badge on the final run. The finishing order was Blue Badge, North Sails, Neil Pryde Sailing and Harken.
Overnight North Sails led from Seavolution 1 and Blue Badge. Anthill Mob were out of the running having missed races 3 and 4 due to a wedding commitment, and with only one discard this was to ultimately cost them the event. With other commitments on Sunday, Seavolution 1 withdrew from what was looking likely to be a big day.
Saturday night entertainment was organised by Dan Vincent and the Stokes Bay team, with a Bucking Bronco competition followed by a quiz (thankfully with no towel sniffing this year). The eagle-eyed B14s spotted very early on the '2 for 1' offer on Mount Gay Rum and took up the offer to enjoy the product responsibly. Some members of the fleet took this responsibility very seriously indeed, saving themselves no small fortune.
Sunday morning dawned colder, with the members of the impromptu Occupy Stokes Bay Sailing Club Dinghy Park Camp somewhat pale and blue-faced. With a cloudless sky it looked like chilled champagne conditions with a fair amount more breeze now from a slightly more northerly direction. A rapid sleigh-ride to the start brought heads and bodies to life and provided a taste of what was to follow.
Race 5 and some of the fleet were too keen, with an individual recall. North Sails again followed the groove out to Hayes Corner but on the approach to the windward mark were upended by a real swirler, leaving Neil Pryde Sailing to lead narrowly from Blue Badge, Anthill Mob and Ullman Sails. On the second beat Ullman Sails forged ahead and took control, with Blue Badge moving up to second.
At the top of the final beat Blue Badge had drawn level when Ullman Sails unfortunately were caught in the blind spot of a Musto Skiff travelling downhill at high speed - luckily there were no injuries or damage but the tangle relegated Ullman Sails from the lead battle. At the finish Blue Badge were in front from Anthill Mob who spectacularly capsized onto the committee boat 0.002s after crossing the line. Ullman Sails regained their composure to take third with Neil Pryde Sailing just behind in fourth, North Sails in fifth and Harken in sixth.
Race 6 started with the fleet getting away cleanly. Again teams split up the beat with the Anthill Mob and Neil Pryde Sailing going left and North Sails heading off right as usual - unfortunately this time they never returned as they suffered terminal gear failure forcing them out of the event.
At the top it was Anthill Mob followed by Neil Pryde Sailing, Blue Badge and Ullman Sails. On the second lap a big gust and shift at the top enabled Neil Pryde Sailing to sail all the way to the gate without gybing but they couldn't quite catch Anthill Mob who won in the end from Neil Pryde Sailing in second, Blue Badge in third and Ullman Sails in fourth.
Race 7 and with the shards of pressure coming down the course getting ever stronger it was turning into a war of attrition. A slightly smaller fleet got away cleanly and this time Neil Pryde Sailing led at the top and bore away in a huge gust which carried them away from the chasing Pack.
Behind them the race was on between Ullman Sails, Anthill Mob and Blue Badge rounded almost overlapped. Anthill Mob capsized on the hoist, and further on down the course Ullman Sails suffered the same fate when Bow Girl Char attempted to retrieve the kite sheet which had dropped over the bow leaving Neil Pryde Sailing to an easy win from Blue Badge with Ullman Sails and Anthill Mob trailing in by some distance.
By race 8 the conditions had worn out many teams and only a few lined up for the last race. At the top mark Anthill Mob led but capsized on the hoist allowing Neil Pryde Sailing past. However they recovered quickly and at the bottom mark they were neck and neck. As the race officer decided to shorten the course the Musto Skiffs finished at the same time in a huge bunch and Anthill Mob just snatched it.
Neil Pryde Sailing won the event overall from Blue Badge, followed by Anthill Mob and Ullman Sails. The B14s would like to thank Stokes Bay Sailing Club for a well run event both on and off the water with quick turn arounds between races.
The next leg of the circuit will be at Whitstable on 19 - 20th May, followed by the National Championships at Beer the following Friday to Sunday, which with current indications should feature a strong entry.
|Rank||Sail No||Helm||Crew||Club||Race 1||Race 2||Race 3||Race 4||Race 5||Race 6||Race 7||Race 8||Net Pts|
|1||761||Emmett||Stuart||RYA / Weston SC||(7)||5||3||3||4||2||1||2||20|
|5||791||Hayes||Pygall||Hayling Island SC||1||3||1||2||5||(15/DNC)||15/DNC||15/DNC||42|
|6||770||Hadley||Hadley||Bough Beech SC||6||6||2||4||6||5||(15/DNC)||15/DNC||44|
|14||109||Gatehouse||Wilks||Lymington Town SC||14||14||11||(15/DNC)||15/DNC||15/DNC||15/DNC||15/DNC||99|