by Peter Curtis
The first RS500 Bollé Grand Prix of the season was certainly one to blow out the cobwebs and remind you what a blast the 500 can be. Nine boats entered for the weekend of 12/13 April at Oxford Sailing Club, with threats of a gale brewing in the west that could make things interesting at some point over the two days.
The wind was a pleasant 10 knots or so when we all arrived on Saturday, so boats were set up for standard medium conditions. Come launch time a squall came through of well over 20 knots, and the pattern was set for the day, mostly pleasant averaging12-15 knots, but with some occasional big gusts, normally accompanied by a big shift of random direction. The RS600s and Contenders, who we shared the event with, got away for their first race, but the leeward mark started processing through the start line and heading for the bank. The RO postponed the 500s while they tried to fix a decent anchor, and the single handers played follow the RIB as it lifted the mark and tried to fix it in place. Eventually the race was abandoned after the 600s had done three rounds.
And so after a half hour interlude the 500s finally got under way. The long line was a bit port biased, which Jeremy Bickerton and Derek Ness in 652, and Peter and James Curtis, 659, spotted and went for a pin end start. Peter and James tacked off first, crossing the fleet, but Jeremy and Derek stood on and came out with a good lead at the first mark.
They set off with kite up in one of the big gusts and really didn't want (or dare) to put a gybe in. When they finally plucked up courage, Jeremy fell out the boat half way through and had a bit of a swim to catch up with Derek on the centreboard. Peter and James took advantage of their misfortune to take the lead, followed by Peter and Sabine Townend in 831, which is how it finished after a shortened three laps.
Race 2 saw more of the fleet at the port end of the line, a good start and a decent first beat. Peter and James came out ahead of Jeremy and Derek this time, who seemed to have sorted out their gybing. The two slowly pulled ahead of the rest of the fleet while their relative positions concertina'd depending on who got the best gust on the run.
This race went for the full five laps, and with the wind seeming to get shiftier as time went on it was certainly a tiring race. Race 3 was much the same as race 2 at the front of the fleet, although Peter and James managed to pull out a bigger lead. Unfortunately, the conditions were such that your correspondent had to concentrate hard on keeping his own mast vertical and didn't get a chance to follow what was going on further back.
And on to Sunday, which was when the really big gusts were meant to be arriving. Six of the original nine prepared themselves for battle, but just as on Saturday a big squall came through as the boats were launching. Peter and James had some scares as they eventually managed to get off, but Jeremy and Derek were not so lucky, suffering a breakage to their boom.
The five remaining boats were all on the line for the start, although a couple only made it just in time. With another port biased line, John Cooper and Andy made a timed run to the pin end, but got there 2s early and had to return to exonerate themselves, which is not what you want when it's blowing 20 knots or so. The remainder of the fleet had an exciting beat, followed by an exhilarating run, punctuated by a scary gybe. Peter and James took an early lead which they extended through the race, but Peter and Sabine and Richard Matthews and Harry Bruce seemed to be having a great battle for second, which ended when Richard and Harry capsized and their gooseneck fitting broke.
The strength of the gusts kept increasing as the race went on and various of the fleet either delayed their gybe or misjudged it such that they couldn't hold the kite and had to two sail in to the lee mark. With few upright boats on the water and a worry over adequate safety cover the RO called it a day after just the one race. The clubhouse anemometer apparently recorded gusts up to 36 knots!
Many thanks to Oxford for coping with such trying conditions.
|1st||RS500||659||Island Barn SC||Peter Curtis||James Curtis||(1.0)||1.0||1.0||1.0||4.0||3.0|
|2nd||Minus Five||RS500||831||Chelmarsh SC||Peter Townend||Sabine Towend||2.0||3.0||(4.0)||2.0||11.0||7.0|
|3rd||RS500||652||RVYC||Jeremy Bickerton||Derek Ness||4.0||2.0||2.0||(10.0 DNF)||18.0||8.0|
|4th||RS500||636||Abingdon School SC||Richard Matthews||Harry Bruce||3.0||5.0||5.0||(10.0 DNF)||23.0||13.0|
|5th||RS500||610||Burghfield SC||John Cooper||7.0||4.0||3.0||(10.0 DNF)||24.0||14.0|
|6th||RS500||941||OSC||Will Summers||Tom Pugh||(10.0 DNF)||8.0||10.0 DNS||3.0||31.0||21.0|
|7th||RS500||748||Gt Yarmouth & Gorleston||Anna Zmura||Keith Sykes||5.0||6.0||(10.0 DNS)||10.0 DNF||31.0||21.0|
|8th||RS500||517||Ardleigh||Alec Mumford||Jacob Elson||6.0||7.0||(10.0 DNS)||10.0 DNF||33.0||23.0|
|9th||RS500||922||RVYC||E Symonds||E Ness||(10.0 DNF)||10.0 DNF||10.0 DNS||10.0 DNF||40.0||30.0|
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