by Phil Riley
The Royal Southern Yacht Club's Harken Sunday Morning Racing series has delivered short, sharp racing to the widest possible range of yachts. The last event on June 16th proved a case in point with a J80 taking the line alongside a Hunter 707, a First 40.7 and Beneteau F40, all racing under the National Handicap for Cruisers (NHC) rating system, while the XODs again had their own start.
Winning ways with Colin Hall, left, and sons Matt, centre, and Ali
With the forecast rain holding off, and a stable 8-10 knot breeze, the crews enjoyed a race around marks in Southampton Water lasting around an hour, before heading ashore in time for lunch.
There was minor drama before the NHC start with both of the larger yachts running aground northwest of Bald Head, but both were able free themselves in good time. Perhaps mindful of that experience, and after a cautionary word from race officer Philip Gage, both Sailing Logic's 40.7 Profile and the Sunsail F40 (4001) skippered by Neil Pritchard Meaker took a cautious route to the first Meon mark.
In contrast, Matthew Streeter's 707 Tiger Feet and the J80 Boysterous - today sailed by the 'lads and dad' team of Colin Hall and sons Ali and Matt - were able to sail a more direct course.
'This was the first time we've had a couple of big cruisers out and one kept on luffing us up because he needed water, so we let him go and headed straight for the mark,' said Colin. 'We got there first and then the big boats started to catch us up, which is what they are meant to do.'
Little and large - Boysterous is chased towards the finish line by the Sunsail F40 - 2013 Harken Sunday Morning Series
Nevertheless, Boysterous was able to save her time under NHC and take the win ahead of Tiger Feet, the two boats also securing the same places overall in the combined Harken Saturday and Sunday short-course series. Profile placed third on the day.
The combined overall results saw Jonty Sherwill's Cockleshell and Ian Stow's Connie tied in third place with countback unable to separate them.
In the XOD class Tim Harding's Calypso edged Mos Fitzgerald's Kathleen, a position also replicated in the overall combined Harken series. Ken Williamson's Lamouette was third overall.
Reflecting on the two Harken series, as well as the on-going Gaastra Friday Evening Racing series, Sailing Committee Chairman Colin Hall said: 'It looks like the Fridays are probably going to make it, the Saturdays probably not, Sundays maybe, but the thing to do is to ask people. It was always the plan after the first half of the year to assess what had been going on, then decide what to do for the second half of the year. We should be able to announce the plan for the second half of the year by the end of June.
'The key is the racers wanted more opportunities to race their boats, at low cost, with the racing not taking up too much time. We gave them a choice of Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, at no cost, with races taking around an hour, then back for lunch or a beer. We gave them what they asked for, now it's up to them to turn up. We will ask the people and see where we go from here.
'In the meantime I will send out a questionnaire by email to all those who have been out, and all those who registered an interest and didn't get out, and say 'what do you think, should we persevere, or has it run its course?'
Support for short-course racing was voiced by XOD sailor Mos Fitzgerald. He said: 'I think it's been really worthwhile. What's good is that we get out there, have some racing and be back in time for a late lunch, so you can combine racing with family commitments. Hopefully, because it's worked, more will come out later this year.
'We will press, certainly within the X boats, to get more people to come out. I've done all of the Fridays and all of the Sundays. It's horses for courses - now it's just a question of us within the classes pushing it more, saying it's really worked, come out and play.
'In fairness to the race officers, we've been liaising with them and Natalie the sailing secretary after each race to say whether it's been good, bad or indifferent, and out of that we've been able to tweak things. It's really helpful to both sides, those planning it and those doing it.'
And further short-course racing later in the year? 'We've already had an email asking for our initial reactions to this, which we've pumped in, and it's all positive.'
The Gaastra Friday Evening Racing series continues until July 12th.
The full 2013 Racing Programme and entry details are available on the Club's website.