by Jamie Hilton
The Musto Skiff Open 2011 at Datchet Water Sailing Club took place with a fleet of fourteen Musto Skiffs for a glamour weekend of near perfect conditions under the backdrop of the ever glorious Windsor Castle.
Fleet action at the Musto Skipp Open 2011
Saturday's conditions were perfect in that the unpredictability of the gusts and big shifts in angle meant that Bruce Keen would inevitably not be able to read everything perfectly for once which allows for others to take a share of the spoils. This transpired in some unlikely figures battling it out at both ends of the fleet in fine sunshine with the wind coming from almost anywhere in the south western quadrant and varying from two knots to eighteen knots.
In Race One, despite a very port biased line the fleet eventually got away with race officer Barry Peters correctly confident the wind would revert back to its mean direction. The difficulty was the variability in direction was generally +/- 30 degrees from the mean leading to some massive gains and huge losses.
Despite the frustration of anyone dipping their toes in the pit of despair, there was always the likelihood of a heroic comeback. Take Rich Pelley for example. After a less then mediocre start he showed great judgement (read luck) in getting his nose in front by the top mark.
He was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few who were able to maintain a lead for more than a leg at a time, even affording himself a capsize on the last beat before taking line honours. The mêlée that followed unravelled itself with Bruce Keen taking second from James McIntosh in third.
Race Two saw Mark Goalen round the top mark in first only to watch the entire fleet gybe inside him into what was at the only wind on the course leaving him floundering in a place that did not look very happy to have him there. Then the wind waved its magic wand leaving Dangerous Dave Poston to land a gust at the top mark to reach inside everyone at full chat from near last right into pole position which he held to the finish.
Race Three was a tight affair with the entire fleet converging on the first leeward mark near simultaneously in decent breeze before dropping to near drifting conditions. Those who could adapt to the condition best, winding on the cunno and spotting the best pressure managed to pull away upwind leaving J-Mac and Jamie Hilton to fight it out for line honours. This went to James who was consistently showing electric speed on the downwind legs.
Hyde at the Musto Skiff Open 2011
Race Four was sailed in much the same manner with regular puffs punctuating the light airs. Datchet locals, Dangerous Dave and Jamie Hilton spotted the same pressure coming off the line and quickly tacked onto port to take maximum advantage along with Sergei Samus. This trio swapped the lead several times with Jamie coming out on top on the last beat to enjoy the best wind of day down the last run reaching flat out and through the finish.
This brought the day to a close with the unusual situation of Bruce have no wins to his name and not having the event sewn up the first day. Indeed it was very tight at the top with three points separating the top five and Jamie Hilton leading much to the delight of the Datchet Clubhouse who were now hoping Windguru’s purple forecast for Sunday would mean no more racing.
Sunday was indeed a foul day. June! It felt like February. Cold, wet but not especially windy. Racing was going ahead as planned with four races scheduled. The wind was now significantly steadier (it’s all relative) blowing around 10kts from the south, but still with enough variability to afford significant gains and losses across the course.
Races five and six were sailed in much the same manner with places at the top changing around regularly leading to some close and exciting racing in a building wind. Bruce had dusted himself off and was back in control by the end of each race but he was made to fight for it with Jamie pushing him hard upwind with assured pace and some brave tactical calls and J-Mac continuing to look menacing downwind, both taking the lead for spells of the race.
Brendan Jenner was now finding his groove taking third in the sixth. There was much to fight for in the latter half of the fleet where capsizes were beginning to take their toll.
By the Seventh the wind was now 15kts plus and the boats were revelling in the fast condition on flat water. Jamie sailed a great first beat to take the lead from the chasing Bruce and J-Mac who all rounded the leeward gate near simultaneously, only for Jamie to extend his lead significantly with some Jedi like control of the second and third beats.
However, the force deserted him as he accomplished what many Scots before have also achieved so magnificently snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on the final dash to the line as he was flattened by a gust. James and Bruce seized the opportunity and rode out the gust (clearly not in the eye of the storm) to cross the line neck and neck at full pace with James just snatching it by a bowsprit, with a dejected Jamie limping over in third.
The Eighth and final race and it was all to play for at the top with Bruce leading James by two points. The wind was now gusting up to 24kts laying claim to a few who had had enough. Dave Poston enjoyed a great start and first beat and there’s not many who can catch Dave in such conditions. Indeed he led to the finish with Bruce, not to be overhauled taking second and what proved to be a thoroughly deserved regatta win.
Well done Bruce and thanks again to Datchet Water Sailing Club for hosting and Barry Peters for squeezing in eight well managed races with very little time between them.
Next up for the Musto Skiffs is a training weekend this Sunday, again at Datchet, run by Ian Turnbull (Bov), before the next open meeting at Blackwater SC on July 2/3rd.