The forecast was looking a little ominous before the National 12 open meeting got underway, with a high sitting across most of the country and so it was with a degree of trepidation that we set off for the club in the morning, arriving to beautifully sunny, though mirror like conditions. Visiting teams arrived, bringing the total to 13 teams, and started with a gentle approach to boat rigging.
National 12 fleet action
By 10.30 and the race briefing there were starting to be signs of wind rippling down the lake from the East. Was this just an increase in traffic on the M4 which borders the eastern end or were we in for a timely infusion of precious pressure from a sympathetic Thor?
By the scheduled start at 11am, thunder, there wasn't, but enough wind there was for the fleet comprising of a healthy mix of six foiling boats, five AC's (single bottomed) and a two Double bottomed non-foilers. A line biased by the oscillating gentle breeze, meant being next to the committee boat was a popular place to be, and though this position was won by Jeremy and George in their borrowed Crusader, it was soon clear that Graham and Zoe had made a good move early on by going left and were in a strong position, being followed by Jon and Charlotte and Tom and Robert.
These three were first to the windward mark, followed by Nigel and Chris in their Numinous. As the fleet headed around the 'P' course for the second time, Nigel and Chris caught up and passed both Tom and Jon to hold second place for a time, before Jon came back before the end. Further down the fleet the AC's were having a good battle of their own intermingled with the two foiling 'Foolishes' of Nick and John and Howard and Ella in their 'Annie Apple'.
Ian and Jenny led the AC's from the start and were showing good pace throughout the race in the fickle wind conditions whilst Howard and Ella were going well in their 'Apple'. Tom White was also showing ominous pace off wind in his borrowed Warlock taking heads downwind, though struggled to get it pointing on the way back upwind. Places were changing regularly throughout the fleet as gains and losses were made in the varying wind conditions.
Graham and Zoe took a clear win in Race 1, with Jon and Charl having fought hard to regain second place as they crossed the line from Nigel and Chris.
Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne, winners of last year's Hoo Freezer.
During lunch, there was a increase in wind combined with an increase in oscillations, but Race Officers Rob and Jan Martin did a superb job to account for this both before and during the afternoon races, moving marks accordingly.
Race 2 got off cleanly, and after a close start the noses of Jon Ibbotson and Charlotte Stewart and Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne poked out of the pack. Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne rounded the windward mark first. On the second lap Tom and Robbie Stewart found rhythm on the approach to the windward mark to claim second which they defended to the finish.
In the AC's the battling fleet of Crusaders were again led by Ian and Jenny, who maintained their dominance within the fleet recording a second fifth place overall. That is not to say that there was not plenty of changes of position ad the swinging breeze was allowing for some big losses and gains! A particular shift around Pancake Island, (named for its unleavened status not its relationship with Shrove Tuesday!) allowed Jeremy and George, who had forgettable start and weren't making great inroads into the pack ahead, to get back into contention and take a few heads before the final gun.
Race 3, and the wind had settled somewhat to its original easterly direction, though a big shift seconds before the start put those towards the pin end in fine position with Jon Ibbotson and Charlotte Stewart building a good lead.
In the AC fleet, Tom and Helen were in a perfect position on the start and had a superb first beat, rounding the windward mark narrowly in fourth place and holding their own against the leading three doubled bottomed boats, with John Nixon and Ian Smith on their heels. As the fleet headed into lap two Jon and Charl held a clear lead but the chasing boats took the risk of going the other side of Pancake island where there was more breeze and despite sailing further Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne took the lead which they maintained to the finish.
Further down the fleet a few Jeremy and George once again got a very healthy lift which gained them a good 100yds and put them back into the chasing pack taking two places up the final beat and right on the stern of Ian and Jenny. They maintained this position on the two reaching legs but as they came into the final run toward the finish line, they got alongside Ian and pipped them by ½ a boat length with Tom and Helen a boat length ahead of the pair to take fifth overall in the days final race.
After the pack down, the prize giving was held in the clubroom accompanied by tea and Cake, with Graham and Zoe taking the main prize of the day, Ian and Jenny the first AC boat and a special prize was awarded to John Nixon and Sue Howe who had traveled from Derby for the event, even with the light wind forecast... now that's commitment to your sailing!
Thank you to Burghfield Sailing Club for organising and hosting the event and also a special thanks to local club members Alan and Syd Beeton who provided three of the boats on the entry, both to visitors and locals alike.
The second of the Gill Series events is being held at Spinnaker Sailing club on the 21/22 April and we look forward to seeing you there!