The GUL sponsored RS Vareo Winter Championship was held at the Datchet Water Sailing Club over the 24 / 25 February. The fleet was greeted with a stiff breeze and the expectation that it would hold for the weekend.
However, not everyone in the fleet shared the same enthusiasm having just knocked off the spiders from a winters rest and the fear they might be looking for them once again on the water, but despite that fear, we had Neville Champion travelling all the way from Wales and Bert Castleton from Norfolk.
It was clear from shortly after the start of race one, the main protagonists were to be Chris Larr and Richard Kemp-Salt with Richard rounding the windward mark clearly ahead, Chris second and the rest of the fleet some way behind. Unfortunately Richard did not have the right head on and chose to sail for the wrong mark allowing Chris to command the race to its finish with his fine covering techniques. Darren Smith getting the first of his steady results third, having only had the boat since January following a prolonged lay off from racing and Bert Castleton fourth.
Race two had the wind at the start but it stuttered and swung during the beat, the result was that Mark Hazeldene had his moment coming in a long way from the right hand side and only some clever work by Chris gave him first around the mark with the whole fleet rounding close behind with upside down positions and work to be done on the downwind leg. The wind quickly filled in again and with tricky gusts tripped a few boats on the downwind legs with the result that Chris was first Richard second Dave Machin third and Geoff (I’m still hear)Shaw fourth.
Race three with the wind reasonably steady Chris and Richard were again at the front in a close quarter fought battle. Meanwhile, the whole fleet on occasions saw Dave checking for those spiders again, but at least he was here and his dry suit fitted! We all agreed the boat looked a picture after all that cleaning and finally judged spider free. Chris first Richard second Darren third and Geoff fourth.
The next day, gloomier, wind still there, but with a few stiff bodies. It should be mentioned with Chris only just over thirty showing little signs of fatigue and Richard as an example knocking on the door of sixty, the fleet offers a broad age of participants and pretty obvious where the aches were to be found. Geoff having slept in his van dreaming of Jumbo jets coming too close and waking up convinced they had flown in through one window and out the other.
The fourth race was underway finally after a long period, although, the Vareo leeward buoy looked alarmingly close to the start action of the RS 800 fleet, later in the action we would see the results. A pattern was starting to form in the results with Chris and Richard in dominant positions, third spot was certainly all to play for between Darren and Geoff. The race was again close with interesting dodges of the upwind traffic on the downhill legs but all were accounted for at the finish with Chris first, Richard second, Darren third and Geoff, for him, a disappointing fourth.
Race five, with Geoff now needing to pull a good one out of the bag to give him a chance of third overall. His concentration was clearly above the other members of the fleet by spotting a port tack flying opportunity, giving him a clear lead. At the point with which he crossed ahead of Chris a ‘respect’ comment was heard from the fleet National Champion. On the downwind leg because of the RS800’s having to be restarted, meant they were on starboard tack, close together coming away from their start and packed like a marauding gaggle of intergalactic space craft flying through and around our leeward mark waiting to gobble us up. It took astute seamanship to avoid them, Geoff having the luck to round just before the pack, but others not fairing quite as well.
Despite coping with a windward buoy on the march and Chris finally getting right up behind him, Geoff made it to the finish line ahead only to hear later the race was scratched out because of a protest. He was awarded the ‘special merit’ prize from Gul for beating Chris, despite all that happened.
Race six with Chris feeling the effects of losing the previous race, a rare feeling and although he had clearly won the 2007 Gul Winter Championships went into the final race determined to respond positively and was subjected to an extremely close examination this time from Richard. Although loosing his first place on a number of occasions remained steadfast in his ability to cover at the right moment and commanded the race, taking pride in winning, with Richard second, Geoff a fighting third and Darren fourth. RS Vareo final positions:
1 361 Chris Larr Grafham Water SC 5 4
2 480 Richard Kemp-Salt Grafham Water SC 10 8
3 213 Darren Smith Teign Corinthian 18 13
4 346 Geoff Shaw Roadford SC 20 15
5 206 Dave Machin Netley SC 31 19
6 266 Jon Paton Allenborough SC 30 23
7 281 Bert Castleton Hickling Broard SC 37 25
8 322 Mark Hazeldean Burfield 37 29
9 133 Neville Champion BCYC 52 40
10 261 Martin Peters SCSC 54 42
11 490 James Brace Draycote Water SC 60 48