The Steve Nicholson Memorial Race has become one of the must events of the winter pursuit series with all proceeds going to Asthma UK. With a mixed forecast, 127 boats of which 24 were asymmetrics, headed for Pitsford Reservoir to be greeted by sunshine and a cracking 18 – 22 knot breeze. The boats ranged from 8 Optimists to two 49ers.
The format was for the symmetric and single handed fleets to race over a figure of eight course followed by the asymmetrics on an upwind downwind course, once they had finished their first race with a repeat after lunch. Both races were to count with no discard.
Having watched the symmetric and single handed fleets have a multitude of capsizes, so entertaining the spectators on the club’s veranda, the asymmetric fleet launched to carry on the entertainment.
Off the start, 49er GBR33 (Dylan Fletcher/Alain Sign) led the charge of the 2 49ers followed by the 3 B14s, 4 Musto Skiffs and 2 29ers with a gap to the other asymmetrics. Leading 49er GBR 33 bailed out at the windward mark with a popped cap shroud, so handling the mantle to 49er 520 (Chris Rasley/Matt Gotrel) followed by B14 AT&T (Nick Craig/Tom Gillard), B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine (Mark Barnes/Pete Nicholson) and MPS Helly Hanson (Richard Stenhouse).
Down the run, 49er 520 piled it in and B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine, pulled through to take up the mantle followed by MPS Helly Hanson, 29er 1115 (Nick Redding/Adam Hilton) and B14 AT&T. Up the next beat the first four boats raced in close formation but with B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine in cleaner breeze, they slowly pulled away to a 10 boat length lead at the windward mark followed by MPS Helly Hanson and B14 AT&T with 29er 1115 losing some distance but doing well on handicap. Down the run B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine took a line of pressure and gybed several times to hold it to the leeward mark and so pull out on the others.
However, with little to chose and only a mistake to make the potential difference it was still close. At the next turn windward mark, 49er 520 and B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine had pulled out to a decent lead from MPS Helly Hanson and B14 AT&T. Down the run, with 49er 520 and B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine gybed several times to stay in the pressure, 49er 520 piled it in at the leeward mark and on their last gybe, B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine crew Pete Nicholson in freeing a kite sheet from round his foot, slipped off the rack, with the boat completing the gybe, had to capsize some distance downwind, for retrieval, resulting in a 4 - 5 minute swim.
MPS Helly Hanson now stormed into the lead and passed through the upwind gate first followed by B14 AT&T, 49er 520 and 29er 1115. However, RS 200s 1203 (James Stewart/Toby Lewis) and 657 (Richard Peacock/Liz Peacock) were to show their metal in the handicap results finishing 5th and 6th.
With the breeze dropping, the fleet launched for the second and final race. Off the line the 2 49ers showed their pace to lead from start to finish with 49er GBR 33 winning from 49er 520. Back in the fleet the B14s and MPSs had a right old battle with MPS Helly Hanson getting the better of B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine on lap 2’s downwind leg. Following these two were B14 AT&T, MPS 290 (Gareth Davies) and MPS Blue Marine (Dan Henderson).
Over the final lap, there were no place changes in the front pack but RS 400s 1276 (Mark Reddington/Colin Staite) and 1201 (Neil Peacock/Sue Peacock) were having a right ding dong with only 18 seconds separation at the finish.
With a fading breeze the fleet retired to the bar, showers and warm food with many stories to tell. MPS Helly Hanson, won from B14 Seavolution/Blue Marine beating B14 AT&T on countback.
Having had a great day’s sailing, run by a good team both ashore and afloat, the Steve Nicholson Memorial Meeting of 2008 can only be called a success and with great prizes presented by Pinnell & Bax and the marine trade, all could only go home with tales to tell and smiles on their faces. Leading results
Pos - Class - No. - Sponsor - Helm - Crew - Club - R1 - R2 - Total
1 Musto Skiff 332 Helly Hanson Richard Stenhouse Rutland SC 2 1 3
2 B14 768 Seavolution/Blue Marine Mark Barnes, Pete Nicholson Whitstable YC/Brightlingsea SC 5 2 7
3 B14 773 AT&T Nick Craig, Tom Gillard Frencham Pond SC 3 4 7
4 29er 1115 Nick Redding, Adam Hilton Oxford SC/Calshot SC 1 7 8
5 RS200 1203 James Stewart, Toby Lewis Parkstone SC 5 10 15