Almost 50 boats took to the water for the opening events in the 2008 Laser Northern Grand Prix circuit and the Solo Northern Travellers Series, held jointly at West Riding SC on 30th March.
Despite the weather forecast for 7-10 mph winds with a few sunny intervals, competitors arrived to find a white horse filled lake and scudding squalls out of a brilliant sunny sky. As a bonus, after weeks of bitter temperatures someone had turned the global warming on, if only to the first notch.
In his briefing, Race Officer Mike Woodhead warned of vicious gusts with wild swings in direction. The first boats rocketing away from the shore in sheets of spray realised he wasn’t exaggerating, and some celebrated with an early morning swim.
The Laser fleet of 21 boats contained a cross section of ages from 14-year-old Anna Langford in her 4.7, via youthful Radial helms, to veteran campaigner Mike Budd.
The Solo entry of 27 boats, representing 14 clubs, included all the usual suspects from the Northern circuit, plus a number from the Midlands. Steve Denison appeared in his brand new Winder and Mike Hobin in his brand new Boon. The conditions were far from perfect for sorting out any teething problems, but both came through the day unscathed, despite some smouldering reaches and muscle jarring beats.
The swinging wind gave Mike Woodhead problems setting the line and the first race got under way from a start line with more starboard bias than he would have wished for. In the Lasers, home sailors Owyn Wallace and Hamish Gledhill led round the first mark with Gledhill going ahead off wind and pulling away for a comfortable win. Dave Poore from Sheffield Viking SC extracted himself from the chasing pack to overtake Wallace for 2nd place with West Riding sailors Tim Keighley and Alasdair McQuire in 4th and 5th places.
In the Solos, West Riding sailors were again quick off the line with John Gledhill, Peter Cogill and Mark Weston leading round the first mark. Weston was the only one to stay on the pace, battling with Denison and Hobin. Denison eventually prevailed winning from Weston and Hobin, with Chris Gillard and Oliver Dumbleton 4th and 5th.
Some of the wickedness had gone out of the strongest gusts by the time the second race got underway after lunch, but conditions were still challenging and pain inducing upwind. Mike Budd made an early break in the Lasers to take a comfortable win from Poore and Gledhill. Wallace made a late charge moving up two places to take 4th place ahead of Stuart Belfield, and McQuire.
In the Solos, John Gledhill repeated his first race feat, getting away cleanly from the pin end of the line and narrowly leading the first lap until Denison slipped through on the reach. Gillard, Weston and Nick Brook took up the chase, but Denison stitched up the day with another win from Gillard, Brook and Weston, with Dumbleton filling 5th place.
The sun still shone for the third race, but the wind gradually died as the race progressed. Some sailors complained of being too hot!
Budd, Gledhill and Poore were all in contention for overall Laser victory, but in the event Poore made good use of the conditions to pull out an unassailable lead, leaving Gledhill and Budd to battle it out for the places. Adrian Sandilands joined the battle, eventually taking second place ahead of Budd and Gledhill, with Belfield again 5th and Keighley 6th. Poore’s last race win gave him the overall win, with Budd taking second place from Gledhill on count back.
Already having won the Solo event, Denison soon hit the front again, but this time he had to give second best to Dumbleton who sneaked through to win. Gillard took third, Howard Frear having his best race with 4th and newcomer to the fleet Mike Bishop 5th. Overall Denison was the clear winner, but the close racing throughout the fleet was demonstrated by one point covering the next three boats.
West Riding SC was relieved that the gamble taken in moving the event from mellow autumn to chilly early spring had come off. Thanks to all competitors for making the journey, especially the twenty-nine visitors!
Lasers 1. Dave Poore 82224 (Sheffield Viking SC) 3 pts
2. Mike Budd 190614 (Leigh & Lowton SC) 4 pts
3. Hamish Gledhill 185960 (West Riding SC) 4 pts
4. Owyn Wallace 135842 (West Riding SC) 7 pts
5. Adrian Sandilands 182223 (Dovestone SC) 10 pts
6. Tim Keighley 182623 (West Riding SC) 10 pts
Solos 1. Steve Denison 4884 (Hollingworth lake SC) 2 pts
2. Chris Gillard 4662 (Sheffield Viking SC) 5 pts
3. Oliver Dumbleton 4553 (Nantwich & Borders SC) 6 pts
4. Mark Weston 4525 (West Riding SC) 6 pts
5. Mike Hobin 4859 (Oxford SC) 9 pts
6. Nick Brook 4474 (Hollingworth Lake SC) 11 pts