The Royal Torbay Yacht Club were the excellent hosts for the second round of the 2008 18ft Skiff UK circuit last weekend with the fleet competing for the Holt Challenge Plate.
Making a welcome return to 18tft skiff racing after an absence of ten years as stand in helm on Ronstan UK was Dave Hall, who along with regular crew Paul Constable and Alec Mckinlay posted an emphatic set of results, counting four firsts and a second place, to take the event from current European Champion Mason Woodworth, with crew David Brown and Toby Linnell on Investec Private Bank.
Saturday morning dawned flat and grey with a constant, penetrating, light rain. No wind ashore but a 10 knot breeze out on the course the fleet were called out for a prompt start. James Mears, Stuart Mears and Andy Ramms on Pica lead up the first beat, but Ronstan UK quickly moved up the fleet to challenge and it was these two boats who competed for the lead throughout the race with the advantage shifting several times. However, it was Ronstan who took the lead on the final beat and held it to the finish. Andy Budgen on Project Racing took third.
Ronstan’s speed edge then began to show as the breeze eased slightly in the following two races which they won by increasing margins. Pica remained consistent to take two further seconds with Investec third in both.
By contrast Sunday’s conditions could best be described as ‘huge’. Bright blue skies, a gusty force five nor easter and a short sharp 2 metre swell from the east combined to provide the sailors with an unforgettable day’s sailing. After a thirty minute delay to allow the fleet to change down to their number two rigs the first race got underway with Investec making the early running, closely followed by Pica.
The boats were becoming almost fully airborne off the crests of the waves both upwind and down and the sight of these two boats match racing round the course in these very demanding conditions was nothing short of spectacular. Investec were relishing the conditions and slowly drew away from Pica to take the win.
Ronstan UK remained in touch with these two and were able to capitalise on Pica fouling their spinnaker at the final windward mark to slip through into second. Pica recovered quickly to take third. Race five was to be a repeat of race four with Investec dominant but Pica this time error free taking the lead briefly on the third of four punishing laps before Investec recovered on the final beat. Ronstan had to be satisfied with a third after a major twist in their kite left them out of touch of the leaders.
The breeze eased slightly for the final race. Ronstan, the event already in the bag, stayed on to take their fourth win of the event. The heavy boys on Investec had to be satisfied with a second place but still had the best results of the day. Pica, despite briefly leading the race on lap 3 slipped back to third.
All the crews headed back to shore exhausted but exhilarated by an unforgettable day’s sailing. The conditions were made all the better by Royal Torbay’s friendly, efficient and communicative race team.
Winning skipper Dave Hall commented on his return to the 18’s 'This was the best weekend’s racing I can remember. The new boats and rigs are far more manageable than they used to be. I am still on a high from Sunday'