Napier Sailing Club member, Graeme Robinson reports from the Flying Fifteen Worlds in Hayling Island, where he and James Sandall are leading the event after the first day of racing.
Only one race was completed on Day 1 of the Flying 15 World Championships at Hayling Island SC. It was a frustrating light wind day for the fleets, with constant shifts frustrating the PRO in setting a start.
Woke up early this morning and still can't really believe we have done what we did. Boatspeed is good with a mangy old jib that is at its fourth Worlds and has been used for many seasons as a Club sail too, but James likes it, despite the leech and foot flutter and the rust stains all down the luff. But it is fast and we sure aren't changing it now! Very light airs early this morning here on Hayling Island, so it could be another long day on the water.
At the end of racing today, on Day 1 of the Flying Fifteen World Championships at Hayling Island, James and I are joint leaders in the Regatta. We were first over the line in the Yellow Flight and this evening we are on equal points with Brian McKee of Ireland, who won the Blue Flight in the single set of races that were completed today. I cannot believe that, after 25 years of competing at World Championships, I have not only been the winning crew in a race, but that I am in a boat that is actually leading the series!
I guess though that this might be seen as a continuation of the form that James and I hinted at in the final race of the British National Championships on Wednesday, when we took the lead up the first beat and were only a few minutes from rounding the top mark with a good advantage when the race was abandoned. And that meant that we only raced on two of the five days set down for the Invitation/Practice Race and Nationals series, where we finished 26th overall in the four races that were completed with placings 8,19,10,(20) for 27 points.
The title was taken (again) by multiple World Champions Steve Goacher and Phil Evans. est of the four New Zealand crews were Murray Gilbert and Jonathan Burgess in 19th place overall (22),5,14,4 for 23 points. We were next-best, then followed John Leydon and Sandra Williams 34th and Ben Lowe and Kate Gilbert 46th on a total fleet of 88 boats. Despite the lack of any races and results on Wednesday, the trophies were handed out for the Gold and Blue Fleets and this saw Ben and Kate awarded first place on the Blue Fleet, which was a nice consolation prize for them as they had experienced all sorts of gear problems in the strong winds and had actually completed a race with a broken boom in the worst of the heavy wind in Race 2 of the Regatta.
The fleet of 96 Fifteens was on the water by 11:45am and out in the race area to the south of Hayling Island in time for the scheduled 1:00pm start time, but once again the wind did not co-operate and we had to wait more than an hour in warm weather for a change, with some sunshine between the clouds before racing got under way in a light 5-8 knot south westerly breeze.
Flights were each 48 boats and our Yellow Flight was first off on the trapezoidal course. We chose the favoured pin end for a very neat start in tons of space and clear air as the cross-current put paid to a few boats below us and we could have soon tacked and crossed over almost all of the fleet, but instead continued on for a while into better pressure to the south and we soon held onto second place. I misjudged the strength of the adverse tide at the top mark and we had to do a couple of extra tacks but still held second spot at the mark by about 8 lengths, with several boats in close combat about 5 lengths astern.
No changes on the reach to the outer course and we hoisted our kite about half way across the leg as the wind veered slightly. Unlike the boat ahead and the bunch behind, we chose to gybe at eh mark and that put us on the favoured west or left side of the course on the run, as the tide took us eastwards. I was very surprised (after being threatened with all sorts of punishments) to find at the bottom mark gate that we had taken the lead and secured our position over the rest of the chasing fleet. We were quick and high upwind in the breeze as it filled in very slightly and repeated our good teamwork on the final run. After that, it was a simple matter of staying in front on the final reach and then hanging in on the relatively short beat to the finish.
I have to admit that, despite running through in my mind the old saying that 'It ain't over until the fat lady sings' as we tacked onto starboard for the finish line, with only five lengths still to go I burst out laughing with the relief and disbelief in what we were doing. James joined in and we were literally laughing between ourselves as the winner's hooter sounded. Greg Wells was only about five lengths astern, but we had done it and achieved something that I have only dreamt about for 25 years and 11 World Championships.
The wind died after the Blue Flight finished and we then sat around for a couple of hours as the breeze died, flopped around and then boxed the compass under grey clouds and spots of rain. Racing was finally abandoned at 5:00pm, after which the wind completely died for a while before filling in from the north where it had been earlier in the morning and we were then able to sail home after a long period of sitting still without any air and with the tide pushing us ever more westwards and away from the entrance to Chichester Harbour. Other Kiwi results today were Murray & Jonathan 11th in our flight (although we await the result of a protest hearing in which they are a party), John & Sandra 25th (both also in Yellow Flight) and Ben & Kate 35th in Blue Flight.
James and I received our engraved winner's glasses at this evening's prizegiving and then we returned to our homestay for a good dinner and a glass of Oyster Bay Merlot (which is cheaper here than at home, due to the strength of the dollar and the different tax structure here we suspect). What a day. Now to sleep and to dream of more such results tomorrow and in the days to come!
All the best