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Bournemouth Digital Poole Week 2021 - Day 5

by David Harding 27 Aug 04:16 PDT 23-27 August 2021

Being a race officer can be a thankless task when the wind is all over the place. It's never easy at the best of times, but at least in Poole Harbour you usually have plenty of water to play with.

With fleets that don't expect or insist on set courses around laid marks, like windward/leewards or the good old triangle/sausage, sometimes it's best to use that water and to send them on a long race around the harbour. Whatever the wind does - providing it doesn't die completely - they should get a bit of everything.

So it was that, for the third time this week, the Wayfarers, Dolphins and fast handicappers found themselves leaving the northern part of the harbour behind and setting off towards greener and more pleasant lands to the south. For the Shrimpers it was the second time, as they only started racing on Wednesday.

The Wayfarers and the fast handicap fleet sailed a true round-the islands course, anti-clockwise around Brownsea, Furzey and Green. The Shrimpers and Dolphins went the other way, to the top of South Deep, where they met the boats coming from the opposite direction for the beat home.

After this all the classes except the Shrimpers and Dolphins had a second race, staying relatively close to their home patch this time.

The fleets in the harbour's Top Triangle are the ones that sail the 'proper' courses and this is where the water started getting busy. Large fleets of Flying Fifteens and ILCA 7s, and slightly smaller fleets of RS200s and ILCA 6s, were all trying to sail their own races while keeping out of the way of the other classes. It's another challenge for race officers, arranging courses and timings so as to avoid having multiple fleets approaching the same mark at the same time from different directions.

In the round-the-harbour fleets as well as the Darts, XODs and slow handicap, the pecking order was broadly consistent with the way it has been during the week. At the top of the harbour, however, some significant changes took place. Notably in the Flying Fifteens, Bob Alexander and Huw Willetts - former Poole Week winners - had been quietly clocking up consistent results all week, usually in the top four, but found the magic button on Thursday to win both races and move to within one point of the leaders.

Roberta Hartley in the ILCA 6s also engaged the afterburners to score two bullets and level the points at the top of the table with Freddie Howarth.

Roberta's Husband, Andrew, was having a quieter day in the ILCA 7 fleet but still sitting in the top 10. Two other wife-and-husband Laser sailors, Ann and John Keates, have forgone their singlehanders for this Poole Week and joined forces in a Flying Fifteen, though Ann still sailed in the ILCA 6s on Monday and couldn't stop herself winning the second race.

It's one of the features of Poole Week that, while the racing attracts some top-flight sailors, the event still retains its family feel. That's probably because so many families are involved. Nigel Yeoman was crewed in his Dolphin earlier in the week by his granddaughter Kate - a more-than-accomplished helm in her own right - whose parents are at the sharp end of the Flying Fifteens and whose aunt is crewing in a Dart. You will find a Harris almost everywhere you look in the Dolphins, though confusingly they're not all related to each other. Husband-and-wife teams are found throughout the fleets, often near or at the top, while other sailing partnerships have been established and maintained over many years specifically for Poole Week. Some helms and crews team up just for one very special week of the year.

Few people would say that their results don't matter but, wherever they end up in the fleet, it's the friendships, the rivalries and the social life at the club after racing that brings people back year after year and maintains the unique atmosphere that makes Poole Week what it has always been.

As for those results - well, some of the front-runners already have leads that can't be challenged. The rest will be decided on the final day of racing on Friday.

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