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ITCA Topper Eastern Region Travellers Series Round 3 at Hunts Sailing Club

by Ed Medcalf 23 Mar 07:01 PDT 19 March 2023

One impact of the recent inclement weather in Huntingdonshire is that it's difficult to find a patch of land dry enough upon which one might site a sailing club.

On March 19th, 19 aspiring 5.3 and 4.2 Eastern Travellers splashed their way through Hunts SC car park ready for Topper combat on the club's picturesque gravel pit. Baked potato bookings completed, racing commenced promptly at 10.30am.

Race Officer John might as well have had a mouth organ to blow and strapped a pair of cymbals to his knees such was the task of juggling popular club Sunday participation with 4 Topper races. A theoretically constant course had been set for the day though the light breeze was oscillating by about 40 degrees; before we knew it, the first race was under way. Full disclosure - your correspondent was about 200 yards away from the start line so did not witness any countdowns firsthand but it was clear that the fleet elected single-mindedly to pursue the lefthand side of the first beat. The breeze was on the right.

Kieran Vanhoutte (Ely SC) made a strong start and dominated the first 3 legs before remembering he might not have had a morning wash which he rectified immediately with an unexpected Force 1 dip. This allowed Ellie Thwaites through, hotly pursued by Jensen Jakob, Tilds Phillipps (Snettisham Beach SC) and Keah Edwards (Cam SC) who proceeded to suffocate each other on the downwind leg. We expected a protest from Tilds but it was not forthcoming. Reports of a fly intruding behind the hyper-cool sunglasses of Nathan Clark (WOBYC) explain his errant steering and unusual mid-pack position. On the 2nd lap the front 3 were now Ellie, Tilds and Jago Jennings having gained sufficient advantage to be able to look back on a bunfight for 4th-7th; meanwhile in 4.2s, William Mott (Snettisham Beach SC) had gained the upper hand from Jacob Blackman-Northwood (Hunts SC) and Issac Wilcox (Hunts SC), finishing in that order.

Race 2 - conditions had taken their toll on the 4.2 fleet and only William was able to start. An unwelcome shift meant that pin-end starters could lay the first mark, amongst whom Magnus Medcalf (Brancaster Staithe SC) accompanied by Skye Collins (Cam SC) made the most of their good fortune. The next windward mark (yellow) then assumed Doldrum-like qualities, sucking in and abandoning all those naive enough to attempt to round it. Those who did manage to pass it then found themselves in an unexpected jet stream-powered procession. Magnus took the win followed by Jago and Ellie.

Race 3 - now the fleet was savvy to the pin-end advantage and almost everyone tried to start exactly there. If you didn't get tangled up in that mess you gained a clear run to mark 1 and here Kieran, Ellie and William (4.2 fleet remember) got round first. Jenson maturely dealt with multiple alleged transgressions by performing multiple actual turns. Much of the fleet will have gone to sleep that evening with the image of the yellow mark etched on the inside of their eyelids as it again sucked any pressure from a 50m radius and compressed the pack. Conversely the final leg hosted a brisk Force 3 and the best reach of the day; in the same 15 second period, 8 Toppers crossed the finish line alongside a Solo, a Phantom, a Supernova, an Aero and a Merlin Rocket to keep PRO John on his toes.

Ellie, Jenson and Jago took the podium places.

Race 4 - the start-line had been reset. The whole fleet tacked onto port early and Ellie, Tilds, Magnus and Nathan led round the first mark. Windholes now appeared randomly across the lake, such that some competitors were at a standstill while 10 boatlengths to their left, Tabi Blackman Northwood (Hunts SC) was planing upwind from 13th to 8th in a personal Force 4. The wind gods appreciate new sails. Robert Hole (Hunts SC) popped up in 5th place, behind Ellie who took another win, and a battle between Magnus and Jago for 2nd. Jago generously knitted his mainsheet into an intricate but delaying design to sacrifice the place. Tilds took 4th and hurried ashore to lodge a protest but didn't quite make the time limit.

So well done Ellie, again. A dominant performance, no fuss, getting the basics right over and over. Magnus took 2nd on countback with Jenson and Jago 3rd and 4th. William deservedly won the 4.2s.

And thank you to Hunts for a warm welcome and a great event. What massive potatoes. As the Eastern Travellers splashed their way out of the car park their thoughts now turn to NS3 where home waters promise great results.

Finally, the fleet thanks the indefatigable Anna Clark for her immense efforts as ITCA Eastern rep. No messing - we'll miss her.

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