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Musto Skiff Southern Series Travellers at the Lymington Dinghy Regatta 2023

by Jamie Hilton 15 Aug 12:18 PDT 12-13 August 2023
Dan Vincent at Lymington Dinghy Regatta © Polly Thornton

It was one of those regattas when everyone had a story. A full foam up, big breeze over the Solent tide, 9 Musto Skiffs entered, two races sailed, and limited finishers (and starters). But once all were accounted for, it was survival (and Solent) specialist, Dan Vincent, who returned ashore least scathed to take the win.

The weekend itself was hosted by Lymington Town Sailing Club and the adjacent Royal Lymington Yacht Club, who had both planned superbly to jointly accommodate and organise the one hundred or so pre-entered boats as part of their annual Lymington Dinghy Regatta. But as ever with the best laid plans, on this occasion, the high winds and 'lumpy' provided the proverbial spanner, where Saturday was blown off and Sunday was limited to two (I use the term loosely) races.

Saturday: As the various fleets rigged up, there was one topic amongst the dinghy park chatter: is this going to happen? Everyone was leaning on their pocket weather expertise to dial in wind patterns from the various weather stations of Bramblenet, Hurst Castle, and the race hut. All were registering around 25kts with an upward trajectory, so it came as no surprise when the race team made the decision to abandon racing for the day. That left teams to enjoy the day ashore with various games and treats being served up by the hosts and many reconvening in the evening to enjoy an excellent meal of tagine and rice served up by the club galley.

Sunday: The wind had moderated to the high teens, and this seemed to inject a swagger and confidence into the teams launching for the intended four races that had been scheduled. For the Musto's, racing on the east course with the RS700s and 800s meant leaving the Lymington River, rounding the outer channel markers, and bearing away into the torrent of ebb tide fighting the SW Force 5. This is where the fun really began with the sea state reminiscent of the required peaky texture when making home-made meringue. In the aftermath, I've since heard others describe these as 'square waves' that impose both primary and secondary drownings, a washing machine on fast rinse cycle... you get the picture. It was challenging - but so much fun!

For Race 1, seven out of nine Musto's managed to make the start. The upwind conveyor belt in the tide was a lumpy affair, trapezing both feet behind the bungee, the bow belly-flopping into the troughs. But all relatively manageable. With such a tide ripping, making lay was relatively easy, but then the bear-away......first to the spreader mark, before the war of attrition as the fleet tried to bear away onto the run. Some fared better than others in this respect, and even managed a gybe back towards the northern shore where the promise of flatter waters and less tide prevailed.

Jamie Hilton led for laps 1 and 2 in a borrowed boat (cheers Nigel), before falling victim to the conditions whilst bearing away for the final time on lap 3. Ben Schooling was the benefactor using his nous and judgement to keep the stick in the sky and reach off downwind whilst Hilton straddled his daggerboard. Once upright, Hilton went for the kite but lasted all of 5 seconds before going back down the mine. The mine was where he (I) resided for quite some time, so the rest of the race is quite a blur.

The results show that Schooling held the lead, Vincent got round to take 2nd, Rob Richardson (RoRi) in his new hull (what a way to Christen her!) took 3rd, and Hilton limped round to finish in 4th - a near 12 minutes behind Schooling. By this time, all other Musto's had called time on the day and made their way back in, first to the sanctuary of the Lymington River, and then to dry land to recover and turn their eye lids the right way once again.

For Race 2, the 21 strong combined fleet was now reduced to 15 starters, and with the race officer kindly sending us round for 3 laps, it became a question of how many would finish.

RoRi managed the beat to round first, closely followed by Vincent, Hilton, and Schooling, but then capsized on the bear-away, closely followed by Vincent, Hilton, and Schooling capsizing one after the other. You couldn't make it up! In fact, I'm not sure any boat on the course made it round that top mark unscathed. Proper carnage. Hilton, though, was first up, kite hoisted on port gybe to the safer zone, then gingerly making his way downwind with bum on the aft end of the rack, toes curled under the rudder gantry for stability. Dan wasn't far behind deploying similar tactics. These two then enjoyed what looked like a race, but really it was a case of both helms taking the path of least resistance around the remaining laps, only for Hilton to spill on the final gybe to let Dan through. Ben continued to sail a shrewd race to take third.

In the end only 7 boats on the course finished the race, much to their credit (and arguably that of their boat builders), before the race team signalled that racing was done for the day. Not that they had to signal. We were all fully goosed.

We all made it safely back ashore to lick wounds, tell our tales, call loved ones to tell them we made it out alive, etc. That left the job of packing up and prize-giving where Dan took the overall win for the Musto Skiffs, followed by Ben in 2nd, and Jamie in 3rd, with prizes kindly supplied by the host clubs and Ovington Boats.

Huge thanks to the club, the organisers, the regatta sponsor, Harken, and perhaps most notably, the rescue teams who had a fair bit on. Great fun, and for me personally, a great excuse to make my way back down south.

The next fixture for the majority will be the trip to Cornwall for the Noble Marine UK Musto Skiff Nationals in Restronguet over September 21st to 24th before the Southern circuit reconvenes at Brightlingsea in October (7/8) for the penultimate event of the season.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2Pts
1st622Dan VincentStokes Bay / RNSA213
2nd627Ben SchoolingSpinnaker SC134
3rd394Jamie HiltonDalgety Bay SC426
4th549Robert RichardsonRoyal Windermere YC3DNF9
5th561Brennan RobinsonGrafham Water SCDNFDNF14
6th631Mark CooperBurghfield Sailing ClubDNFDNC19
6th287Christopher EamesQMSCDNSDNC19
8th582Paul MolesworthHenley Midmar YCDNCDNC22
8thTBCChristopher EamesQMSCDNCDNC22
8th590Andy TarbotonHenley Midmar Yacht ClubDNCDNC22

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