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Hassall Law Salcombe Yawl Open at Salcombe Yacht Club

by John Burn & Robert Smith 27 Sep 2023 22:26 PDT 23-24 September 2023

Red Fleet Report (by John Burn, Y170)

A bumper turnout for the September Open Meeting saw 19 red fleet Yawls take to the water. What makes this even more impressive is that there were a few notable absent teams who, for their own reasons, were unable to attend.

The honour of PRO was bestowed upon our vice commodore, Tim Fells, who had the unfavourable task of 10 starts to deal with on Saturday alone.

Race 1 - Course 1-7-2-X

Under normal circumstances, I would be telling you about how Will and Mandy Henderson in Y168 did their usual and led the fleet around the course from start to finish. Well, not this time. Mike Webster and Peter Brewer in Y163 did some of the leading, but that's not the real story here!

The top three teams would be the first to fall victim to, as I like to call it trial by tracking. The new tracking software that the fleet was trialling showed very clearly upon review that the front three had rounded X to port as opposed to Starboard. Although no protests were lodged, Y168, Y163, and Y174 all took the honourable and correct decision to retire themselves, promoting Paul and Julie Rayson in Y178 to first position. Alister Morley and Charles Thompson in Y189 elevated to second, with Simon Gibbens and Andrew Reed in Y167 now third.

Race 2 - Course 1-7-2-X

The breeze had built nicely from the south, and with the tide ebbing, conditions in front of the club were getting close to perfect.

John Burn and Tristan Stone made light work of the first beat and rounded Blackstone clear ahead. As they made their way off to Mark 7, they were reeled in by the fleet, and the race restarted at Snapes.

Normal service was resumed, and the Hendersons in Y168, rounding the marks in the correct fashion this time, claimed their first win of the weekend. Ossie Stewart and Tim Law in Y174 finished second, with Paul and Julie Rayson in third.

Day 2 had many Yawl sailors lazing about watching their phones, waiting for what they thought was a guaranteed WhatsApp message from the PRO cancelling proceedings due to the wind strength. That message, however, never came; after all, it was Tim 'big day' Fells in charge, so instead we got confirmation that racing was indeed on.

Race 3 - Course 2-5-3-5

19 now became 5, as most teams took the decision to spectate rather than take part. Will Henderson drafted in Paul Rayson as crew in the hope of adding some much-needed ballast, which would certainly be required if they were to compete with the other heavyweight pairings on the water.

Alas, it wasn't Will's weekend; with 30 seconds to go and not too keen on their positioning, Will and Paul attempted to re-locate. As they bore off the mast said 'not today' and buckled under the pressure in a quite spectacular fashion.

The remaining four got away cleanly, worked their way up the beat to Millbay without any drama, and vanished into the bag. In the bag, conditions were indeed very pleasant, and the four Yalws enjoyed very close racing as David Geening and Ben Jones, after starting late, managed to catch up.

Simon Gibbens and Andrew Reed sailed a very interesting and unusual line from 5 to 3, and on both occasions, they managed to edge ahead a little, which ultimately earned them victory in race 3.

Alister Morley and Charles Thompson were second, with John Burn and Tristan Stone coming home third, leaving David and Ben a close fourth.

Race 4 - Course 2-5-3-5

This time David and Ben were on time, and the four teams once again headed off to Millbay before making their way off into The Bag. It was extremely tight between the four, with no one team able to break away. It was that close that on the leg back from Saltsone to the finish line, the lead would cycle between each boat on almost every tack, with each team having a turn at the front. Close racing like this is a wonderful thing; they all agreed after that it was one of the best races the fleet had seen in a long time, regardless of where you finished up.

In fact, it took Snapes Point to split them; Simon and Andrew navigated the point well and pulled away from Alister and Charles. The wind had swung round to more of a SSE direction, so John and Tristan, along with David and Ben, took a slightly higher line, which resulted in John and Tristan coming home second as they managed to pass Alister and Charles, who settled for third, with David and Ben once again a close fourth.

Overall Results:

1st Simon Gibbens & Andrew Reed Y167
2nd Alister Morley & Charles Thompson Y189
3rd John Burn & Tristan Stone Y170

Thank you to Tim Fells, the entire race team and safety boat crews for facilitating such a brilliant weekend of racing in testing conditions.

Blue Fleet Report (by Robert Smith, Y123)

Competitors were promised near perfect conditions for the last of this years Yawl open events with a steady 10mph South Westerly breeze forecast accompanied by sunshine and blue skies. To the surprise of many, the wind was a notch up from that forecast and provided some challenging conditions in the estuary as the wind against tide created some moderate waves.

In terms of team pairings, there were a number of changes to the regular runners and riders in that Olly Turner had teamed up with Chris Skelhorn in Y68, Simon Dawes & Woody were paired in Y150 and John McLaren and Scud were sailing together in Y84. Thanks also to Crispin Waterhouse for stepping into Y123 at the last minute whilst Robin visited the urgent Care Centre in Newton Abbott to have a gardening injury attended to!

The other change for this event was the introduction of race tracking for all those who had signed up to use the app implemented by Mike Knowles and kindly sponsored for the weekend by Stones Boatyard. For those interested you can view the app here.

Due to the stronger than forecast winds in the estuary Tim Fells (who did a great job as PRO) set the course as 1,7,2,X for Race 1, allowing for a shorter second beat and loop around X to finish in the event the wind continued to strengthen. This course aptly demonstrated the importance of good pre-race preparation, as for all those who failed to locate the exact position of X prior to the start (including myself) were later to be left wondering exactly where to find the leeward mark!

Despite the ebbing tide, some port bias and enthusiastic fleet bunching towards smalls there was a clean and orderly start, best demonstrated from a snap shot of the tracking image.

The majority of the pack stayed in the tide and crossed tacks whilst heading to number 1 with Simon Dawes taking an early lead. The leading bunch at the first mark rounding comprised Simon Dawes, John McClaren, James Greenhill and Olly Turner.

With strong winds and little tide, the run back into the Bag gave crews the opportunity to cross the tide at various locations to try and break free from the pack, some choosing to cross early while others hugged the Mill Bay shoreline all the way past Venus Café. The rounding into the Bag saw Simon and Olly pull away until the pack approached Saltstone where the fleet bunched before splitting left and right looking for clean air. The leading boats rounded mark 7 unhindered while the remaining fleet cartwheeled round the mark with multiple boats overlapped.

The beat back through the Bag was shifty and having rounded Snapes the beat to mark 2 had become rough as the wind built against the ebbing tide. Simon managed to remain ahead of Olly until he broke through on the final approaches to No 2.

Rounding Mark X (once you had located it amongst the Yawl trots) was simple enough as long as you remembered to leave it to Starboard. Mike Knowles had the perfect racing line to take it to port until those rounding to starboard pointed out the error of his ways !

Olly managed to increase his lead on the final beat and the line honours went to Olly & Chris 1st, Simon & Woody 2nd and James & Rob 3rd.

Race 2 saw a course change to 1,7,1,X which extended the second beat to mark 1, something that was met with a sigh of disappointment in our boat at least due to the tough conditions.

An enthusiastic start in strong gusty conditions necessitated a second sound signal from the race box, but as no action was taken by any of the crews it would remain to be seen who fell foul of being OCS.

Olly and Chris in Y68 had established the lead by the first mark and started to pull away on the downwind leg. Simon made an early break by crossing to the town side ahead of the chasing pack that had formed a closely packed bunch. Rounding Snapes and into the Bag, Simon & Woody managed to wriggle through Olly & Chris who then exchanged places all the way to number 7. John McLaren and Scud stayed low going through the Bag which paid off for them and put them back in the hunt. The two leading boats (Y150 & Y68) crossed tacks all the way along the return leg towards number 1, but a shorten course was sounded (no doubt to the relief of many) and line honours again went to Olly any Chris ahead of Simon in 2nd and James in 3rd. Unfortunately Y84 & Y123 were the culprits of the OCS flag which elevated the positions of the main fleet by 2 places.

To conclude day 1, Chris Skelhorn, who was so delighted with his two first place positions, wasnt concentrating sufficiently when mooring and managed to fall off the floating dock !

Day 2 saw an increase in the wind strength and some deliberation by the PRO as to whether it was appropriate to run the racing. His decision was to sail, but the number of competitors was significantly diminished.

Races 3 & 4 only saw four blue fleet crews, albeit Simon and Woody arriving 15 minutes late to the start due to a timing error on Woodys part (Simon suggests).

Despite the lack of boats on the start line, there was still some bunching at the pin end and calls of windward boat form Olly to James and Rob in Y138 ! Olly established a quick lead and Y138 & Y123 sailed a close race with Simon closing the gap from his late start. Coming out of the bag Olly had established a considerable lead but elected to push the tide in the middle of the fairway. James and Rob in Y138 spotted an opportunity having broken through Robert and Robin in Y123 and headed into the foreshore moorings and out of the tide. They made considerable ground on Olly & Chris threatening their lead on the final approach to the finish, but Olly managed to hang on with the final placings being Olly & Chris 1st Y68, James and Rob 2nd Y138 and Robert & Robin 3rd Y123.

The final race saw the same four boats start, but due to a rudder pintle failure after rounding mark 1 James and Rob Y138 were forced to retire, leaving Olly to lead the way around the course unchallenged with Simon & Woody in second and Robert & Robin in third.

Overall results reflected the placings throughout the weekend with Olly and Chris the deserving winners followed by Simon & Woody in 2nd place and James and Rob with a well-earned 3rd.

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