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Zhik 2024 March - LEADERBOARD

Blithfield Barrel 2023/24 - Week 3

by Alastair Reid 15 Jan 09:19 PST 19 November 2023 - 18 February 2024

A week ago, the third Barrel Race looked like it would be touch and go for any decent wind. On the day, it delivered a steady-for-Blithfield 8-12 knots from the NW and the chill factor made the bracing 4C temperature feel even lower - and a real test of gloves. A smidgeon of morning rain and a bit of low, late afternoon sunshine all served to remind us it was January.

That said, 33 boats launched for the first race, including 8 Merlins, a VX1, 5 GP14s, and of the 4 Supernovas, one flew the brand new re-designed sail. Despite the numbers, all made a clean start with some very precise line work on display.

The first race saw Tom Gillard and Rachel Gray in the Merlin catch clean air straight from the off all the way to an impressive finish with no other boat close enough to challenge for line honours and corrected time. Second was Mike Senior and Ollie Goodhead in the GP14 and third was Matt Biggs and George Bender in a Merlin. In a handicap race it's easy for the focus to be held by the leading boats but the smart money kept an eye on the GP14 of Mike and Ollie which although middle of the fleet, was imperiously ahead of the other GP14s. An hour of racing led to a lunch break where the dilemma was to stand against a radiator or hold a plate of excellent hot food - or both.

After lunch, the wind held sufficiently steady to allow use of the same course. As seems to be the norm, the combination of food and increased confidence after the first race led to a general recall on the second. The Black Flag made its expected appearance and we lost one competitor in an otherwise clean second start. Tom and Rachel didn't spring off the line in quite such a dominant way but nevertheless showed their skills by fighting their way up the fleet through the rest of the Merlins to be some 24 seconds ahead of the next 3 (who finished within 7 seconds of each other). Again, Nick and Ollie showed their finesse, not least in boat-handling, with their spinnaker drawing within 3 boat lengths of the mark.

During the race the average windspeed didn't change much but it varied in location with some quiet spots and a few gusts at the windward end of the course that were just enough to wobble the unwary. There were no capsizes and this time, whilst line honours went to Rob Burdekin and Al Raynard in the Osprey, first on corrected time were Mike and Ollie with Jonathan Swain in his Solo second and Samuel Bailey and Holly Evans, third in their Lark. A buoyant, busy day with a definite buzz!

Prize-giving was supported by the generosity of Hartley's Chandlery and overall 1st was Mike Senior and Ollie Goodhead in their GP14, with 2nd place going to Samuel Bailey and Holly Evans in the Lark and Tom Gillard and Rachel Gray in their Merlin at 3rd.

The final Round is on 11th Feb and an even higher turnout will make it a great way to finish the series. Join the fun via

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