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ITCA GBR NS3 Inland Championships at Grafham Water Sailing Club

by Thomas Semmens 17 Apr 05:46 PDT 13-14 April 2024
5.3 fleet start line during the ITCA GBR NS3 Inlands at Grafham Water © John Blackman Northwood

112 Topper 5.3 and 24 Topper 4.2s were welcomed to Grafham Water SC by very helpful parking attendants, excellent caterers and a strangely dry and a good wind forecast.

Day 1 dawned with a brisk westerly forecast and so it proved. With the 4.2s sailing on a different race track both race management teams did well to fire in a full schedule of 3 races for the 5.3s and 4 races for the 4.2s. With over 100 5.3s they were split into 4 groups and 2 groups were paired to race off in 2 flights to make the fleet size manageable, with groups rotating so each sailor sails against each other at least once.

Being an inland venue shifts are always guaranteed, but predicting them was less easy. Heading right to The Northerly shore seemed to pay upwind and Jasper Focardi-Dolling led the first flight of the day chased by Tom Semmens. While the other flight for race 1 was won by pre event favourite Kat Gunn followed by Harry Mills. In Race 2 Tom won his flight from fellow SW sailor Louis Voss while Kat again won her flight to take the lead overall with Emily Shearer 2nd. By the 3rd race the breeze was well and truly up and tiredness was starting to kick in. Kat strengthened her grip on the event to win again from Harry completing a clean sweep of wins for the day, while George Spence won the other flight from Louis.

In the 4.2s Sam Mason raced into the lead with 2 wins with Henry Cruse and Tom Smith coming 2nd in a race each. Race 3 saw Tom Smith clearly liking the stronger winds win, but in race 4 Tom was caught with a U flag starting penalty ruining his climb up the leader board, this race won by Hari Clark from Sam.

By the end of the day, it was smiles all round ashore after a tricky, exhausting but great day's sailing.

Sunday dawned with lighter winds of 8-10 kts forecast with a gently left shifting breeze. However, the wind Gods had not read the forecast. In reality the breeze built up into the mid to high teens and massive swings left and right caused havoc setting the courses.

On the 4.2 course there were inevitably big shifts but race management team kept the show running smoothly and completed all 4 races to complete the 8 scheduled races with little delay, providing the sailors 2 discards. Henry Cruse stormed off to win the first 3 races of the day, with Sam getting a couple of 2nd places and the other 2nd place going to Ralph Hadley. Going into the last race and the second discard kicking in it was a tie for the lead resulting in a straight winner takes all shootout between Sam and Henry for the event win. Momentum was with Henry but Sam recovered his form to win the race and series from Henry while Hari Clark completed a consistent series to finish 3rd overall.

In the west of the lake conditions were even trickier. The 5.3 race management team struggled with the massive wind swings. Just as the track was set up for a SW breeze a massive swing to the right resulted in delays while the course was reset only for the wind to go back to its original direction. This was a Race Officer's nightmare trying to set a race track in phase with the wind shifts. After a fairly long delay Race 4 (first of the day for the 5.3s) started, with such big swings the race track was more like a snakes and ladders board with both the left and right hand sides providing big gains and losses in equal measure. Harry Mills stormed off to win his flight from Ava Harris-Scott, a rare dip from Kat finishing 5th in this flight. In the other flight Jasper Focardi-Dolling proved he knows a ladder from a snake, and Victory Montgomery only saw ladders to come 2nd for his best result of the event. By the time the second race of the day was in sequence time was running on and the 4.2s were starting their last race. With the race Committee keen to get things going, the swinging wind caused biased start lines which in turn resulted in a few general recalls.

Eventually race 5 got under way only to find a big right shift. With Tom Semmens gaining most, he had a big lead only to see the race committee abandon as they tried to quickly reset the course - under time pressure the black flag was brought out for some action. The restarted race also saw a general recall, this time with 3 boats penalised under the black flag. Jake Blakeway did not see his number displayed on the black board of doom so assumed he was safe, only to find out ashore the number displayed on the board was incorrect and he was indeed caught. He was joined by Tom Semmens who until that point was still in with a slight chance of winning the event. As it turned out with time having run out for the day to complete the final race, so Tom and Harry's slim chance of the event win was now gone and Kat will have known then that she was now the event winner event with a race to spare, but that did not stop her completing her dominance by winning her final race from Tristan Shaw. The other flight was won by Kyla Baxter from Harry Wemyss.

Kat really proved that she was a worthy winner. Overall Harry Mills beat his training partner Tom on countback for 2nd, while Jasper could not capitalise on Tom's BFD and finished a point behind Harry and Tom in 4th, with George Spence in 5th.

Big thanks to Grafham Water SC, they were very friendly and helpful and the volunteers who helped run the event. Lots of parents and class representatives give up their time - it is appreciated. A very big well done to all the sailors and especially those new to the class.

The next NS event is NS4 in Poole - see you there.

Overall Results:

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