Breezey. A solid force 4 at launching time - a launching time that was perhaps not quite as early as it might have been for some competitors - no names [grin]. Course wise we had a medium length set of beat, reach, run, shy reach and another short run.
Setting courses is always an interesting challenge, and most especially for handicap races. (here follows an *entirely personal* digression, although I'm sure the sailing secretary would be pleased to hear everyone's opinions) because the course can have such a big impact on the race results. You want an interesting mixture of reaching, running and beating, and you want balance between the amounts of each. Although I've always been a big fan of the quadrilateral course for simplicity and ease of setting, this season I'm coming to believe that on our lake its all too easy for it to become too biased towards spinnaker boats because its so very difficult to get a shy reach in. Thus before you know it (especially if the wind shifts the wrong way) the course is three quarters spinnaker reaches and one quarter beating. Traditionally we've often used what one might call the "unwrapped Olympic" with two separate beats, one feeding a run and one a triangle. This is good for longer races and especially class racing, but for shorter handicap races the sheer length of the race brings, I think, too much of an element of luck, especially on Wednesday evenings when "who is where when the wind drops" becomes a decider. It also means that average lapping turns into something of a lottery - you really need the fastest boats to be doing at least 4 laps for average lapping to be reasonably fair. Its a good choice for the pursuit races though don't you think? I'm beginning to wonder whether a track like last nights, with the shy reach up to a second shorter run is a fairer option. It does make for two hoists and drops per lap though, which is unkind on the more mature spinnaker crews. Should we experiment with a leeward mark well clear of the leeward bank do you think? That would get a shy reach in without having the second spinnaker hoist, and it would also give room for the spinnaker boats to have a go at the reach (or part of it) using the kite without immediately ending up in the bank if there's a big gust... It goes against the grain not to have as long a beat as possible though. Like everything else in sailing its complicated and there are no easy answers.
Anyway, back to the race. A good breeze, if tending to reduce slightly during the race. You have got to say that this race was all about the Laser competition. John Reay, Evan Cairns and Kevin Pearson were all there, and all in the lead at one time or another. Evan took the best route off the line to the first shift and led early on, but any kind of lead was hard to maintain as gusts tended to compress the fleet on the runs, and with two runs per lap this effect was magnified. John took the lead mid race, but was somewhat hampered by the fast fleet as well as the gusts, and all were bunched right up again as they reached the second leeward mark on the penultimate lap. Kevin went left, got the shifts right all the way up the beat, and maintained the lead right to the finish, making him first overall as well as first Laser. Usually such tight battles push folks a little way down the pack on handicap, so it was good to see the Laser triumph. Graham Potter (Albacore) slipped into second on handicap, just ahead of Messrs Cairns and Reay, with Mike Curtis taking 5th in his RS400 and Fiona Fardon 6th in an RS200.
In the personal handicap it was a Laser again - Jamie Scott getting the bullet, with Evan second, Fiona third and in 4th place Luke Martin, who is making leaps and bounds in performance with the Club Enterprise. Graham Potter was 5th and John (Laser)Smith 6th. Series placings - take a look, its anyone's game yet!
On an entirely different note thanks to the shepherd who last night moved his three Houdini sheep to a different reservoir. Hopefully we'll have a little less of the Droppings of the Lambs underfoot!