50 seconds to go in one of the closest pursuit race finishes ever
At the prize giving Commodore Rob Pettit explained that this Golden Anniversary event was a re-run of the first race ever held at Island Barn - an Open Pursuit Race. That event, a four-hour affair (sailors had more patience in those days), was held in torrential rain. It was won by the host club. This weekend's event was altogether more civilised, consisting of two 90 minute races sandwiching a convivial buffet lunch. Proceedings drew to a close with a cream tea to accompany the festivities of the prize giving. There was not a drop of rain - just continuous sunshine.
Four visiting teams, eight home teams and 53 boats in all, rose to the challenge.
There could have been no greater contrast in the visiting teams than that between the Hampton team of state-of-the-art Merlin Rockets and the vintage boat team from Thames, two varnished Albacores and a wooden masted Rocket. Tamesis sent 2 Solos (very wisely) and a Laser. Littleton SC sent 3 of their star RS 200 fleet.
Island Barn put out 8 teams to ward off this strong challenge. The A team comprised a Solo, National 12, an RS300 and an RS 400 - a Team For All Seasons might have been an appropriate name. One Island Barn family put out a whole team of its own - Scott Racing - Mum and Dad in a Wayfarer, William and Nancy in Toppers.
The slowest boats, 6 home Toppers, got away smartly at 11 into a force 2 northerly which kept shifting sporadically to the right. They were quickly over taken by two other Island Barn Junior Team members, the well-sailed Feva of James Curtis and Harry White (Island Barn) and a Firefly skippered by the youngest competitor by far, three-year-old Emily Mayhew. Dad Carl crewed.
The first big fleet to start was the Solo. Three of these, Gareth Griffiths (Island Barn) and Rob Wilder and Joe McLaughlin (Tamesis), made early in-roads into the Feva lead. The Laser fleet started 6 minutes later, leaving no room at the pin end for Mike and Alex Storey in a National 12, who crossed early and went back. One minute later a pack of RS200s set off. Ben Palmer and Alex Groves, two home grown international youth champions, made a perfect committee boat end start in their first race in the type. A minute later five immaculate Merlin Rockets from Hampton started, all, very surprisingly, a little late. A short time later, the wind speed started to drop, much to the disappointment of the late starters, including a pre race favourite Peter Curtis in an RS 300. The fastest boat, an RS600, sailed by ex commodore Alasdair MacLean started at 11.25.
By half time, Gareth Griffiths' Solo had taken the lead with Rob Wilders Solo in close attendance. But Mike Storey's National 12 had recovered from his shaky start, overtook them and sailed into a lead which gradually stretched to 2 legs; a lead which he held to the finish. Palmer and Groves, slid through the fleet steadily in their RS200, to take fourth behind Storey, Griffiths and Wilder.
As forecast, the wind slackened through lunch and the second race started in a force 1, occasionally 2, which gradually reduced to a zephyr with occasional puffs. There were no start line dramas this time, and Hamptons Merlins, seemingly tied together, all made a perfectly timed start. With twenty minutes to go Gareth Griffiths' Solo had again established a good lead. As before, Mike Storey's National 12 glided relentlessly through the Solo fleet to within 4 boat lengths of Griffiths. This time it was Griffiths who found the helpful puffs and managed to defy the substantial rating difference between the boats for minute after minute. With 5 minutes to go the boats were overlapped on a beat, matching tack for tack between the moving finish line boats. With 50 seconds to go Storey roll tacked into the lead. Surely, that was it. But no. Griffiths timed his final roll tack perfectly and was a foot ahead at the 90 minute finishing hooter. The closest pursuit race finish ever? Who knows? But it was certainly exciting from the finishing line boats. John Smith, the knowledgeable and entertaining shore-based commentator was, for the first time, speechless. He couldn't separate them from his lofty perch!
With a first and second each, Griffiths and Storey had to be separated by the last-race tie-break for the Individual Pursuit Race Trophy. This, of course, went in Gareth Griffiths' favour, giving Mike and Alex Storey second for the event. A 3rd in the second race earned Ben Palmer and Alex Groves third overall.
In the team event, Tamesis, in Rob Wilder and Joe McLaughlin, had entered two very good Solo sailors. 1 more competitive Solo in their 3 boat team could have won them the team trophy. However, their Laser result, though good for the type on the day, pulled them down into third place. Hampton's team of Merlin Rockets all sailed well to pip Tamesis by 1 point to take second place.
With the first two boats in each race belonging to the Island Barn A Team, all eyes were on the home club's third boat at both finishes. Vice Commodore Mike Curtis, with Howard Shune crewing, did not disappoint. Their RS400, starting almost last, scored commendably good results in two races which both favoured the early starters. So Island Barn retained their Bell Team Pursuit Trophy.
There were lots of smiling faces at the prize giving at the end of an extremely competitive and enjoyable event. It was particularly generous of the visiting teams to give 3 cheers to the winning home club. Come back to our next one, guys. It could be your turn next.
Mike Jones 21 09 09
Selected Individual results
Island Barn RSC
Island Barn RSC
Island Barn RSC
Selected team results