RSA 49er Team are UK National Inland champs

49er palma
49er. Graeme Willcox & Andrew Tarboton
pic by Jesus Renedo

report from Andrew Tarboton & Graeme Willcox

This last weekend saw us travel 2.5 hours north to a reservoir Huntingdon for the UK National Inland championships. This saw seven 49ers making the trip to Grafham Water Sailing club for the event.

The forecast was not the best, with 40 knots predicted for 3pm on the Saturday and 3-5 knots predicted for most of Sunday, this may have deterred some of the teams. As we headed out to the first start, it was evident that it was not going to be an easy day, with some large sharp gusts coming over the trees, it was not uncommon to get a gust hit you from the side which could put you into the drink. So we needed to stay on top of things and keep our heads out the boat. After short delay in the start to get the course right and allow the teams to get down to the start area, 4 boats lined up on the start line in a building breeze which was already seeing gusts over 20. We headed off up the beat and rounded the first mark in first, only to have to avoid an out of control boat coming upwind which saw Graeme loose his footing when a wave hit him and disappear around the back. Which ended up in a swim for us. After getting the boat back up, we managed to regain the lead and get across the line in first, only to find we missed the leeward gate, school boy error meant we had to re-finish the race, which then put us into second place for race 1, Race 2 saw some bigger gusts, some around 30 knots and things getting quite hairy at times. Bear aways became critical to not go down the mine, but we managed to keep the stick in the sky to record our first win of the event. After the second race the RO sent the fleet home before the 3pm squall hit. We were very happy to be onshore when this came through with the torrential rain and 40 knots of wind. The 29er fleet was still out on the water and many road the squall out on the bottom of the boat.

Sunday dawned with little wind to speak of. The RO launched us on time, and started us in a very light Southerly which was switching quite a lot so it was a game of snakes and ladders. We rounded the first mark in second place, and pushed hard down the first run to make up some distance on the leaders and with a good choice in leeward gate marks, we managed to get past them and extend on the last lap. The wind slowly increased through out the day until we were double wiring up wind in the 4th race of the day.

Sunday went well for us playing the switches well and keeping on top of things saw us pick up 4 firsts which sealed the regatta win for us!

We are very happy with this win and it is great when a year’s tough training has paid off. This is our last 49er fleet regatta for the year, we have a few more handicap events which will be a good test of boathandling, but to finish this great year off with this win is a prefect way to set-up for an even better 2015.

The previous weekend we sailed a RYA National ranker at Hayling Island. This venue is known for its steep chop and with a windy forecast for the weekend, we knew its was going to be a tough event. The Saturday arrived with a steady 10-15 knots breeze from the SW and the race committee got us underway with out delay.

Our first rest race started off well, great start at full speed until about 30 seconds after the gun, when we hit a large set of chop.  With no room to leeward we worked our way through this set as best we could, but this dropped us back that crucial half boat length and we ended up fighting for the lane.  Once we have started to get effected, we just had to,hold on until we got the free lane on port. This didn’t happen and we followed the front row around the weather mark.  With some work to do we set off at full speed. Through out the race we picked he boats off one by one, until we got to the last weather mark in the top 4, only to hit a pile of weed which we had to back out of, dropping us to second last… Where we finished.

The next race we got the first beat right and team Peters/Sterit got round just ahead of us at the first weather mark, and this is how it finished, with us in second.  The next race we were a bit slow off the line a an early gybe at the first weather mark meant we had a bit on to get back in it, after a great lap in the building breeze sometimes gusting near 20 with the short steep chop which Hayling Bay is known for, made it easy to trip up and most teams had a swim somewhere along the way, breaking foot straps or worse, a mast. This gave many lanes for overtaking so by keeping it conservative and upright, you were going to make gains during the race. We managed to get all the way up to 6th.

The fourth race was a bit windier and after a great pin start and keeping in the front group, we managed to keep it upright and finish the fourth race in 4th. The fifth and last race of the day started with a tired fleet making sure that they didn’t make any mistakes, we had a great start and quick up the first beat where we rounded the first mark in 1st, with a great full speed run, we had a great gybe on a conservative lay line and sped towards the leeward gate as we were getting to the drop zone, we hit a huge set of chop and went down the mine which left Graeme hanging by his ankle with his foot still in the foot strap and Andy tackling the gunwale at speed. After we got the boat back up, we decided to call it a day and make our way home.

With Sunday called off at 10am on Sunday, we ended the regatta in 7th. The points between 2nd and 7th were so close. We feel we have come a long way in these conditions and with a bit more time in the chop we can be more consistent and stay in the mix more consistently

A big thank you to our family and friends who have backed us all the way and our equipment supporters Southern Ropes, SLAM UK and Elvstrom Sails UK. Without all of you we would not be able to have achieved this.

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