RS700 Gul Grand Prix at Highcliffe

RS700 Action
RS700 Gul Grand Prix, third leg, was held at Highcliffe Sailing Club over the weekend of 11th and 12th June. Conditions were challenging for both competitors and race officials.

Saturday’s course was set a mile or two towards Hurst Castle in an effort to avoid the strong tidal stream from Christchurch Harbour and to find some more wind. In the event, the breeze built and backed more southerly than forecast and the three races were held in the teeth of a stiff force five and a very awkward chop. Most racers had a swim at some time or other with gybing, particularly, becoming trickier as the wind freshened during the afternoon.
GPS tracks of the event are available here Tracks and are worth a look if only for a laugh. (I have to apologise for once again failing to capture Jon Heissig’s races).

The course for race one was set 245o, a kilometre long and, in the event, very port biased as the wind swung round. five laps was always going to be an ask and the race was shortened to three with Jon Heissig leading all the way round.

Unfortunately, as can be seen from the tracks, the Committee Boat had dragged its mooring, ending up over 300m from the last LM and Jon capsized while looking for an ‘S’ flag. Jerry ‘Eagle Eyes’ Wales thought he spotted it and nipped down for the win followed by the rest of the pack.

The course was reset for the next two races 220o and 0.7km this time and pretty fair windward/leeward. A very entertaining race ensued with Jerry leading the charge up the first beat with Jon and Ian Nolan in close attendance. Jerry managed a swim on the first run which allowed the others to close up and all three boats rounded the leeward mark in line abreast. Jerry once again started to pull away but this time, Jerry the Eagle´s eyesight let him down and he mistakenly crossed the finish after three laps of the five lap race. What with the Committee boat still being in Hampshire, this let Jon Heissig through for the win with Jerry second and Ian third.

There were some weary racers by the last one of the day, another five lapper although there seemed to be some confusion about this. Part of the problem was that even after the course reset the Committee Boat was still 200m directly downwind from the LM. With three fleets racing and flags akimbo, signals were difficult to make out. By now nearly everyone was taking a swim despite single sail reaching and tacking round. Rob Jones shifted into Blaze mode, not using his kite at all and tacking round every gybe which proved to be a winning strategy, followed by Jerry and Jon. Colin Dacey and Ian Nolan, convinced that the race had not been shortened, went round for a fifth lap assured, they believed, of the honours. The Race Officer obviously thought differently and awarded them fifth and sixth.

Third for Jon Heissig in that last race proved good enough though in the event. Sunday dawned to the predicted south easterly on-shore howler with sustained winds of 25kt, gusts to 35 and heavy seas. The Race Officer sensibly abandoned racing (to the relief of those of us who had only left our boats rigged out of bravado - we got an absolute soaking while packing up as a reward) declaring Jon overall winner, Jerry Wales two points behind and Rob Jones third.

Tony Dencher hit 18.7kt spinnaker reaching down to the racecourse. This proved too much for his rudder which broke completely at the stock and put him off games. Some even more impressive speeds were clocked subsequently, especially with the fast boats fetching the LM in race one. Rob Jones had a smart 16kt average over 500m (510m in 62sec) on the last leg which must have been quite some ride in those seas. Sprint honours though go to Dan Azzopardi who hit 19.1kt in the third race, the fastest we’ve seen since we started GPS tracking.

Many thanks to Highcliffe Sailing Club for hosting the event and in particular to the beach crew for safe deliverance and galley staff for a great meal. A mention in dispatches is due to Allan Caswell who was there from first to last marshalling car and boat movements (we never did find out what was in that giant rucksack; a weapon of some kind I strongly suspect from his authoritative demeanour). PRO Pete Bell did well to keep it all together with three fleets on the water. None of us envied the team on the pitching Committee Boat. It must have been like herding cats.

Thank you, as always, to Gul our series sponsor. Let’s hope for kinder weather at Hayling Island in two week’s time.

1st76882Llangorse SCJohn Heissig2.
2nd721000Queen MaryJerry Wales1.
3rd77769Weston/WarshashRob Jones5.
4th71993Snettisham Beach SCIan Nolon4.
5th70758Grafham WSCColin Dacey7.
6th75904Oxford SCDaniel Azzopardi8.
7th79908Castle Cove SCMike Dencher3.06.012.0 DNF21.0
8th80938WestonJames Ross6.
9th73766Queen MaryGraham Blake9.012.0 DNF12.0 DNF33.0
10th74841Queen Mary Sailing ClubHamish Griffiths10.012.0 DNF12.0 DNF34.0
11th78870Netley SCTony Dencher12.0 DNS12.0 DNC12.0 DNC36.0

RS UK Class Association website