Tradition has it that one race is lost each Winter Series due to lack of wind and at 08.30, it did look as if this could be this Sunday but the Southampton Weather Centre were optimistic that there would be enough wind by mid-morning. It was expected to back steadily from NW’ly towards WSW by 1400 hrs.
In the event the wind did come but later than expected, causing a 30 minute delay in the starting sequence for both fleets, and the anticipated backing pattern did not occur. This meant that the strong weather going was always going to be important in the tactics of the racing. The Mumm 30 fleet, now with ten entries, were over-anxious and had a general recall on their first race. They were re-started with the Sigma 38 fleet, a further 20 minutes late. David Ovington, “Ovington Boats Like”, resumed his winning ways by taking the first race and coming 2nd in the 2nd race behind John Nesbit in “Finns McCoul II”. The very strong IRC 1 Class gained another new entry this week when Kit Hobday’s Corby 41 “Independent Bear” scored a good 2nd place behind Peter Morton’s Mills 50 “Mandrake”.
IRC 2 is slowly developing into a contest between Paul Churchill in “Splashdown Shakermaker” and Justin Slawson in “The Big Cheese”. This week Paul won with Justin 3rd. Second place went to the X-99 “Espresso” owned by Simon Slater, David Mansell & John Egan. The Sigma 38 had a new winner this week. John Gillies helming the RAF entry “Red Arrow” flew past David Aisher’s “Yeoman XXVIII” to win by 35 secs. It appears the downwind legs really sorted out the fleets. Everyone had their own idea of the best route from the top mark and this led to a very wide spread of boats across the Solent. Peter Baines helming the X-332 “X-Celerator” tightened his grip on IRC 3 with another win. Russell Hodgson’s entry is now the only boat left with a 100% record this year. The IRC 4 and Sigma 33 classes shared a course away from the bigger boats. With the light winds prevailing these fleets slowly intermingled and this led to a busy time for the recorders on the finishing boat. Peter Smith, “Scorpion” (IRC4), and Ben Richards “Lucent”(Sigma 33) both won their respective classes for the second time.
Over on the Meon shore conditions were even more difficult for the White fleet Committee boat. The wind when it arrived was only just sufficient to allow racing to take place and although there was less tide than out in the middle of the Solent it was to have a significant effect on the outcome of most fleets. Using laid windward and leeward marks all classes completed two laps before Race Office Ray Inman shortened the course at Deck with the wind fading and the tide increasing.
The first class away was the Sportsboat Rules and on the first beat most boats went to the left and took advantage of the favourable tide. Once round the windward mark they sailed inshore to avoid the tide. The Cork 1720 and Melges 24 classes followed the same pattern and for awhile it seemed to be working. The Hunter 707 class now has 40 boats competing and has become the largest fleet ever in the Winter Series. When the class started the first beat appeared to be becoming more problematical. Simon Perry, “Giraffe”, went out into the tide and was first boat round but behind him the fleet split fairly evenly and the inshore boats didn’t really lose out. Once round the top mark virtually all the leading boats elected to get out of the tide along the Meon shore. It did not pay. A large area of calm developed which left half the fleet stranded. The boats that stayed out in the tide held their wind and large gains were made from the middle of the fleet.
Down at the bottom mark the wind faded just in time to collect most of the Sportsboats, the 1720s and the Melges 24s. What was left of the wind was effectively blanketed by the 707s coming into the mark from further out. The few people who managed to wriggle out of the confusion went on to claim success. Geoff Gibbons sailin