With heavy rain and hurricane force winds in the forecast, eleven of the best and bravest Dart 18 single-handers assembled at Grafham Water for the final outing on the Dart 18 events calendar over the weekend 26/27th October.
Race Officer & GWSC Commodore, Peter Saxton, prudently opted to attempt four races on Saturday which meant more than five hours on the water for the hardy competitors and, with four ex-champions in attendance (including reigning champion Des Barnes from RYYC), it promised to be a tough test of skill and endurance.
So, with gusts of up to 35mph, Race 1 started on schedule at midday and the thrills and spills of Dart 18 sailing at its best, got under way. The expected close racing came to fruition and was evidenced early on with the lead changing hands five times in the first two laps and it was David Wright (GWSC) who reached the front on lap 3 and held on (quite literally) to the finish. Notable casualties were Luke Scott (Netley SC) and Neil Klabe (GWSC), who both suffered equipment damage (Luke – mainsail and Neil – rudder), while they were both in contention and challenging for the lead.
The wind moderated slightly for the start of Race 2 and it was Matt Exon of RYYC who dominated early on and extended his lead for a comfortable win with Barry Peters (Datchet SC), Neil, David and Joe Franks (RYYC) closely contesting second place. Putting in an early tack for the line, it was Barry who crossed next with less than 20 seconds separating positions 2 to 5.
Race 3 was back to “Business As Usual” as far as the winds were concerned but sadly not for Des who, along with Mike Jones (Netley SC), were battered by a ferocious gust on the top reach leading to an impressive display of synchronized pitch-poling, closely followed by a less impressive (and quite expensive) concerto of underwater batten-popping! With Barry also capsizing, this opened the way for Matt, Neil and Luke, to grasp the opportunity (and their tillers!), with both hands and fight it out for the top 3 places. And it was Neil, coping best with the increasing breeze, who held on for the win with Matt in second and Luke in third.
Matt once again took command of Race 4 from the start and, despite the obvious weight disadvantage, Matt was now starting to look like a champion in what was to be an unassailable position at the front. This left Joe, Neil and David to fight it out for the overnight podium positions and, with big gains to be made downwind, it was David who took advantage and edged it over Neil and Joe.
Despite the exertions on the water, the evening social consisted of good food, one or two beers, plenty of light-hearted frivolity and lavishly embellished stories of the day’s big hits and near misses, closely followed by a mass meltdown and an early night!
The forecasted stronger winds duly arrived on Sunday morning and racing had to be abandoned for the day, so the results from Saturday stood and it was Matt Exon from RYYC, in impressive form, who deservedly took the title for the second time.
|1st||7685||Mat Exon||RYYC Bridlington||‑2||1||2||1||4|
|4th||7894||Joe Franks||RYYC Bridlington||3||‑5||4||3||10|
|6th||7310||Gary Freeman||RYYC Bridlington||7||(DNC)||5||7||19|
|7th||7959||Mike Jones||Netley SC||(DNC)||6||9||5||20|
|8th||7108||David Smith||Netley Sailing Club||5||8||7||(DNC)||20|
|9th||7923||Des Barnes||RYYC Bridlington||6||7||(DNC)||DNC||25|
|10th||7||Luke Scott||Netley SC||(DNC)||DNC||3||DNC||27|