Dart 18 Open 10/11 September 2016
Write up by Chris Burke, Worthing Sailing Club Member
This will have been the first Open since moving to our new Clubhouse and the first Open since the Sheerwaters combined Open in 2011. By mutual agreement, in acceding to a request to maximise the number of WSC participants, Jerry Robinson and I agreed to a one off team up for the occasion.
Given the auspicious nature of an Open, I started looking at the forecast 6 days ahead of the date. Each day was South West 20 odd knots gusting to 30. By Friday the Met Office animated synoptic for the following 48 hours shows a deep low of 965 Mb over Iceland with a trailing cold front right down across the UK. The cold front is estimated to be right overhead Worthing at 1300. Classic conditions for these conditions are South West winds, poor weather in terms of precipitation, the winds decreasing in strength and veering to the North West following the frontal passage. However, the centre of the low is a long way north which would suggest the wind would not be overtly strong which ties in well with the forecast. The tides for the day were Neaps with a range of just over 2 meters.
Friday evening registration
I decided to cycle to the registration. It was a pleasant evening with a steady warm southerly wind. On approaching Sea Lane, a group of men in red day glow jackets were assembled at the corner of Sea Lane and Eirene Road. I surmised anxiously that, with immaculate timing, these workers were in the process of closing the road prior to emergency gas repairs. However, as I approached nearer, it became apparent that the workers were part of the WSC beach crew team including our leader without his Captain Pugwash helmet.
Food glorious food by way of a steak so large that I might be able to resuscitate it. Registration, Bacchus, discussion over the rather poor forecast and music supplied by Ross Maylon, these were the highlights of registration. In the meantime Jerry and I were weighing up the opposition who looked alarmingly relaxed. I am secretly hoping they will have rather one too many at the bar but worried that, when it come to the drinking contest, WSC will win hands down.
The big day is here. The weather looks good and more or less as the Met office forecast with the notable exception of the absence of rain. I feel smug in my prediction that it would not be so windy as to force an abandonment of Day 1. Nevertheless, there is a lively looking sea, albeit with the very low tide range no real problem exists with launch and recovery of safety boats. Jerry and I study a drawing of the course which is very much as expected, a transit from the committee boat leading to 3 laps of 2 marks to Port returning via a gate with a dog leg finish marked by a further transit to the committee boat and round buoy. However, I recall from my only other Open that, although a plan of the location of the buoys seems straightforward enough, from on board a Dart 18, at best the distant marks will be but dots on the horizon. In other words, by the standards of our normal club events, the course is enormous.
We assemble at 1100 for our briefing to be treated to an amusing speech by our leader welcoming us all and looking as relaxed as I am nervous. The speech reminds me of Black Adder as a World War General inspiring confidence from the safety of 20 miles behind the lines. To be fair to Richard he does bear responsibility for the organisation which, with hindsight, we agree ran very smoothly, gas workers and all. Rod Winrow then spoke saying that the Race was ready when we were, the course was laid, the Race Officer was already in situ and the plan was to start on schedule.
I hold several memorable vistas from part of that first afternoon of which the initial launch from the beach was one. Richard has got his gas workers together with immaculate organisation. They collect our launch trolleys from the foreshore on the dropping tide. This was a really nice touch and even nicer was the welcome homecoming with assistance up the ramp, a bottle of beer and banana because, on return, we were all pretty well exhausted.
What happened in the intervening three hours will no doubt be related to others in the 40 odd adventures of those on board their respective vessels. From my perspective, it was not so much the size of the sea, more the length of time we had to endure it, that made it tough. A moment’s lapse in concentration and the vessel would be capsized. Given the number of boats and the length of time, the total number of capsizes was relatively low at only around 10. Seasickness, however, was a significant problem amongst both competitors and safety boat crews. Given the committee boat was bobbing around like a cork in a bottle, it was surprising not to have affected those on board. Having said that, Helm and owner, Spencer King, had needed to run the engine and steer the vessel the entire three hours to prevent the anchor dragging.
On board my Dart, my experience was of periods of calm occasionally interrupted by interludes of survival instinct. Poor Jerry bruised himself quite badly early on in the proceedings falling off the wire. From my own perspective I was unsure who had the worse task, helm or crew. Overall a number of crew were injured trapezing in that never ending swell which grew bigger as the afternoon wore on. I do recall finishing the first lap of nine thinking “my goodness we’ve another 8 of those to go”. After a while I seemed to become immune to the waves and the wet in a sort of trance. From out at sea towards the land we did witness moments of extreme beauty with the vista of triangular sails against a backdrop of beach huts towards the Sea Lane cafe to the grey blank horizon to the West.
Of the humorous moments I recall poor Jerry becoming stuck astride the shrouds unable to move and thinking how are we going to manage when it comes to tack? Equally, there was the occasion when we did tack only to discover Jerry was still hooked in. It seemed like an age while he wrestled with a hook steadfastly jammed forcing the bungee cord and himself against the foot of the sail.
I lost count of the number of times I lost the mainsheet and traveller line overboard, recovery of which would have been easy if not for the incessant sea.
Downwind the surfing was amazing once I worked out the correct angle to force the hulls down the wave faces. This was a time for a bit of R and R before the gate buoys and the long haul upwind the mainsheet digging into my fingers and pulling on my tired shoulders.
Then suddenly we were on our last lap, largely alone, as the results will show. We were, however, still there, still sailing still floating although the very last down wind we came as near to pitch poling as we had done all day.
As I have said, the reception committee of Richard and his crew was most welcome. Someone to bring the wheels to exhausted competitors, the bar, the après sail stories, food in the form of legs of lamb rewarding my empty stomach for not giving up on me – these are my recollections of terra firma. I learnt of people overboard, sprained ankles, bruises galore. We pore over published results and discussion takes place in respect of the forecast for day 2. Live music, Bacchus, seemed to satisfy those gathered in pursuit of this nirvana of sail.
The Worthing 2016 Open really was a really a weekend of two contrasting climates as Sunday dawned to clear blue skies and zero wind yes, flat zero, albeit forecast Southerly at around 5 knots. Breakfast was a very busy affair out on the balcony discussing the exigencies of the previous day. A start delay seemed likely but none was forthcoming. Southerly forecasts have the advantage of not disappearing in the sea breeze effects and this day did not disappoint. This time the launch involved posing for Facebook photos before proceeding down the ramp. Although there were wind shifts they were not the reversing wind shifts one gets with light synoptic Northerlies. The course shape did not vary although it was now orientated North South. Most crews seemed to have time to sail back and forth along the start line to assess their strategy and tactics. As far as I am aware, very few boats made what I would call a poor start. Indeed, there were precious few boats over the line on any of the 3 races. Leaving early as I did I received little post bar feedback. The sea was very nearly a mill pond and the committee boat officials seemed to be having a great time out in the sunshine. There was inevitable congestion round some of the buoys and at least two boats became entangled with them. By the time of the second race the tide was running significantly towards Worthing Pier. How that affected others decisions I know not, however, from our perspective, we preferred the westerly side upwind. Thanks guys on the committee boat for the round of applause to all of us on our final cross of the finish line.
Once again Richard and his team were present on the beach to help and provide refreshment this time to sunburnt sailors.
Competitors included sailors from the UK Holland and Belgium, including the current World Champion Dan Norman from the Isle of Sheppey. This was the 5th in a series of 7 events held around the country for the Dart 18, and a high turnout of 42 boats bravely took to the water including a strong showing from the host club with Worthing fielding 20 boats. Dan Norman was sailing with Worthing member Gesine Schreiber and the first 3 races went to form with Dan contesting the lead with our own Rod Winrow and Sarah Gee, Dan winning all 3 races and Rod finishing second. Worthing showed their home advantage in tough conditions and at the end of Day 1 had 3 boats in the top 10 with Paul Craft and Jess Craft in 7th and Caleb Cooper and Chloe Millward in 8th.
Day 2 saw light winds and Race 4 was shortened to only 1 lap – Cornwall based Dan Teubert and Sara Stones winning this one and an excellent 4th place for Worthing’s Dave Goodwin and Neil Young. Race 5 was won by David Lloyd from Stokes Bay and this change in positions meant that with one race to go Dan Norman lead the event by 2 points from Rod Winrow so all to play for in the final race. By now the strong tide was having an impact and several boats were penalised for drifting onto the buoys and having to do 360 degree turns – the final race eventually resulted in a popular win for Nicolette van Gorp and Ruud van Giesbergen who had flown in from Holland and borrowed a local boat. David Lloyd was 2nd and a 3rd place for Dan Norman meant that he finished as the overall winner from Rod Winrow in 2nd and Dan Teubert in 3rd.
What was pleasing to see was the number of juniors competing in such a major event proving that sailing is definitely on the up!
For final results Click here