DART 18 TT NETLEY SAILING CLUB 23RD AND 24TH April 2016
Not put off by the somewhat unseasonal wintry forecast 41 Dart 18 Teams and their supporters travelled to Netley Sailing Club on Southampton Water from as far afield as Falmouth, North Instow. the Isle of Sheppey, Bridlington and Dundee. They came to join more local Teams from the home club and near neighbours Weston and Stokes Bay to take part in the second Dart 18 Travellers Trophy meeting taking place 23rd and 24th April 2016. This is a very important season for the fleet being unbelievably the Classes 40th anniversary year.
So keen were some that boats started arriving midweek with an influx on Friday afternoon and evening. Those arriving on Friday were greeted by cold and a very wet drizzle and, most unusually, hordes of midges, which some blamed the Dundee Team for bringing with them. Hot food and the bar being open proved popular and led to an impromptu social before retiring to campervan city, tents, local B and B’s and local competitors homes for a relatively early night.
Thankfully, as per the forecast, the rain cleared and Saturday dawned sunny with a chilly wind from the North. Following breakfast, rigging up, warming up and a comprehensive briefing from Race Officer David Henshall the fleet launched in good time for the first of the planned three races for the day staring at 12:30.
Courses were laid diagonally across the River in the vicinity of the clubhouse so as to both avoid the shipping channel and allow spectators the chance to observe the action. All the races were held in generally light to medium very much fluctuating breezes, in terms of both strength, and direction with the fluctuations increasing rapidly as the windward mark was reached. This led to every Team having hard luck stories and a massive game of snakes and ladders that the natural sailors who could both spot and plot what do with all the shifts and gusts did best out of.
Race winners on Day One were David Lloyd and Tori Akhurst, Will Thompson and Lucy Mayhew, and sailing their new old boat Dan Teubert and Katy Phipps. At the end of the day the positions were Mat and Jakob first, David and Tori second and Simon Moruzi and Haley third. The biggest losers were Nigel and Mel Jupp from Worthing who went out with a whole boat and came back with three quarters of one following a nasty and noisy port starboard incident that they were not responsible for.
That evening, following on from a healthy barbeque on the terrace, the 1980’s fancy dressed themed disco continued late into the night with appropriate music danced to by a variety of Hi De Hi Staff, Madonna, Rocky, Rubiks Cubes, Mario and Punk Rockers etc. The spread of ages in the fleet was evident with some not being born till after the eighties, at least one announcing the tune playing was number one on the day he was born and another saying he had listened to that very song being played live that year whilst at University.
The drinking carried on afterwards with the Dart 18 fleets general enthusiasm for such things added to by the Netley way of life and the fact it was the Club bar maestro John Ireland’s birthday. How many would have recognised the noises coming out of the clubhouse at 4am as a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody is debatable.
Following day dawned cold, more overcast and much windier the bonus being the wind had shifted so it was slightly more down the River and relatively steady. With a ten thirty start most Teams were up and at it early on trading stories of the night before including sleep walking incidents and accidentally getting into the wrong bed. Some competitors exhibited poor decision making skills or signs of distress such as accidentally wearing mismatched shoes or coming up with the cunning plan of putting sailing gear on at home to save time and effort at the club only to discover on arrival a loo trip was required. Others just turned up late and resembled headless chickens in a flurry of boat and body preparation.
The fleet launched at around 9:28 just on time to make the start, that was conveniently 100 metres or so off the Club, and the strength and chill factor of the cold wind and the temperature of the waves soon woke everyone up in time to hear the sound signals from the Committee Boat signifying Race 4. This was a distinct improvement on Day One when the sound signals from the borrowed committee boat had been somewhat inaudible.
The first and second races of the day were classic Dart 18 affairs with hull flying high speed beats and screaming apparent wind sailing hiding from the vast quantities of fast moving water coming on board back towards the gate.
With the high speed of the Darts, the number of boats and the relatively restricted waters some incidents were unavoidable with the chances of an incident increased in Race 4 when a drifting mark reduced the width of the gate to what seemed about three boat lengths which was an issue for the main fleet insurer David Lloyd and the competitors given the number of boats approaching it their speed and the myriad of directions they were coming in on. The impact on the racing and the calmness of those taking part of the nameless Netley Dart (7520 truth be known) who took the windward mark for a ride downwind and therefore below what should have been a spacer mark can also be estimated.
Lengthy very cold waits between races were unfortunately unavoidable so as to allow very very large container ships to pass through the course area, reflect the inevitable general recalls and allow the wind to “settle down” before the last race.
By this time the strong consistent down the river wind was unfortunately replaced by the very shifty and variable breezes of the day before reducing the attraction of the final Race. This change, coupled with the continuing cold, caused many Teams to head home for an early shower and a hot drink allowing those with a poor discard or a chance for a good result to do well in a much reduced fleet.
Overall winners and losers were beginning to follow a pattern with the ra
ce winners being David Lloyd and Tori Akhurst times two and local heroes Tom Parker and Amy once. Hard luck to Mark Exton and his son Jacob who were holed and had to compete the last two Races in a borrowed boat, Tom Parker and Amy who went from heroes to zeroes by winning one race and then capsizing in the next one and Dan Teubert and Katy Phipps who lost the chance to capitalise on good Day One results by a string of misfortunes meaning they were unable to complete any races on Day Two.
Overall David LLoyd and Tori Akhurst came first with Mat and Jacob Exon second losing on countback. In terms of the handicap prizes Tom Parker and Amy Hulley were first, Kenny Watson and son Drew second and Gary Jennings and Lesley third.
All in all a classic Dart 18 weekend and a taste of what is to come through the rest of the season the next event being the National Championships at Stokes Bay over the last weekend of May. Many thanks to David Henshall and his excellent by now thawed out on the water team and all those who helped out on the land notably Netley Commodore Rosie Parker, her son Alex who had gone beyond the call of duty starting to sort out the drains and seemingly did everything else on shore except producing the results, his Dad Ian who assisted all weekend whilst getting his best ever TT result including a seventh in one Race crewed by Rosie and Jo Foster who did produce the results after very late night finishes and in the face of every IT issue available.
Thanks to all who helped out and took part, Windsport for providing overall event support and encouraging the dancing at the Disco. Roll on the Nationals, an event not to be missed, and here’s to all the new and old Dart faces threatening to appear in what should be an 80 plus boat fleet..