The Australian 18ft skiff season finished last weekend, whilst on the other side of the world the new skiff season starts. Six UK teams arrived at Stone Sailing Club in Essex for the first round of the UK Grand Prix. On Saturday a mixed forecast contributed to a difficult rig choice with 2 of the 6 teams opting for smaller rigs.
In the first race most teams had some time in the lead as others had a few swims, mainly due to the gusty conditions and rusty crew work. Pica led for most of the course only to capsize on the last downwind leg. Carsington took their opportunity for a race win only to choke on the final gybe through the gate leaving the recovered Pica to take line honours. The breeze continued to build up to 20kts for race 2 and teams, particularly those that had made the big rig choice, became fatigued. Hyde Sails managed to hook the windward mark resulting in some comical manoeuvres – see the video for the full sequence http://youtu.be/d–FtI44Th0 , leading to an inevitable dunking. As a result race 2 was an easier win for Pica.
The days sailing was relived in the club house bar with a debrief amongst teams followed by dinner laid on by Stone Sailing Clubs new kitchen facilities. Eddie Aldridge organised a fascinating trip down memory lane with a talk by Ray and Alfie, who raced the first UK 18ft skiffs at Stone in the 70’s. The slide show proved just how much the boats have changed over the years, whilst some similarities of skiff sailing and its characteristics were still clearly evident.
Although Sunday morning was forecast to have a fading light breeze the Stone SC Race Management team did a fantastic job to get a further 3 races away. Race 1 started with a shifty first beat with lots of tacking through the middle of the course. A long overdue but convincing win concluded race 1 for the ever improving Hyde team skippered by Jack Grogan with Sam Caslin and Mike Banks. A team to watch at the next event when they will have their new boat.
The second race was set in a more consistent westerly breeze. Young & Reckless reached the top mark in 3rd place, behind Pica and Hyde. The wind vanished, leaving them to the mercy of the tide which pushed them onto the mark allowing Carsington and HPF through. HPF sailed into a dead spot letting Young and Reckless through to fourth. But In was the Pica who won with Hyde Sails in 2nd and Carsington in 3rd.
The Aftica team in their older B18 showed fantastic pace off the line after a perfect start in race 3. Good results will surely follow with their newer boat which is due to make an appearance this year. But it is was Young & Reckless that finally showed there form to post a 2nd place with Pica taking another bullet.
Unsurprisingly the experienced team Pica, Stewart and Jamie Mears with Tristan Hutt, dominated the first event with 4 of 5 race wins, but the enthusiasm of newer teams combined with the friendly and helpful guidance of more experienced competitors, it now seems that many more boats are capable of a podium position on the UK Grand Prix. The top positions may well become harder to defend later in the season.
Many thanks to Stone SC and our sponsors:
Class Sponsors – Blue Sheets Marine Directory, Spartan Wetsuits, Ovington Boats and Action Cameras
Event sponsors – TDR Computers, The Dinghy Chandlery and Hyde Sails
Overall Results (1 Discard):
Stewart Mears / Tristan Hutt
West Mersea YC
Mike Banks / Sam Caslin
Hayling Island SC
Nick Murray / Tom Bruton
Richard Bland / Peter Shaw
Young & Reckless
Miguel Andrew / Mark Kudlinski
Aftica / Swordfish
Cardiff Bay Yacht Club
Marcelle Newbauld / Alex Farr
event Video footage