The first round of the UK 18ft Skiff Grand Prix got off to an excellent start this weekend 24/4/06

The first round of the UK 18ft Skiff Grand Prix got off to an excellent start with nine teams turning up for this season’s opener this weekend at Draycote Water Sailing Club. There were some key omissions from the line up which bodes well for the UK nationals taking place in a fortnight where 15 teams are expected. 2006 is hotting up to the best and most competitive season in recent history.

Mason Woodworth and his White Stuff team have certainly put in the most hours over winter, and Mason, a former US team racing national champion, has set his sights very high over the coming 12 months. Joining them are the Mears brothers sailing Pica. They were joined this weekend by current B14 World Champion crew Andy Ramus – an interesting tie-up given that James Mears actually helmed the runner up spot in this years B14 Worlds in Sydney! Both these teams have committed to an ambitious first season and proved this weekend that they will be fighting for podium places in 2006.

So to the racing – the forecast didn’t set pulses racing, however, the first day delivered enough breeze to fire off three races. In the first, White Stuff showed everyone a clean pair of heels and took their maiden win on the circuit in their very first event in the UK! Base 1 showed they’d lost none of their 2005 pace to follow up in 2nd while newly named SELS with Ed Browne and his team took up 3rd.

The second race saw 2005 UK Series and National champions Radii to the front but while leading comfortably on the last leg they threw it all away by sailing into a large hole, letting four teams past. Fat Face made the best of this error and after fighting for mid fleet positions suddenly found themselves at the front taking the gun from Barron and Smithers.

The third race finally saw Radii pull their act together with a cracking start at the favoured end of the line and they never looked back. Base 1 consolidated another 2nd place along with a third in the previous race to take the lead overnight while newcomers Pica showed their potential by slotting in a 3rd place – this was unfortunately the last we saw of this team as gear breakage in the first race of the next day saw them retire from the event.

Sunday dawned grey, although the wind appeared more steady though never getting above 6-7 knots – just on the verge of getting everyone on the wire with the big rigs. Still it meant close competition was the order of the day and Radii started where they left off the previous day with win, but this was courtesy of White Stuff fluffing their lines whilst leading on the last downwind. This also allowed the ever improving Fat Face through into second.

In the second race of the day, Fat Face continued their rise up the leaderboard with another well sailed race win, this time with Radii having to take up the runner up slot. With Base1 having a shocker of a day with two 5ths, this effectively meant it would be between Fat Face and Radii for the chocolates, with White Stuff, Base1 and Barron and Smithers fighting it out for the last podium place.

Fat Face stamped their authority on the deciding race and lead at the top mark, and although they were passed by the late surging B&S team, it was enough to beat Radii for the Gul Challenge Plate for the first round the UK Series. Radii took the runner up spot while B&S race win secured them 3rd. UK Series newcomers White Stuff manage to scrape in with 4th overall just out doing Base 1 on count back.

With four different race winners and newcomers White Stuff and Pica showing their potential this will prove to be the most competitive series for years. A new F1 grand prix style scoring system will also mix things up – no discards with a bonus points system for the top teams.

The next event is the UK National Championship which should hopefully see a fleet of 15 UK boats – as the event doubles up as the first round of the European Tour, there’s a good chance that the event will see the largest gathering of 18ft Skiffs in the UK in the modern era of the class.

Results (round 1)
1st Fat Face Tim Penfold / Matt Alvarado / Will Penfold 11pts
2nd Radii Andy Richards / Andy Fairley / Alex Tobutt 13pts
3rd Barron & Smithers Peter Barton / Martin Borrett / Ian Turnbull 16pts
4th White Stuff Mason Woodworth / David Brown / Simon Hamilton 17pts
5th Base1 Rob Dulson / Paul Constable / Alec McKinlay 17pts
6th SELS Ed Browne / Graeme Oliver / Simon Spolton 21pts
7th Pica James Mears / Andy Ramus / Stewart Mears 35pts
8th The Boot Iain Lewis / Alex McKee / A Another 37pts
9th Grapefruit Grapchis John Archer / Mlies Woodgrove / ?? 42pts

Overall Series Results

1st Fat Face 20pts
2nd Radii 15pts
3rd Barron & Smithers 12pts
4th White Stuff 10pts
5th Base1 9pts
6th SELS 8pts
7th Pica 7pts
8th The Boot 6pts
9th Grapefruit Grapchis 5pts
10th= HurleyPalmerFlatt 0pts
10th= Scalectrix 0pts
10th= Alba Marine Ltd 0pts
10th= Renewable Energy 0pts
10th= Ovingtons 0pts
10th= TBA (Stu Hadfield) 0pts