18ft Skiff fleet heads to Ullswater for UK Grand Prix Round 3 - the Lord Birkett Trophy 3/7/06

For the first time the 18ft skiffs have come to Ullswater to compete for as a fleet at the Lord Birkett Trophy long distance race. Seven skiffs made the trek for this unique event, including national champion, Radii (Andy Richards, Andy Fairley and Dave Richards) and last years European champions, Barron and Smithers (Peter Barton, Martin Borrett and Johnny Heisseg).

Saturday morning greeted a mixed fleet of more than 200 boats with a shifty south-westerly breeze and sunshine. Set against the hills of the Lake District, one could not ask for a more fantastic venue.

Off the start, Radii jumped out to an early lead followed closely by Barron and Smithers and Alba Marine (Martin Goodlad, Johnny Aikman and Roy Goodlad). By the time the skiffs reached the narrows they were clear of all in the fleet but the top 49ers who doggedly hung on in the shifty winds.

During a three boat tacking duel between Barron & Smithers, Alba Marine and Mason Woodworth, David Brown and Simon Hamilton on White Stuff, Peter Barton sent his team a bit too close to the shoreline where they found the bottom hard enough to cause them to capsize. This left Alba Marine and White Stuff to try and chase down runaway leaders, Radii.

Approaching Norfolk Island, the wind funnelled down the lake hitting the early boats with 20 knots. Radii rounded first, followed by Alba and White Stuff

After a long two-sail reach the skiffs were finally able to set kites through the narrows and left the handicap fleet in their wake. Radii showed their skills and experience in handling the conditions with ease and extended their lead. White Stuff managed to sail through the lee of Alba and find a puff that carried them through the narrows in second place. After a late gybe to find breeze, Alba couldn’t lay the narrows and was forced to drop their kite leaving them in a solid third place.

Blasting past the clubhouse and down to Pooley bridge, Radii could not be caught and finished first for the skiffs and first on the water. They were followed closely by White Stuff who made a late charge. Alba Marine and Barron & Smithers were the final finishers of the skiff fleet. Elsewhere in the fleet collisions, groundings and other difficulties in the shifty, challenging conditions saw the other teams SELS, SP Systems and Grapefruit Graphics retire from racing.

After three attempts the Sunday race got away in a very light and patchy south-westerly breeze. Barron & Smithers, SELS (Ed Brown, Graham Oliver and Mark Addison) and White Stuff managed to jump out to the front of the fleet. After a ding-dong tacking duel in the shifty conditions, at the narrows, the geography caused a strange convergence with a south-westerly to the east of the narrows, and a south-easterly to the west! White Stuff was first to catch the shift and hoist their kite jumping out to an early lead but followed closely by Barron & Smithers then SELS.

After negotiating the light air at the narrows into the south-westerly, White Stuff hoisted their kite still in the lead but they were quickly overtaken to leeward by Barron & Smithers who used their local knowledge to grab the advantage. SELS took the opposite approach and went high for the opposite shore. After many gybes, all three converged again as they passed the clubhouse. By the next mark White Stuff again managed to grab the last puff and led round.

White Stuff managed to extend in clear air to the finish, followed by Barron & Smithers and SELS. Radii had broken free of the fleet and sailed home in 4th. The 2, 1 score line was enough to give Mason Woodworth and his crew their first win in this their first season on the UK Grand Prix circuit. Radii took home a second which leaves them still in the lead for the Grand Prix series. Barron & Smithers took the final podium position.