Big winds resulted in exciting racing for asymmetric fleet at Grafham Grand Prix on Sunday 31/12/06

The forecast was against the event organisers, but the competitors who turned up, were greeted by sunny clear skies and mild conditions with flattish water, but some big gusts with gradient breeze approximately 20 knots.

The biggest asymmetric fleets on the day were to be the 49ers and B14s. The format was to use average lap times.

The fleet launched to a day of white knuckle rides and for many a last chance for a cold bath in 2006. All starts were to be under the black flag.

Race 1 got off on time at 1100 hrs, catching out some of the late launchers as they had difficulty getting to the start area due to a monster breeze coming down the course on queue. Off the start line it was a race between the F18 1629 (Simon Kearns/Ben Burns), 49ers and B14s. Up the first beat the 49ers and F18 1629 did battle royal followed by the rest of the fleet. Rounding the windward mark the fun started with the bulk of the 49er fleet piling it in at some point on the next couple of rounds and F18 pitch poling on the downwind leg. Two boats vying for the lead on handicap were 49er 21 (Ian Martin/Ben McGrane) and B14 775 – CSC (Chris Bines/Dave Gibbons). However, lady luck deserted CSC on the last beat as their main halyard broke near the windward mark in a large gust. The race was won by 49er 21 who showed great boat handling followed by RS800 1089 Sail4Cancer (Ian Martin/Ben Schooling) and B14 768 – Readycrest (Mark Barnes/Pete Nicholson) who had started late but pulled back through the fleet, recording 26.2 knots on one downwind leg.

Race 2 and the breeze had moderated slightly to 16 – 18 knots but with some big gusts and backed slightly. The usual suspects led off the start line. As the race developed it was on between the 49ers, F18, RS 800 and B14s being chased by the Musto Skiffs. Off the front the F18 1629 led from the pack of 49ers with a gap to RS800 1089 – Sail4Cancer. The race was quite open as the movers and shakers in this race were spread across the classes. One casualty in this race was B14 768 – Readycrest, when in a comfortable position leading her section of the fleet, piled it in on a gybe so ending her challenge. The 49ers, though some took a swim, RS800 and F18 excelled. At the finish, it was again 49er 21 followed by RS 800 1089 – Sail4Cancer and the F18 1089.

Race 3 and the breeze had dropped to 6 – 10 knots and backed. Off the line 49er 21 nailed the pin from B14 768 – Readycrest and F18 and RS 800 1089 – Sail4Cancer coming in on port. This was to become a drag race with the breeze constantly backing throughout. F18 1089 Led throughout being chased by the pack of 49ers who enjoyed a close race with second and third being taken by 49ers. On handicap 49er 27 (Roger Gilbert/Oliver Vidal) won from F18 1629, 49er 21 followed by B14 768 – Readycrest that managed to split the 49ers, just beating RS 800 1089 – Sail4Cancer on the water after a hard fought close race.

At the Finish 49er 21 won a well deserved victory in some testing conditions.

With fading light the fleet retired to the club house for some TLC. The racing was well run with slick turn around. So onward go the fleet to the next event on the tour, the Bloody Mary next Saturday.