Yesterday proved to be another day of close racing at the RS200/700/800 national championships at Weymouth
It was a glorious sunny morning in Portland for the fourth day of the Gul RS National Championship yesterday but there was a very feeble breeze so the fleet was quiet happy to sit on the shore and wait. Eventually at 12.30 the race team in the bay reported they had 6-7 knot easterly sea breeze and the fleet was called out.
Race seven started with crews just sat on the side, it was soon evident that the early starters were favoured and most of the leading overall contenders were well to the fore at the first mark. Dave and Nikki Derby led at the first mark and proceeded to yacht away from the fleet to win by a huge margin with Paul and Suzie Hammett pulling through to second. Behind there a close tussle between Jon Lewis/Paula Hall, David Giles/Fiona Clark and Tom/Jo Hewitson which was going to be very important for the overall lead. David Giles got the better of the final run to claim third with Hewitsons fourth and Lewis fifth.
The eighth race started in exactly the same conditions but this time the late starters were favoured. Ann Jackson/Sheena Craig led at the first mark with several of the leading contenders well adrift. The first run was a very nervous affair and there were big gains by several boats. The Derbys and Hewitsons worked the right-hand side of the beat to move into first and second on the second beat and had a close tussle for a lap. With Giles lying around seventh the Hewitsons looked as if they were heading for a strong overall lead overnight. The final beat had seen the wind ease and it really faded for the final run. Nervous leaders looked for wind but were moving very slowly on to the left of the middle of the run. Any boat in the top that stayed further right kept in the best of the dying breeze for longer and by passed the leading pair. In the final twist fresh breeze suddenly filled in from the south-west with the leading boats 100 yards from the last mark. David Giles appeared from the a very tight pack at the mark to win the race from the very fast finishing Mike Saul/Sophie Hartley with John Greenland/Pippa Williams third. The Derbys limped in fourth with the disgruntled Hewitsons seventh.
Giles/Clark now hold a three point overall lead over the Hewitsons with the Derbys still in the frame although nune points adrift and dependant on Giles having stinker on the final day. In a final twist in a championship that is already been full of surprises Giles is being protested by Jon Lewis for two incidents in the first race which could have great bearing on who leads overnight.
Tradition has it that the number of people in contention for a title goes down each day, from the beginning when, in theory at least, everybody is in with a shout, until the last day when the winner is decided. Tradition doesn’t seem to be a strong thing in the 700 fleet, and yesterday’s conditions were testing enough that there are now more people in the frame than seemed possible the previous day, all within five points of each other.
Nick Peters had a superb day in the light conditions, disproving the theory that only lightweights can do well in light winds, and now lies in fourth place having won one race with second place in the second. Carl Vining hotted up his contention by winning the second race of the day. His consistency to date means that he could discard a double figure score from the first. Also fast in the light stuff today was Pete Barton, who with a second and third, jumps into the top six, although only a minor miracle will see him crowned champion. Andy White and Paul Bayliss both had indifferent days, although Bayliss somehow remains in contention in second, with White leaving himself a bit to do tomorrow to win. But Jason Belben has jumped into first once again with a solid performance of 3,5 to lead the fleet by two points going into the final day.
Today in Weymouth Bay Geoff Carveth and Craig Davies put on a masterful display of starting and light-wind sailing to notch up two more wins taking them in to the lead going in to the last day’s racing. Instead of the flat water within Portland Harbour the fleet were sent out into the bay to be greeted by a light easterly sea breeze. With single trapeze conditions and then only on a marginal basis it place a huge emphasis on the start.
Again the black flag rule had to be introduced to get the fleet away and it was Geoff and Craig who dominated the starters at the committee boat end. They then chose to go right, which with slightly better pressure had them leading by a comfortable margin at the windward mark.
Overnight leader Mike Lennon and Nicky Griffin had chosen the left-hand side of the course, along with Steve Irish. In the light conditions the escape routes that had been available on previous days, were now longer open and they finished 36th and 41st respectively.
In the second race of the day Carveth again won the starboard end and headed right, but this time with Lennon and Irish in close attendance. As the wind continued to shift to the right, the gybe set at the top mark almost had them laying the leeward mark and the race quickly became a procession. In these conditions it was a simple matter of Carveth hanging on to record his fourth race win of the series and move him into first place overall with just one day left. Carveth who finished second last week at the RS 400 nationals can now only be beaten by Lennon or Irish and only by Irish if Carveth discards both remaining races and Irish has two top three finishes. It remains to be seen if Carveth will simply sail Mike Lennon down the fleet or concentrate on his own sailing. What is certain, is that it will be a tight finish and that the winner will need to take these opportunities.