Thirty eight RS400s took part in a highly competitive Grand Slam event sponsored by GUL at Stokes Bay Sailing Club over the weekend of 22/23 June

Thirty eight RS400s took part in a highly competitive Grand Slam event sponsored by GUL at Stokes Bay Sailing Club over the weekend of 22/23 June. Weather conditions on the Saturday were about as good as you can expect, a fresh breeze providing spectacular 400 sailing. The excellent Race Officer elected to run a course whereby the 400s shared the startline and the first windward leg of each race with the RS300s and 700s. The 400s were then taken off on a beam reach to a mark some way to port (which became the RS400 windward mark for subsequent windward/leeward laps) before gybing downwind to their own leeward mark. The course worked extremely well and, certainly on the Saturday, the initial beam reach gave rise to some real adrenaline pumping sailing!

Race one was sailed in a slack tide and the crews from Burghfield, Chris Jennings and Ed Nicklin, Steve Middleton and Chris Rowland, headed out mid Solent and took advantage of a significant lift on the port tack layline to round the windward mark in first and second place. These two then moved well clear of the fleet to be followed in at the finish, significantly, by Nick Craig and Richard Brown of Frensham Pond, and National Champions Roger Gilbert and James Stewart of Stokes Bay.

Races two and three were sailed in a tide building from the west, with many a crew more than grateful for the fact that there is no penalty for touching a mark at RS events. And it was local knowledge that gave Dan Vincent and Adrian Lynham of Stokes Bay the edge to lead both these races. In race two some of the top names in the class had a bad race and Vincent/Lynham led the fleet to the finish with Chris and Matt Bailey from Bartley and Hywel Roberts and Melissa Storey from Parkstone following in 2nd and 3rd, with Craig/Brown lurking ominously in 4th. Race 3 saw the leading boats stretch away with Vincent/Lynham impressively ahead after Gilbert/Stewart snapped their boom whilst leading at the first windward mark. But they were over the line at the start allowing Craig/Brown to record their first win of the weekend. Stuart Hudson and Adam Heeley of Spinnaker completed an impressive days racing with 2nd followed in by Burghfield’s Jennings/Nicklin and Middleton/Rowland.

Sunday brought bright, warm sunshine but a much lighter breeze – to the relief of many. Not only were there some sore bodies from the previous days racing, but litter bins overflowing with water bottles around the club compound was a sure sign that there would be a few sore heads from the previous night’s RS party at Lee-on-Solent SC with all the other RS classes.

All three races on the Sunday featured a particularly strong west-going tide which generally meant that it paid to head out mid-Solent asap to make the best use of the favourable tide. It also meant that going downwind, in what was quite a light breeze, most headed inshore quite early but it was oh so easy to lose hatfuls of places. Early leaders of race four Peter Stratton and Paul Newton of Weir Wood were quickly consumed by the chasing group on the first downwind leg. In the end, Gilbert/Stewart, clearly putting behind them a sub-standard Saturday, took the winning gun from Jennings/Nicklin, Craig/Brown, and Vincent/Lynham.

Race five will be remembered for the dozy pillock who sailed his very big yacht straight through the course – twice! An experience I am certain he won’t forget very quickly. It certainly messed up the race for a good number of sailors. Nick Craig and Richard Brown scored a precious victory in this race to exert a decisive grip on first overall in what is his first 400 event of this year. Gilbert/Stewart were obviously enjoying the conditions putting a good second place with Robin Kenyon and Toby Lewis of Hamble River and the ever present team of Vincent/Lynham following closely across the finish line.

In the final race of the weekend, the Burlton/Bonsey combo suddenly found their “Go” button to score a deserved win. But Jennings/Nicklin came through in 2nd place, sailing another consistent series never falling out of the top ten, to wrap up 2nd place overall. But when it comes to consistency, Stratton and Newton take some beating. In their final points tally they counted five eighth places to finish?well you guessed it?..ninth!

Heather Chipperfield