The 25th Hamble Winter Series kicked off this weekend 8/10/06

The ever-popular Hamble Winter Series began, for the 25th consecutive year, in the Solent at the weekend with sponsorship provided again by Garmin. The main series, which will continue to 3 December, provides excellent racing for 13 classes of yachts divided into Black and White Fleets racing separately in adjacent parts of the central Solent.

Proceedings commenced on Saturday with the return of the Big Boat Series, which was introduced last year and now comprises ten races over the first and third weekends of the main series.

Racing is provided for three classes: 45 footers, 40 footers and IRC, and the radical thing about the event is that the 45s and 40s forget their handicaps and race on completely level terms. This works tremendously well, particularly in the 45 footers which were always amazingly close together, with plenty of place changing going on. It was Tony Mack’s Swan 45 McFly that led round the first weather mark of the series and seemed to have the legs of the Farr 45s in the wind of about 12 knots, but the racing soon proved to be even closer than in many strict one-design classes. It is true that after five races Werewolf appears on paper to be streets ahead with four bullets and a second, but they were made to work very hard for their victories and probably enjoyed them all the better for it.

In the 40 footers, Rob Goddard’s Farrfalina won the first two races, but then Peter Rogers’ Highlife came along after missing the first race and took two firsts and two seconds, to be just a point behind Farrfalina despite being a race down. In the IRC handicap class John Shepherd’s Fair Do’s also leads by one point from Sebastian Piech’s Danebury.

Friday had been a dire day, with horizontal rain and gusts exceeding 40 knots, but maybe the HRSC members have a line to somewhere special because things had taken a huge turn for the better by Saturday, with sunshine and an ideal breeze for the big boats. Then, when it was the turn of the main Winter Series to get started on Sunday morning, there was still some sunshine aroud but only a gentle breeze initially. However, this obligingly built sufficiently to have the sporty boats planing with abandon, and everyone was able to enjoy a great day of racing.

The White Fleet, comprising Laser SB3s, Hunter 707s, J/80s and SBR boats sail two races per day, with courses set on the mainland side starting from a committee boat in the vicinity of William mark. The Black Fleet comprises IRC Divs 0 to 4, J/105s, J/109s, Sigma 33s and Sigma 38s which all sail just one longer race on courses set from another committee boat, generally to the south of the White Fleet’s area.

Racing was very competitive in all classes, and gathered momentum as the breeze increased. Almost inevitably the largest fleet, the Laser SB3s leapfrogged their way backwards in the starting order by being over-eager for their second race, when the tide was running along the starting line and lee-bowing them over too early. However, they got away eventually and had a most enjoyable race.

The weather tends to play a big part in the Winter Series, bringing about highs and lows, but this was great way in which to get the ball rolling.

Race winners, White Fleet

Hunter 707, Race 1 “Sharkin Mad” Ed Hipkin
Race 2 “Surfeit” Mike Foster
J/80, Race 1 “Jevan” Robert & Jonathan Fox
Race 2 “Savage Sailing Team” Liz Savage
Laser SB3, Races 1 & 2 “Gull” Mike Budd
Sportsboats, Races 1 & 2 “Backbeat” Richard Scarff.

Race winners, Black Fleet
IRC 0, “Fraxious” Jack Pringle
IRC 1, “Jump” Stewart Hawthorn
IRC 2, “Quokka” Peter Rucker
IRC 3, “Breakout” Steve Liebmann
IRC 4, “Tangent Minus 1” Paul & Julia Aisher
J/105, “J-Dream” David & Kirsty Apthorp
J/109, “Beth” Guy Knight/ Five Star Sailing
Sigma 33, “Cerefe” Richard & Valerie Griffith
Sigma 38, “Festina Lente” Meakins Family.