Exciting conditions for penultimate Garmin Hamble Winter Series races 27/11/06

A southerly breeze of 20-25 knots made the going tough but enjoyable for the penultimate races of the Garmin Hamble Winter Series yesterday. The conditions were severe enough to bring about a significant number of retirements, mainly due to minor gear failure, and the surprising thing was that 15 of them were from the larger yachts of the Black Fleet, compared to just a couple from the sportsboats of the White Fleet. It has to be said, though, that many of the latter spent a good deal of time on their sides with their spinnakers in the water.

The large number of entries in the Laser SB3 class, coupled with the keenness and aggression of the competitors, are frequently responsible for general recalls and OCS disqualifications. Nothing new in that, but one incident today will probably have a profound effect on the final position of Gul, which is sailed by Mike Budd and Russell Peters. Assuming that both of the races scheduled for next Sunday are sailed, each competitor will discard their four worst races, which probably would have seen Gul leap back into the lead with their long string of first and second places, despite the fact that she has not competed on four occasions. Having been lobbed from a race yesterday for an OCS, though, four discards will not be enough, because the situation is exacerbated by the large number of points for a DNC or DSQ in such a big class.

This could certainly favour Royal Thames Lucky Lady, sailed by James Fox who is sitting pretty with a 12 point overall lead at the moment. His main worry will be Geoff Carveth’s Palava, currently in third place despite having to count a DNC, but Carveth could do the big leapfrog if he gets two good scores next Sunday, so he might be watching the weather forecasts with more interest than usual towards the end of the week.

The Hunter 707s tend to share the points more equitably amongst themselves than the Lasers do, but Mike Foster’s Surfeit now looks to be the likely winner. Patrick Miles had the best scores today in the sinisterly named Darkness, and would probably have been a contender for the overall victory if he had not already been awarded three OCSs in the series – almost equalling the four given to the rest of this large fleet put together.

Liz Savage, leader of the Savage Sailing Team enjoyed the boisterous conditions winning both J/80 races and joining the Fox brothers’ Jevan in the overall lead. Ian Atkins still leads the SBR Sportsboat class despite having had a day off yesterday, and Richard Scarff’s Backman 21 Backbeat remains in second place. Professor Roger Williams had the best scores today in his J/92S Jos of Hamble.

There are many more sure-fire winners in the Black Fleet, including Stuart Bowen-Davies and Huw Evans’ Windsong in IRC 0, which has unfortunately run out of opposition in the second half of the series, and Stewart Hawthorn’s J/133 Jump in IRC 1. Peter Rutter’s Quokka is similarly poised in IRC 2.

There has been a ding-dong in IRC 3 throughout the series, where Marie-Claude and John Heys still share the lead in their J/92S Java Lite with Ian Dawson’s X-332 Glide-X – one of them is bound to win. Paul and Julia Aisher are set to take IRC 4 in Tangent Minus 1.

David and Kirsty Apthorp certainly don’t feel as embarrassed now as they did when they ran aground while leading Race 2 in their J/105 J-Dream, having won the race to sew up the series. Yet another certain winner is Ben Richards and Michael Ewart-Smith’s Zelda, which still has a tight grip on the 23 strong J/109 class.

The Sigma 33s must have some sort of pairing-off arrangement, because no boat has competed in more than four of the seven races so far. Richard and Valerie Griffith are destined to win the class with Cerefe. Obviously, no such arrangement exists in the Sigma 38 class, where the Meakins Family on Festina Lente currently count the perfect score of six first places, and surely no-one will bet against them making it seven next Sunday.


White Fleet Race Winners

Laser SB3 Race 1, “Royal Thames Lucky Lady” James Fox. Race 2, “Gul” Mike Budd and Russell Peters
J/80 Races 1 & 2, “Savage Racing Team” Liz Savage
Hunter 707 Race 1, “Censored” Messrs Gorman, Williams, Breslin and Simmonds. Race 2, “Darkness” Patrick Miles
SBR Sportsboats Race 1, “G & T David Greenhalgh. Race 2, “Jos of Hamble” Professor Roger Williams

Black Fleet Race Winners

IRC 0 “Windsong” Stuart Bowen-Davies and Huw Evans
IRC 1 “Jump” Stewart Hawthorn
IRC 2 “Quokka” Peter Rutter
IRC 3 “Glide-X” Ian Dawson
IRC 4 “Tangent Minus 1” Paul and Julia Aisher
J105 “J-Dream” David and Kirsty Apthorp
J109 “Shiva” Matthew Boyle
Sigma 33 “Prospero of Hamble” Allan Fraser
Sigma 38 “Festina Lente” Meakins Family