A total of 24 boats arrived to contest the final positions in the Laser-supported Vortex Grand prix series

The last event on the 2001 Laser Vortex calendar was held at Grafham Water Sailing Club on 21-22 October. A total of 24 boats arrived to contest the final positions in the Laser-supported Grand prix series with competitors from as far a field as the South Coast to Loch Lomond in Scotland. The weather served up the full spectrum of wind conditions from drifter to a blasting Force 5.

The first race began in a light and variable breeze with trapezing in gusts. National champion Ian Escritt from Grimwith led, challenged by Hayling Island’s Iain Palmer and Keith Escritt. Palmer tried to ‘rail’ down the run, overcooked it and capsized dropping to sixth. This let the Escritts get away in a building breeze. The ensuing brotherly battle allowed Palmer to close again and when Keith, having just taken the lead, hit the windward mark, Palmer was through to second. Starting the last run, Ian led from Keith with Palmer immediately behind. By the end of the run Palmer was through to first, which he held as Keith, passed Ian for second. Phil Whitehead was fourth and Clive Harries was fifth.

Race two was started in a Force 1, which dropped during the race. Iain Palmer was OCS and returned to restart eventually recovering to sixth. Meanwhile, Ian Escritt made no mistakes leading from start to finish. Clive Harries showed his new found boat speed and passed Keith Escritt twice before succumbing just before the finish. Fourth was Phil Whitehead and fifth Richard Vie from Weston.

On Sunday morning Phil Whitehead demonstrated how fast he can be in a breeze by winning race three by over three minutes in a building Force 4. Clive Harries and Ian Escritt showed that significantly different weights could compete in all conditions by continually passing each other until Clive just edged it.

Rob Reynolds -Jones (an ex-professional cyclist) only started sailing two years ago, and only got a Vortex this season so his fourth shows that he is one to watch. fifth and sixth was very tight with Iain Palmer just beating Jonathan Lister to be the only non Grimwith boat in the top eight. The benefit of Grimwith’s strong fleet of 13 Vortex all racing regularly was plain to see.

With either Keith or Ian Escritt or Phil Whitehead still able to win overall, the last race held in a good Force 4-5, was a corker. Keith Escritt port-tacked across the fleet at the start and led from Whitehead and Ian Escritt at the mark. Whitehead got through on the reach and all three were nose to tail down the run, throwing in gybes to keep in the wind and to protect their positions. As Ian fell back to a clear third, Phil kept a good 20-boat length lead over Keith that shortened by the end of each downwind set but stretched again on the beats. One fluffed tack could lose the race, but at the finish, Whitehead had held on with Keith Escritt close behind in second. Elsewhere in the fleet, great racing and fun was being had in the superb breeze, with Jonathan Lister passing Clive Harries for fourth and Richard Vie sixth.

The final results were as close as could be with Phil and Keith both on six points. Phil’s fourth and two wins eclipsed Keith’s consistent three seconds to hand him the top spot. Ian Escritt took the third spot one point behind, with Clive Harries in fourth and Iain Palmer fifth. Jonathan Lister was sixth, Richard Vie seventh and Queen Mary’s Alex Sloley an improving eighth.