Jennings and Bonsey take victory in spectacular conditions at Queen Mary 28/3/06

Queen Mary SC hosted the opening event of the RS400 Fat Face racing circuit for 2006. A cold and windy forecast greeted the competitors and many left boats on their trailers. However, those who braved the conditions on Saturday were treated to some classic racing – over the weekend there were four different winners from six races. The boats were split into gold and silver fleets, with equal Fat Face vouchers going to each fleet.

A windward/leeward course in gusts of 25 knots meant that the downwind legs took a good deal less time than the windward ones, and everyone took a swim at some point with some tentative early season gybing, especially at the downwind lay line.

In race one, Tom Halhead/Chris Bishop took an early lead, only to take an equally early swim, allowing Chris Jennings/Andrew Bonsey through into the lead, followed by Chris Gowers/June Riley and Paul Hilliar/Stuart Jagger. A quick recovery and fast sailing from Halhead/Bishop saw them back into second but couldn’t quite tag Jennings/Bonsey, who took the race win. In the silver fleet, Richard Gray/Jon Dyas took the win from Rob and Liz Jones.

Race two and again the curse of leading saw Jennings/Bonsey make early use of the water wings as Halhead/Bishop and Gowers/Riley tussled for the lead in front of Hilliar/Jagger. Some enormous gusts and some of the fastest downwind legs many had experienced, so it was easy to spot the downwind lay line for the gybe as there were invariably a collection of upturned hulls! Halhead/Bishop held it together this time to win after a great race with Gowers/Riley. Jones/Jones took the Silver fleet from John Cooper and Becci Wigley.

With the cold taking it’s toll on the fleet, a reduced entry set out for the third race. Jennings/Bonsey and Halhead/Bishop made the early running but Hilliar/Jagger pulled through to take the win, with Jennings/Bonsey holding off Halhead/Bishop to take second place. Gray/Dyas took the silver fleet again in a war of attrition from Jones/Jones.

Sunday dawned and the weather was far more welcoming to competitors. Warm sunshine and a gusty 15 knots meant that the fleet was racing far closer together than the day before. With the windward mark set close to the edge of the reservoir and a gusty downwind leg, a premium was put on riding the gusts downwind.

Race four saw the fleet split on the downwind leg, with the main beneficiaries being Jennings/Bonsey, who pulled through from mid-fleet to lead early on. Confusion reigned with one lap to go as the leading three all went for the finish line, allowing Gowers/Riley to come through to second on the basis that they could count accurately to five. Jennings/Bonsey had enough of a lead to hang on to win despite the diversion but Gowers/Riley lost second to the charging Halhead/Bishop. Silver fleet honours went to Howard Fairbrother/Louise Hosken, who held off Gray/Dyas in second.

In race five, the downwind snakes and ladders continued, with Greg O’Brian/Fiona Clark and Gowers/Riley at the front with Gray/Dyas. These were chased by Jennings/Bonsey and Halhead/Bishop, with the overall title clearly going to be contested between these two. After an hour of incredibly close racing, Jennings/Bonsey kept their noses ahead just long enough to take the win from Halhead/Bishop and O’Brian/Clark. Gray/Dyas took the silver fleet result from Fairbrother/Hosken.

In the sixth and deciding final race, Halhead/Bishop extended a sizable lead from the fleet and looked good for the title, with Jennings/Bonsey languishing in the pack. However, a missed shift on the penultimate downwind leg saw the Halhead/Bishop’s lead extinguished and they were suddenly in a five way battle for the lead. It was game on for the overall title as Jennings/Bonsey were hot on their heels. On the final beat, O’Brian/Clark hit the left hard and came out leading but behind them the final mark was getting fruity. Shenanigans between the top two saw Jennings/Bonsey taking penalty turns and Halhead/Bishop capsized following the collision. Hilliar/Jagger escaped downwind from the melee to claim second behind O’Brian, with Jennings/Bonsey just holding on to third and therefore taking the title from Halhead/Bishop. Gray/Dyas took the final race in the silver fleet and with it the overall silver fleet title.

Overall Results
1st 1238 C. Jennings RS400 A. Bonsey Burghfield SC
2nd 1240 T. Halhead RS400 C. Bishop Bristol Corinthian YC
3rd 1121 P. Hilliar RS400 S. Jagger Bristol Corinthian YC
4th 1126 G. O’Brien RS400 F. Clark Bartley
5th 1204 C. Gowers RS400 J. Riley Port Dinorwic
6th 1203 R. Gray RS400 J. Dyas QueenMary SC
7th 735 R. Jones RS400 L. Jones Weston SC
8th 1217 J. Cooper RS400 B. Wigley Lymington Town SC
9th 1251 H. Farbrother RS400 J. Smith QueenMary SC
10th 733 N. Watson RS400 L. Watson Weston SC
11th 1101 S. Baker RS400 G. Hayes QueenMary SC
12th 1267 R. Kenneally RS400 R. O’Gorman QueenMary SC
13th 693 J. Smith RS400 T. Smith Bartley SC
14th 955 D. Donnelly RS400 S. Malaulty QueenMary SC
15th 1233 N. Francis RS400 S. Edwards QueenMary SC
16th 794 D. Herward RS400 P. Mason Datchet Water SC
17th 1107 B. Humphrey RS400 R. Lineham QueenMary SC
18th 804 S. Blackaller RS400 M. Camble Parkstone SC