The forecast for this weekend was for gale force winds from the west, which blows straight down the lake at Fleetwood. Attached is a photo taken in 2004 when the wind was blowing 28 miles an hour and when we definitely had to be in our smallest rigs!
Peter and I prepared for this event, firstly by getting a full length 700 mm draft Hollom designed fin made by David Winder, 40 mm deeper than our usual fins. Peter received this on Tuesday and had it fitted to his boat the following evening. This gave his boat UPFRONT more power, which he said made a significant improvement to the heavy weather performance without affecting the light weather end too much. I modified the 1992 very small ROAR EDGE rig, only 780 mm luff length, to comply with the 2016 class rule requiring a minimum of 990 mm. These are only needed if you go to expose lakes like Fleetwood when there are gales expected. I have prepared a conversion kit and we put it together when we arrived.
It is a long way to travel, but the steady winds at Fleetwood make for fantastic sailing and it is well worth the long drive up on the Friday to sail on what is probably the best lake in the world. I drove firstly to Peter’s in Saffron Walden and then he drove for 5 1/2 hour to Fleetwood. The hotels were full and so we were camping in a ‘pod’, which is basically a wooden tent on a local caravan park, which was very well appointed.
Fortunately, by Saturday morning the wind had abated and it was blowing 18 mph straight down the lake. We started in C2 rigs and as the day went on we gradually changed up until using A rig for the last few races. Derek Priestley ran a very good event and to prevent any hanging about, he used a 5 minute countdown started when the last boat of the previous race finished. This works okay except I felt under pressure as a competitor, especially as I needed to make several repairs, change rigs or batteries etc. Anyway, we sailed 16 very good races in a single fleet, some of them with 3 rounds of the course that went from one end of the 250 m lake to the other. There was a lot of distance to be walked and off the wind we were running to keep up with the boats going flat out. Rob Walsh had a device on his watch, which measured the distance and according to him it was 12 miles on the first day! It probably wasn’t quite that far but it was still quite physically demanding.
Peter had a good day winning the first race and then 3 others later on with 9 results within the top 3. His UPFRONT was going superbly especially in C2 and whilst you might expect it to be fast off the wind, it was going really well to windward. I didn’t have a good day with breakages, silly mistakes etc, but my highlight was to win Race 7 in C rig, most unusual for me in that company! Peter won the event 10 points ahead of James Edwards sailing a GRUNGE and Rob Walsh sailing a STARKERS, whilst I finished in 17th place.
All the competitors got together for a drink and a meal in ‘The Mount’, a traditional place for model yachtsmen to meet after racing for several hours of friendly chat.
At the end of the evening it was raining and this continued throughout the night and all through Sunday until we had finished racing at about 3 o’clock. It rained hard and blew from the east, again about 18 mph through the ‘bridge’, giving a windward/leeward course in the opposite direction to Saturday’s wind. Sailing into the near horizontal rain was not pleasant especially when wearing glasses. Again we started from the middle of the course during 2 rounds and finishing at the clubhouse end; 3 beats and 2 runs.
Starting in C2 Peter and his UPFRONT were in their element and kicked off with the first of his 7 wins of the 12 races sailed. I couldn’t sail in one race and watched Peter’s race carefully with the swing rig contributing to speed off the wind whilst the jib tacks of the conventional rigs hit the waves and slowed the boats down. More impressive was his UP’s windward performance where in a gust there would be a distinct acceleration not to planing speed, but close. He finished this race about 1/3 of the length of the lake ahead of the next boat; very impressive!
Several late starts didn’t help my results and failures of a 2nd rudder servo, C2 rig, entanglements with boats in the wrong, spoiled what was really good racing from bank to bank just as in a vane race with my UP always going well.
At lunchtime Derek asked whether we wanted to continue sailing as some were cold as well as very wet, but the majority voted for 4 more races. As it happened the wind had been gradually going more northerly across the lake and at the end in the last 2 race there was more reaching than beating and so we were all pleased to stop and pack up.
Peter won the event by 11 points from Martin Roberts sailing the infamous pink STARKERS, with which he won the 2006 World Championship at Fleetwood with Graham Bantock 3rd. The full results are published on the Marblehead Class website.
As we were sailing in one fleet and because of the rain, I did not get my camera out at the lake, but the single photograph taken by local sailor Mike Parkington gives a clue of the conditions racing round the spreader mark on Saturday.
Report for GMYC by Roger.