June 11, 2019
It’s a family affair-air, it’s a family affair*. For a reasonably high performance dinghy the RS500 has a very high proportion of family teams competing in it, be they partners, parent/child or siblings. The Volvo Noble Marine national championships held at Lymington Town Sailing Club 8-9 June, emphasised this aspect of the fleet, with eight of the 11 teams having a shared surname. Quite why this should be so is not at all clear…, but to the report proper.
The forecast for Saturday was distressingly accurate, falling into the “don’t be ridiculous” category. On shore at Lymington, while boats were being prepared it didn’t seem too bad, but the reports from out in the Solent were high, and steadily getting higher. The RO had told us that the rescue crews were happy to run racing if the wind was average 22-23 and gusting 27-28 knots. By the time it was canned for the day, the wind was up at the 27-28, gusting 35 level, and actually climbed further from there. So day one was mostly about catching up with friends, wandering around Lymington, having a snooze etc. A few of us even checked and compared rig settings! Your correspondent was starting to feel victimised by the wind, having achieved only one race from six at the previous RS500 event at Lake Como for lack of wind (36 hours driving for one race!), but we go to such lovely places and hang out with such lovely people…
The evening saw the fabulous multli-fleet RS party, including some speeches to mark Heather Chipperfield’s retirement from class association secretary. Many thanks Heather, for all the fabulous work you have put in over the years. It’s just a shame the party came with a 0930hrs launch time for Sunday morning! Kudos to Tim and Heather Wilkins for doing the party, getting the 1915hrs ferry back from Lymington to Yarmouth, and then sailing their RS500 back across the Solent for the racing (not being able to sail across during the day on Saturday had significantly altered their plans!).
So Sunday was rather light for most of the day, with wind and tide running together from the West. This
placed an emphasis on beating out to the right of the course to get into slacker water, and then trying to
judge when to tack out into the current. So the strategy was set for all four races, with only slight variations. Race one saw the fleet all start at the starboard end of the line and tack off as soon as we could.
It was all about getting a clear wind lane and concentrating hard on boat speed. Then when you thought you were on the lay-line, compensating for the tide, go on at least another 100m (and you still would be undercooking it!). Fast out of the blocks were Tim and Heather Wilkins, who seemed quite chipper considering their early morning start, rounding the first mark in the lead. Also showing good boat speed were Nick and Fanny Rogers, having a chartered boat they had sailed for the first time on Friday. Third at the top mark was Mike Saul, sailing with John Hobson and probably carrying the top weight of the day, which was not an advantage in those conditions. The downwind legs were mostly about staying in the current and trying to judge when to gybe and be carried down to the mark. The first downwind mark saw the RS500s tangling with RS700s and RS800s, which certainly didn’t work out for a couple of us.
The race was shortened to two laps, with Tim and Heather just holding off Nick and Fanny. Meanwhile, Mike Saul missed seeing the S flag, which allowed Peter and James Curtis to just sneak into third ahead of him.
The wind was starting to clock left a bit, which encouraged three of the fleet to try a port tack start in race two. Nick and Fanny judged it perfectly, got the best start and took a fairly comfortable win. Tim and Heather also got away and were not troubled in second. Top four at the first mark was completed by Mike/John and Michiel and Hilde Geerling. Peter and James discovered just how slow some weed on the centreboard could be on lap one, and Michiel and Hilde befell the same fate on lap three. Having cleared the weed, Peter and James got a shift on and just managed to roll Mike and John at the final windward mark and hold on down the run for third.
By race three the wind had clocked even further left and was strong enough to be trapezing upwind most of the time (woohoo!). The whole fleet decided to start on port tack at the port end, following the example of the other fleets on our start line. Nick and Fanny were a bit too keen and received the only individual recall of the whole event. With the breeze getting a little more patchy the hunt was on for pressure, which added to the strategic priority of getting into slack water, seeing many of the front runners putting in little hitch tacks for pressure and shifts (real or imagined). Tim and Heather rounded the top mark first with Peter and James in second. Behind them, Nick and Fanny realised late they wouldn’t make the mark and had to double tack against the tide, along with Pete and Karen Matthews, and Michiel and Hilde. What had looked to be a very bunched up top of the fleet was suddenly comfortable for the top two. Peter and James briefly threatened Tim and Heather, but they eventually pulled away for the win. Nick and Fanny broke clear in third, but some judicious covering by Peter and James prevented them getting too close, and Mike and John took their third fourth.
For race four the wind was threatening to be interesting, up another couple of knots. Nick and Fanny
needed to win for the championship, while Tim and Heather just needed to beat them. While being very
port biased again, Tim decided to start on starboard towards the port end of the line. This forced Peter and James to tack off left, which pushed them into the best of the pressure. Meanwhile, Nick and Fanny had made a good port tack start and were showing excellent upwind speed. Sean and Ted Ward also had their best start and first beat of the day and rounded in first, followed by Michiel and Hilde and Nick and Fanny.
The first run bunched up the top five, and by the end of the second beat Nick and Fanny had taken the lead, with Peter and James second and Tim and Heather third, but not really close enough to threaten Peter and James. Nick and Fanny had not realised there was a discard at four races and believed they needed to keep Tim and Heather in third, so they were scrupulous in keeping their wind shadow away from Peter and James and maintaining the separations. Even so, Peter and James picked up some weed on the last beat, letting Tim and Heather get uncomfortably close. They tried hotting up the last run to see if they could break through, but it was not quite windy enough to work for them, and positions were maintained.
Nick and Fanny took the title, on equal points with Tim and Heather and by dint of having the better result in the last race. Peter and James took the final podium position. It was a shame we couldn’t have had more variety in conditions for a national championships, but such are the joys of sailing. Many thanks to Lymington Town for making the best of the challenging conditions and the fabulous organisation ashore.
Report by Peter Curtis