ISO Gala - Downs SC (28th & 29th June 2003)

Deal, Kent. A quiet spot with genteel Georgian seaside terraces, a slightly battered pier and a green complete with bandstand; surely the living embodiment of Captain Mainwaring's hometown Warmington-on- Sea? You half expect messrs Pike, Godfrey and Jones to come marching along the promenade on patrol. Anyroad up, scene's set, on to the sailing:

Our arrival at Downs SC was greeted with clear skies, warm sunshine and a gentle but fairly even breeze coming in from the south.

A quick set-up (I'm sure the spinny sheets are supposed to go round the forestay) and then onto free bacon butties and the briefing.

A squarish/sausage course was opted for in order to well and truly split the Buzz and ISO fleets, the Buzzes doing a square then 2 sausages, the ISOs doing the reverse.

Race 1 Began with the wind and tide running north along the shore, Having watched the Buzzes start first and split evenly between inshore (less tide) and offshore (more tide but more wind) the ISOs opted for the inshore route. Ian and Katie Keam George in 1188 Enigma Vehicle Systems took an early lead with Jonny Wells and Bugsy in 1176, NeilPryde hotly pursued by Richard and Matt Lewis in 553 Team Emsworth. Round the top mark and offshore with the tide and breeze for a wide run down the 'sausage' to the leeward mark for the first of two inner laps.

Lap two saw the rear guard teams of Bob Ladell, Mark Clay in 814 Team KGSC and Sue and Ben in 929 Team Broadstairs swapping places several times.

By lap 3 round the outer course the fleet was split scattered with the coastal experience of Enigma, Emsworth and NeilPryde reaping great benefits with 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Race 2 As the tide began to ebb slightly and the afternoon breeze increased, the inshore/offshore connundrum became less obvious. The fleet split with KGSC, Broadstairs and Emsworth finding great benefits in the offshore side of the beat. Although all three swapped places several times, up ahead Enigma and NeilPryde led the way for this one coming first and second, with Team KGSC coming 3rd after recovering from a 720° (tide? buoys? who moved the water ? don't panic! don't panic! Captain Mainwaring!)

Race 3 Saw a change of plan with a long course laid round the "local" cans - about 7 miles worth . The tide went briefly slack then turned to a fast flow south against the wind. The course was demanding both in terms of duration and navigation; black buoys against a dark background anyone? Places were swapped left right and centre as the breeze shifted and occasionally died across the course. Essex YC won through with teams Enigma and NeilPryde taking 1st and 2nd place while Emsworth contingent Richard and Matt Lewis came in 3rd.

A great days sailing ran smoothly into a balmy evening with the help of beer and barbeque (salmon and pork steaks no less, none of your chippolatas here Mrs Pike). The hard core found further lubrication at the King's Head and the Old Port next door. Reconnaisance has duly been laid for the 2004 Nationals.

Sunday: More sunshine with slightly more breeze rising during the day to an exhilarating 4.

With an onshore wind across the tide our usual windward/leeward was tricky so instead a 'q' shape course was laid. The top mark being at an angle away from the commitee boat and shore

Race 4: Trickier tactics today with the majority of the fleet opting for a long starboard beat followed by a quick shallow port dash to the top mark, the question was a case of how far on the starboard beat can you go? NeilPryde's Jonny and Bugsy held on and whilst not taking the shortest route they got a great deal out of the tide enabling them to take a wider beat to the first mark. Further back 814 KGSC was finding out more about sailing in a swell (who keeps moving the water for these pond sailors??) and battling it out with Emsworth and Broadstairs; Emsworth showing great speed and point in the waves.

The first spinnaker run down to the wing mark and the increased wind strength became very obvious. Exciting stuff in 814 as a we tried to trim for the surges brought on by the waves. By now the two front boats of Keam-George Enigma and Wells/Bugsy NeilPryde were well ahead with more place swapping from Broadstairs 929, KGSC 814 and Emsworth 553 in the rear of the split.

Round the wing mark for a tighter reach to the gate and great gains as 814 began to catch 553. Then, disaster as 814 misjudged the gate and had to unwind round the mark (dashed shame what!). This gave 553 a lead 814 couldn't close and two laps later the line up was Enigma, NeilPryde, Team Emsworth, Team KGSC and Team Broadstairs .

Race 5: Having got the measure of the tide and course in race 4 the fleet attacked this one with more purpose. The start saw more jockeying for clear air and a good point to make the long beat to the layline. Again Wells/Bugsy went for a longer beat but this time failed to make the same gains as Keam-George led around the top mark. The tide had increased by now making the run to the wing mark harder to judge. On this leg of the course 814 Ladell/Clay had its big prang via a close encounter with submerged lobster buoy. (they do not like it up 'em Captain!) This left the rudder intact but distinctly heavy, knocked out of vertical. The fleet had now settled into its stride as race 3's line up was repeated; 1188, 1176, 553, 814, 929.

Race 6: The weekend's efforts began to show as Team Broadstairs sat this one out and a slightly smaller fleet began the final race of the event. More jockeying for clear air and again the long beat to the top mark with Keam-George repeating their tested formula, going for shorter distance. The tide was in full flow now and the breeze had lessened slightly making judgement at the marks even more crucial. The pattern for this final race was set early resulting in a now predictable procession.

Off the water for the prize-giving and some very welcome pies and tea. The sun was shining, the band were playing along the promenade and all was well. A fantastic weekend's sailing. Downs will be a great venue for nationals 2004 so my final message is to get that one in your diaries now!

With many thanks to Downs SC for putting on an excellent event - with photos courtesy of the Race and Rescue crews.


Full Results Here....


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