Northern Travelling ISO's - Grimwith Grapple and Birkett Trophy

Once again we found ourselves the only ISO in a mixed fleet of 22 boats at the Grimwith Grapple hosted by Yorkshire Dales S.C. Maybe the forecast of light and shifty winds put others off, but the sun was shining and the wind filled in while we rigged. However, as the first race got underway the breeze faded then shifted 45 degrees. We managed to take advantage of this and rounded the windward (?) mark with only a Musto skiff in front of us and closely followed by an RS800 leaving the rest of the fleet trailing a long way behind. Although the wind continued to fill and fade and shift we managed to compound our lead throughout the race and were confident that by following the 800 over the line would give us the win. Not to be! Yes we approached the finish line in close contention with the 800 but as we did so the race officer indicated that we had gybed round the wrong penultimate mark. Aaagh!! Retracing meant we turned an easy 1st into a consolation 5th. A 3rd place in the next race and a 6th to discard in the final race left us in third place overall and another 'if only' story to tell in the bar afterwards.

There was no chance of going round the wrong mark at the Birkett on Ullswater. Easy. Beat all the way from the line at the club to Glendenning, round the last island, fly the kite back down to the leeward mark at Pooley Bridge      (possibly 9miles) and beat back to the club. We were pleased to be joined by Colin and Graham in ISO 550 from Loch Tummel but sadly no more ISO's out of a fleet of 200 boats. The wind was a good force 4 with sun as well, perfect conditions.

Birkett starts can be quite hectic affairs. It's not just the size of the fleet but the variety of craft, everything from toppers to 49er's, keel-boats and cruisers. We found ourselves a gap mid line and after one general recall got away into relatively clear air and resolved to beat up the middle, avoiding trouble as advised by Lester Noble in his Y&Y article. Unbeknown to us , Colin had been somewhat bolder and taken a port tack flyer away from the line, clearing the fleet with the first half dozen boats. It's a long beat to Cherry Holm Island and the conditions vary on the way up the lake with the mountains that edge Ullswater playing their part. Wind funnels down valleys in strong gusts and shifts can easily catch crews out. Areas of calm can be very frustrating when you look up and see the clouds moving quickly across the peaks. We caught no sight of  Colin, behind or in front, all the way up the beat until we approached  Glendenning. There they were, kite up, coming back towards us having rounded Cherry Holm with the leading dozen or so boats. Pretty impressive! It was going to be too much of a gap to expect to make up but with nine miles of downwind sailing to go at, it was good fun trying. After negotiating the fluky bits we had some excellent blasting downwind mile after mile. As we approached the Pooley Bridge mark we saw ISO 550 again, beating back to the finish at the club. Then the rudder fell off ! Yes, just as we dropped the kite and rounded up, the rudder pin sheared and the rudder floated up, lying uselessly on the surface. Despite seeing Colin disappear on his way to the finish I thought I could have salvaged a decent result, but trying to limp an ISO to windward with no rudder in the breezy conditions was in vain and we suffered the indignity of being towed in. A long way to sail to score DNF!.

There were many suggestions to get 645 back on the water for Sunday's race but with the forecast for 30knot winds I was happy to take my hard luck story to the bar (again). The forecast turned out to be accurate and the race was cancelled on Sunday, with the event being decided on Saturdays results. Lester Noble had won it in his 49er( race time of 1h22m and 6min clear of the next boat!!) and Colin and Graham were 41st in ISO 550. A very respectable result. Does anybody out there in ISO land think they can better that? Six boats make a fleet and that means prizes! So why not make the journey up to the Lake District next year and experience this great event.