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D-Zero SW Championships - Restronguet Sailing Club, 30 Sep – 1 Oct

Restronguet hosted 12 sailors from around Cornwall for the Deep South Championships over the weekend of 30 Sep – 1 Oct. The forecast had been showing a lovely 12-15 knots SW breeze, perfect conditions for sailing in Falmouth Bay; but, as the weekend approached the storm clouds mustered.

The fleet launched early on Saturday for a morning of racing in the bay. The forecast stood true and sun, a 15 knot SW and a lovely rolling swell made for spectacular sailing. A 2 round windward-leeward course was the order of the day and the fleet got away cleanly for race 1 with Charlie Ellse making the most of a slight pin bias to tack and clear the fleet followed closely by Kian Andrews, Richard Argall, Paul Scullion and George Cousins.

Half way up the beat the positions held steady only for a rescue boat to speed across the fleet showing an abandonment flag. An unscheduled – or rather delayed – shipping movement meant that a 300m cruise liner was on its way into the harbour via the race course! Charlie and Kian, as the closest to the windward mark and the last to turn around, were treated to a full blast from the ship’s horn and a special visit from the pilot to motivate their return.

Once the boats had returned the race was immediately restarted in a slightly fresher breeze. Charlie again led towards the St Anthony shore but this time was unable to cross Paul and Kian. Kian took advantage of a small lift and early warnings of his ferocious boatspeed to roll Paul before both tacked for the mark.

Kian led round the first mark closely followed by Charlie, Paul, Richard and George and the fleet carved their way down the rollers. Paul was the first to falter, a broken kicker putting paid to his race. George managed to put his blistering downwind speed to good use and sailed round the outside of Richard but there was no catching Kian and Charlie who were battling for the lead.

Kian held on for the win with Charlie a good second and George holding on to third. With lunch calling the fleet returned to the club before an afternoon of racing in the river.

Races 2 to 4 were held off the sailing club on an inner-loop trapezoid course. By the time the fleet launched again the wind and sea were building: the average wind speed was in excess of 20 knots with gusts nearing 30 and a steep short sea.

Charlie was the next to suffer misfortune: with one minute to the next start he spectacularly rolled in to windward on the line giving the fleet a good chuckle, only for it to transpire that the lashing holding his mainsheet block to the boom had failed. Given the breeze and swell Charlie did a great job of reattaching the block using what appeared to be a shoelace but not in sufficient time to make the start.

Kian led Paul and George away from the pin with a slight lift giving George the advantage. George, Richard and Stacey Bray tacked across to the Restronguet shore with Paul and Kian standing on before tacking near the lay line. Kian narrowly led Paul round the windward mark onto a square reach at right angles to the waves. By the gybe mark George had passed Paul to leeward and these three led onto the second lap.

Up the second beat super-enthusiastic newcomer Dan Teubert pushed hard left whilst the rest of the fleet went right and picked up a cracking shift to round just behind Kian. Richard made a similar gain but tried to tack inside Paul at the windward mark, got stuck and had to reverse out. Despite gaining on Paul on the run Richard then unceremoniously went swimming at the final gybe mark meaning the positions held to the finish; an excellent finish for Dan.

The race officer shortened the start line and increased the course length to 4 rounds for race 3. With the wind now averaging 25 knots the Zeros were the only boats on the water.

This time it was Charlie who took the pin with Kian, Paul, George and Stacey stacked above him. Kian held his lane well and the fleet headed out to the left before Stacey broke right. Round the first mark Kian again led George, Paul and Charlie with Dan, Stacey and Richard close behind.

A storming run from Dan saw him move into third before an equally impressive death roll (who sails with no kicker in that breeze?) saw him relinquish his gains. Next out was Paul who paid for laughing at Richard’s earlier capsize by doing exactly the same thing and letting Charlie and Stacey past.

Despite George’s best efforts he was unable to catch Kian who was sailing block to block, traveller up and flat hiked around the course. Kian took his third win followed by George with a good gap to Charlie and the ever-improving Stacey.

Race 4 was ridiculous: the breeze was topping at 30 knots, driving rain made visibility challenging and the turning tide had kicked up a mountainous chop on top of the swell. Kian was unmatched and sailed into a healthy lead up the first beat, George rounded second and Paul, Stacey and Charlie tussled for third.

This time both Dan and Richard careered up from behind, catching the leading boats on the run. Dan was first down, graciously swimming after his boat after it ejected him. Paul went in next, missing his toe straps at the gybe mark before Richard made the third best capsize of the weekend (there were enough to rank them), death-rolling with such force that he lost all his mast chocks. That was the end of his day.

Stacey edged past Charlie on the penultimate beat meaning that Kian made a clean sweep for the day with George second and Stacey third. Dan and Paul battled down the last run until Dan submarined on his approach to the line and was launched out of the front of his boat. Unbelievably the boat stayed upright, caught up with Dan and he then managed to swing over the side and hold on to his place: best “capsize” of the weekend.

Kian led comfortably overnight but the battle was on between George and Charlie. Correspondence on social media that night was at best reflective with even the mighty George complaining that he might be too tired to race again. The older members of the fleet were licking wounds; the younger excited about the coming day.

Sunday dawned with 30 knots recorded in Falmouth Bay and a call from the club to say that racing might not take place. With the wind swinging to the West Restronguet was sheltered, though, and it was in a sub-10 knot breeze that the fleet launched for two further races.

Race 5 was the shiftiest race of the weekend and started with a battle: George leading Kian, then Charlie, then Paul. Charlie edged into the lead half-way up the first beat before Paul took a left shift at the top to round the mark first from Charlie and George. Usual suspect Darren Williams was finally back in the mix having been seriously overpowered the previous day!

These positions held to the last round when Paul fell into a hole approaching the windward mark allowing Charlie to close the gap. The two were nip and tuck down the last run until Charlie pulled out a yard lead at the finish to take his first win. Kian and Darren rode a big gust down the entire run topressure George but he managed to hold on at the line.

The wind was back for the final race but the direction meant that the sea of the previous day had flattened out. The race officer shortened the course slightly but unfortunately a 20 degree shift just before the start made the first beat a fetch. With normal service resumed Kian led George and Paul round the first mark with a fast-closing Stacey just behind. Charlie found himself on the wrong side of the start line so was chasing from the back of the fleet.

A seaweed incident dropped Paul to last place before Dan – him again – misjudged his approached to the windward mark and tried to “Australian sheep dip” his way round. A slow capsize to windward followed, a minor entanglement with the mark, an unfortunate port-tack incident and a resultant retirement: second best capsize of the weekend, albeit somewhat less spectacular than the rest.

The battle was raging at the front with Kian and George neck-and-neck, but the two didn’t see Charlie surfing his own special gust down the last run and challenging for the lead. Kian held on from George with Charlie leading Stacey across the line, giving Kian an emphatic victory counting only bullets.

George held on to take second by one point with Charlie an excellent third and new-boy Stacey holding a resounding fourth place.

Thanks to everyone for an excellent – if exhausting – weekend.

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