A warm spring day dawned over the Sutton Bingham Reservoir, near Yeovil, with a 10-15kn Southerly wind building with some sharp gusts. It looked like a challenging day out on the water and so it proved…
A mix of locals and series travellers arrived for the inaugural Sutton Bingham Icicle, a 3-hour pursuit race. The race team set a long beat down the lake with some challenging gybe marks and a reach to the final buoy. Several competitors went afloat early to test the conditions and the gusts saw a few taking an early swim.
Nevertheless 32 competitors made it out onto the water. First off were Angus and Alfie Cook in their Firefly, who were also sitting 2nd in the SSW Lakes Series after an excellent performance at the Roadford Rocket. The Cook’s eked out a good lead in the early stages of the race with a Solo, GP14 and a few Lasers in hot pursuit. Sizable fleets of RS Aero 5’s and 7’s soon began to track them down, and it became evident that this was perhaps not going to be the Firefly’s day.
While the RS Aero’s continued to scrap between themselves, the starting sequence for the rest of the field unfolded. Nearly an hour into the race, a highly competitive fleet of 7 Phantoms took off to chase the pack down, starting with 3 D-Zeros just ahead of them. This ‘ghostly fleet’ seemed to hunt in packs, with Nutall, Orman and Hawkes breaking away from the others whilst they continued to squabble for the Phantom bragging rights lap after lap!
Eventually the faster boats were away, with the Downs’ Merlin Rocket starting more than a lap behind the leaders, the RS 400 of the Horlocks further back still. The last competitor off the line was Chris Hampe in his International Canoe, starting his pursuit of the field from nearly a full 2 laps behind the Firefly! Chris seemed to be working his socks off throughout the race, but he just couldn’t quite find the steady wind to blast through the field as he has done in previous races in the series.
At the front, RS Aero 5 World Champion Andrew Frost had finally tracked down and passed the Firefly to take the race lead. Frost continued to move away from the field, building up a huge advantage on his home water, but he wouldn’t have it his own way in the closing stages. Having closely followed local RS Aero 7 sailor Chris Jones for a lap or two, RS Aero 7 World Champion and (perhaps more importantly, the 2018 Roadford Rocket winner!), Steve Cockerill turned on the afterburners in his pursuit of Frost.
The series front-runners, Tim and Sarah Parsons in a Scoprion had a quiet start to the race, but by now they were gathering serious momentum. As the latter stages of the Icicle unfolded, the Parsons from Lyme Regis SC began to really master this tricky course, passing boats at regular intervals. The Phantom race was unfolding too, with Hawkes finally able to establish a narrow lead over the other two. He wasn’t able however to haul in Terry Curtis who had a very solid race in the OK or Chris Jones in the RS Aero 7.
Further ahead, Steve Cockerill had bared right down on Andrew Frost in this marathon pursuit race. With just 5 minutes to go, Steve moved into first place, asserting his pedigree over a very talented field.
Andrew Frost finished 2nd, Tim and Sarah Parsons took 3rd place from OK sailor Terry Curtis in 4th. 5th and top local sailor was Chris Jones in his RS Aero 7 and the first of the Phantoms was Simon Hawkes in 6th with Stephen Bailey in 7th in a Laser. It was a day for the single handers who were able to react to the challenging conditions in another fantastic winter pursuit race.
Free tea and cakes in the clubhouse were gratefully received by a tired contingent of sailors. There was a reshaping of the series overall, with Tim and Sarah Parsons knocking Ben Flower off his perch. Next up is the Exmoor Beastie at Wimbleball SC on the 18th March. We look forward to seeing you all there!
Full Results available here
Lots more photos of the event here
More information about the Series, current standings and upcoming events here