The Exe Sails and Covers Starcross Steamer got underway this weekend with 76 boats on the water in very light Northerly winds. Temperatures were close to freezing, but the wintery sun shone over the estuary, making it a beautiful sight.
A Firefly sailed by championship pair Jono Pank and Angus Cook lead the fleet away after a 15minute delay to the official start time. It looked like a day for the slower boats, but there would be surely be strong challenges from large Merlin and RS 400 fleets, whilst SSW Winter Series leader Simon Hawkes, joined by 3 other K1s, were also tipped to feature.
Once the race was underway the Firefly seemed to stretch out their lead with the Jeremy and Lloyd Williams (Penzance SC) and Paul Young (Midlands SC) in their Enterprises fighting it out with Solos and Europes at the bottom mark before turning upwind.
As the quicker boats got underway, a failing wind was a challenge for all. The lead Firefly completed lap 1 well ahead, looking strong. At the windward mark after about 1 hour of racing the Firefly was still well ahead, whilst Jeremy Williams was still tussling with Paul Young in 2nd and 3rd.
At the halfway point 1 hour and 15 minutes into the race, Jono in his Firefly still held a healthy lead with Jeremy Williams some 6 minutes behind having pulled away from Paul Young a little. The Comet trio sailed by local Exe Sailors Andrew and Caroline McAusland were starting to show some pace with the K1 fleet also gathering momentum in a tight battle between local Liam McGrath and series leader Simon Hawkes with son Ben and Chris Dyer in the chasing K1s. Meanwhile back in the faster fleets Mike and Jane Calvert (Axe SC) in their Merlin were breaking clear but they were still 15 minutes behind the firefly at the downwind mark.
As the 2 hour time approached with 30 minutes to go ,the tide had turned, making the upwind stint in very light breeze tough going for the slower boats. Still Jono in the Firefly was holding on but Andrew and Caroline in their Comet Trio were pressing. At the windward mark the the Calverts in their Merlin had slipped past all but Jono and were now approximately 8 minutes back but only 15 minutes to go.
The leaders we now running downtide and the order was Firefly, Merlin and K1 (Liam). With just minutes to go the leading boats of Jono and Mike in his Merlin were very close. The firefly rounding onto the beat against the tide left them at the mercy of the Merlin and Mike and Jane Calvert won with Jono and Angus in the Firefly taking second. Behind them the battle was on between Liam’s K1 and the McAuslands’ in the Comet with Liam just taking the final podium.
A huge thanks to all at Starcross who once again delivered the premier event in the South West with usual great organisation.