Scorpions @ Draycote Dash, SailJuice Series
Well that was definitely a memorable weekend! No matter how many pies Rachael promised to eat in the preceding week I don’t think there was any way we were going to be prepared for what was coming but it turned out to be an epic sail none the less. 6 Scorpions entered making us the largest double handed class at the event and despite the forecast it was only Oli and Rob who bravely decided to stay warm and dry for the weekend. Sorry boys, you missed out.
Turning up at the club the consensus was we couldn’t be sailing, it had to be postponed. It was forecast to drop so surely that was the only option given it was consistently 20 – 25 knots and gusting well over 30 knots. But no, the race officer told us all to man (or woman) up and get on with it! Unfortunately everyone had faffed a bit too much and despite arriving at the line 20 seconds late Tom Jeffcoate & Rachael Rhodes (2037) only had a lone Blaze for company up the first beat. He soon sailed off somewhere not to be seen again (the picture here might explain it though) leaving Tom & Rachael to settle into survival mode. This worked fine for 3 laps but after being sent round again a snapped spinnaker pole meant trying to gybe 2 sailed on the run and an inevitable swim. They recovered to finish 3rd, helped no doubt by the fact that almost no one was able to keep the stick in the sky at all times. As Martyn described it – “it was so windy Josh was struggling to sheet the jib in. Downwind was a lot of fun, couldn’t believe how fast we got round the course ready for the next beat”. All the Scorps survived with Stu Hydon & Rich Pepperdine (2022 ) 10th, Pete Mitchell & Simon Forbes (2034) 20th, Chris Yates & Dave Barker (1959) 30th and Martyn Denchfield & Josh Haynes (1925) 40th.
The wind kept threatening to drop but this was only relative, it just meant a fraction longer between the 30 knot gusts, and the results will attest to how many people were struggling. Tom & Rach, Stu & Rich and Mav & Si were rarely more than a few boat lengths apart all race and the lead must have swapped at least half a dozen times, at the end Tom & Rach (relieved that there was no need to fly the spinnaker on starboard for more than a few boat lengths each lap and so the broken pole wasn’t too much of a hindrance) led on to the last beat from Mav & Si but were then almost flattened by a gust allowing Mav & Si to take the honours with Stu & Rich just behind. Martyn & Josh’s race was far less eventful than the first and they were glad just to get to the end at which point a cold crew brought an otherwise enjoyable day to an early end. Yatesy had decided to come in for a cup of tea which he seemed very happy about later. It did the trick though as he was back out for race 3.The Scorpions ended up 7th (Mav & Si) & 8th (Tom & Rach) overall with Stu & Rich 11th and Martyn & Josh 43rd.
Race 3 was a similar story, the fleets were being decimated and the D Zeros seemed content to let the Scorpions have the start line to ourselves. Unfortunately Tom & Rach were trying to start without a timer and “guessing” when the gun would be. This time they got it wrong and managed to take both themselves and Mav & Si over early while the black flag was flying – sorry guys! They were allowed to carry on racing though and another close fight for Scorpion honours developed. Stu & Rich took the honours in 11th again (Mav & Si would have also been about here with Tom & Rach probably a handful of places back). The rejuvenated Yatesy & Dave finished 35th. The fleett were obviously gluttons for punishment as the RO decided 3 races was not enough and we should go for a 4th! By now bodies were exhausted, fingers and toes may have been still attached but no one was sure, but the racing was still good and so we lined up again. Stu & Rich and Mav & Si were again quickest out of the blocks only for Mav & Si to spectacularly wipe out down the run. This proved to be enough for them leaving Tom & Rach to chase Stu & Rich. Despite catching up on the reaches they could never quite get past and it finished in this order in 9th & 11th overall. Yatesy & Dave had their best race of the day in 24th. Relieved, everyone then headed for the shore to dry off, warm up and compare stories. It was great sailing but it’s been a long time since I’ve come ashore feeling that broken. For context:
126 entries, 91 boats started at least 1 race, 53 finishers in race 1, 50 finishers in race 2, 45 finishers in race 3 and down to 32 finishers for race 4!
Day 2 and what a contrast! Sunshine and flat calm. It was almost as though yesterday never happened apart from the bruises (both physical and mental) were still fresh. One thing that hadn’t changed was the debate over whether we were actually going to sail, especially when the Optimist and Tera could be seen being towed to the start line. Martyn & Josh, Stu & Rich and Tom & Rach all decided to go and see as the forecast was for it to pick up. Tom & Rach had still not improved on their timekeeping and tried to start 30 seconds early only to be told by Stu & Rich they were early, just as they proceeded to take out a D Zero! The committee boat were tried hard to suppress the chuckles as Tom & Rach sheepishly returned to the right side of the line and set about chasing down the others who it turns out are much better at counting. The wind was filling in properly by the time we were half way up the first beat and by the time Stu & Rich were at the windward mark they were already passing slower boats who hadn’t been able to build much of a lead in the light conditions. Tom & Rach managed to get through Stu & Rich down the first run and then it was a case of trying to pick a way through the rafts of slower boats. Fortunately none were feeling too defensive and after a couple of long spinnaker legs these 2 were not too far off the leading GP and Solo with Martyn & Josh also making good progress not too far behind. Unfortunately for these two they soon discovered a wall of sails blanketing them down the second long run and they found themselves swamped by the chasing faster boats.
The course was a real tour of the lake to say the least and by the time the end of the first lap was approaching the wind had built to a nice force 2, albeit slightly shifty. Tom & Rach took the lead just before the end of the first lap but were then devastated to see the lead boat disappear despite some desperate pleas. With 10 identical looking marks to decipher Rach took up orienteering duty while Tom took to worrying about which of the faster boats were bearing down the quickest, Nick Craig in the Merlin was looking ominous to say the least. Over the next few legs the Merlin caught Stu & Rich who were by then up to 3rd but they looked to have a reasonable gap over the boats behind which included the fireball (Kevin Hope) and some 400s. What none of us had noticed was Tom Gillard pulling quickly through the fleet in the 505. With 3 minutes to go Gilly picked up a gust on the run and came flying over the top to take the win and with it the event. Tom & Rach held on to 2nd while Stu & Rich were 4th. Martyn & Josh picked up as soon as they found some clear air following a boat until they could overtake them (navigation was an issue for everyone it turns out) and then aiming for the next one and were a very creditable 53rd by the end.
Overall, Tom & Rach were 4th, Stu & Rich 5th, Martyn & Josh 46th, Mav & Si 47th, Chris & Dave 52nd. And the final word goes to Yatesy: “What a great weekend! Brutal 36mph constant gusts 4 capsizes frozen face muscles and planing upwind! I would thoroughly recommend the sail juice series well
organised really friendly club and to cap to all seeing great mates! What could be better! See you all at the next one Dave and Chris”
Thanks to the efforts over the weekend the Scorpion Class is currently top class in the SailJuice Winter Series
This is a great achievement for the class!
One last thing…
On a less fun note, and more of a plea really, we were all shocked to see what handicap we are now sailing off… 1027 (Great Lakes Handicap System)! In the pursuit we started 3 minutes after the 200s when we used to start with them! We won’t have helped it this weekend either but when 3 of the 5 boats there were in the top 5 of the nationals (albeit with Stu in place of Pete) then the data they are getting is not going to be representative of the fleet as a whole. As a fleet we desperately need more people from all areas of the fleet to come and sail these events otherwise the problem is going to persist and everyone is going to be given a less representative result than their performance would deserve. I know it can be cold and wet sometimes but despite the conditions I’m sure all who did make it would agree it was good fun sailing, definitely memorable on Saturday, and it’s a great way to stay in practice ready for next season. So please don’t let the class handicap be dictated by just the few of us who do attend these events.
Pictures used with agreement of Tim Olin
Report Thanks To Rachael Rhodes, Martyn Denchfield, Chris Yates