Scorpions at the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series 2013/2014
A total of ten Scorpions have braved the winter conditions to take part in the seven different Handicap events that form the SailJuice Series.
First up in November was the Draycote Dash where Pete Gray and Rachael Rhodes got off to a good start recording a fourth place overall and by winning the non discardable pursuit race on the second day. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell/Simon Forbes and Andy McKee/Chris Massey also put in strong performances finishing 10th and 15th respectively. However the main drama for the weekend came when Pete and Rach broke down on the way to the event missing the first race whilst Simon came back to rescue the boat (and Pete!) from the side of the A46!
New pairing of Tim Parsons and Mike Hannan ventured to Datchet Water, the venue for the 2014 Scorpion Inland Championships, for the first Datchet Flyer. They put in a respectful performance in the very gusty ans shifty conditions to finish 31st overall.
With the winter storms postponing the Brass Monkey, the first event after Christmas was the Grafham GP. With the format slightly different for this year, the Scorpions were now one of the slower boats in the fast Handicap fleet which meant finding clear air was essential. Pete and Rach managed a second in the first race, enjoying very close racing with Jack Banks/ Penny Jeffcote and Pete Mitchell/ Simon Forbes. With the wind building it was tough for the Scorpions to keep pace with the trapeze boats. Pete and Rachael managed a 7th Overall whilst Pete and Simon were 20th and Jack and Penny 22nd overall.
Next Stop on the winter tour was another new event, the Oxford Blue. With torrential rain and very little wind the Scorpions struggled to get to their start on time after clearing the line allowing the fast fleet to start. Mav and Simon put in an excellent performance in the varying wind conditions to finish second overall. Pete couldn’t quite contain his excitement of this result and didn’t quite make it to the toilet in time on the way in, much to Simon’s disgust! Pete and Rachael finished with another 7th despite wining the second race by a long way but their late start in the first race effected their overall result.
With 332 boats entered, the Biggest Handicap event on the winter circuit is the Bloody Mary. With its trademark course of marks around the outside of the lake, the Scorpions got off to a flying start in the light breeze, making big gains through the slower boats early on. However in the building breeze the course favoured non spinnaker boats as we could not hold the kite on the tight fetches! Pete and Rach held on to finish 21st even thought they had to sail for an extra eight minutes after the finish gun. Mav and Simon finished 43rd.
The re-scheduled Brass Monkey event at Yorkshire Dales started with a very eary drive across the Yorkshire Moors in thick fog. After a short postponement a decent breeze filled in. Pete and Rach enjoyed very close racing with Steve Walker and Jerry Hannibus. During the lunch break the Scorpions attracted a lot of attention from some local RS400 sailors as we were catching up the back of the fast fleet on the water. After a long wait and much confusion Pete and Rach were announced as the winners of the event, only to be told later on that the race committee had used the wrong handicaps and were now third. Steve and Jerry finished 16th.
The Steve Nicholson Memorial Trophy saw a large entry of 6 Scorpions with a few new pairings. The day got off to an eventful start with Tom Pygalls car not starting with Rachael forgetting Mavs rudder! Eventually sailing got under way and it was Jack and Penny that led the Scorps round with some great upwind tactics! With the wind building for the second race lightweights Pete and Rach were flying until a broken boom put an end to their event. Tom Jeffcote and Tom Pygall carried the charge for the Scorpions in the breeze whilst Oli Wells re discovered his helming skills with several capsizes causing Rich Pepperdine to swim after his boots.
With the overall places still all to play for the Tiger Trophy at Rutland Water was the last event in the series, and there was no let up in the wind from the week before! With only one race possible on the Saturday. Andy Mckee and Chris Massy came out on top scoring a 7th place in the brutal conditions. All the Scorpions survived the day which shows what an advantage the raking rig is in gusts of 37 knots where only 46 boats finished out of 166 entries! On the Sunday the wind had moderated slightly to provide some close fleet racing between the Scorps but overall the conditions favoured the trapeze boats. Andy an Chris just missed out on a top 10 in 11th.
Overall in the series Pete and Rach scored 4th overall even though they were not able to better their score in the final two events because of a broken boom and a broken crew! Mav and Simon also finished in the top 10 which is a great result with our tough winter handicap of 1036. This was a great way to kick off the season and we look forward to seeing many boats at the pre season training events coming up at Staunton Harold and Notts County to kick the season off in style. Remember these training events are free to all Scorpion Class Association members.