Braving the Cold at Grafham Grand Prix

When you are breaking ice off your cover and bailing freezing water from your boat the day before an event, your mind does start to wonder… thankfully, this years Grand Prix wasn’t to be missed.  
The forecast was for a breezy 20-25 knots with gusts of 30 … but thats only numbers, from the shore there were white horses and fairly constant bands of stiff breeze moving at a terrifying rate across Grafham water. Needless to say there was an air of apprehension in the boat park … Especially when the first few ventured off the shore and sharp intakes of breath could be heard in unison from the spectators. 
This was certainly a day for just practising in heavy wind. So Rachael dropped in as much rake as she dared and I packed waterproof boat snacks. We set off to the committee boat witnessing some spectacular falls and some impressive saves from the other boats. 
Race 1
Though it looked like the starboard tack paid more off the start line, we chose port, for the simple fact that it felt more comfortable over the waves. 
We hoisted the kite on the first run … just as it set, Rachael glanced behind and saw a particularly grumpy gust decimate some of the faster fleet (who’s course was up wind of ours), so we binned the kite off pretty sharpish. With just our toes in the back straps and Rach with two hands on the tiller, it wasn’t just the rudder pins making funny noises down that run. 
We were understandably elated at finishing 15th out of 22, if a little shellshocked 
“It is set to drop…” I said hopefully to Rachael, as my peripheral vision picked up another dinghy pirouetting into a capsize. “…Or… at least it isn’t raining…”
Race 2
As luck would have it, the wind did drop a fraction for the second race. We lined up and were able to hold on to the favoured starboard tack up the first beat and popped the kite for the downhill sections. For the remaining laps we opted for the more comfortable port side beat. 
The wind started to build towards the end of the race, with one big gust briefly hitting on the last reach making strava register us travelling at 35.6km/h. 
We finished the race unscathed in 16th place so again we were pretty happy. 
After a brief team chat we decided to start the third race and then head in as the wind and waves were building in strength again. 
Just before the start we had a little capsize and missed the gun, but whatever – luckily it was a reach back to shore and we made it just before another set of heavy winds came in. 
We finished 19th out of the 25 or so boats that completed the days racing. Not bad for a pair of lightweights. \
Hannah Edge / Rach Rhodes.
Photos © Tim Olin

Malcolm James

South Cerney SC Gloucester GL7 5TH. Scorpions 2001 and 2011.