Team Racing against Sea View Yacht Club 15 November 2009
Ten boats, two teams, a Force 3 southwesterly and autumn sunshine – what more could you wish for on Hammersmith Reach of a Sunday morning?
Well, nothing actually, and how many times can you say that about sailing? This was to be the third match in as many years with our friends from Sea View Yacht Club on the Isle of Wight, and my what a contest it was.
The history between the clubs was a one-race fleet racing victory to Sea View in their one-design three-man keelboat Mermaid class, achieved before the wind died to turn the contest into lunch event in the old clubhouse overlooking the Solent. That was in 2008. Then it was a November visit to LCSC in the same year for the Sea Viewers who in a stiff northwesterly didn’t quite have the local knowledge and tactical nous to do the double.
And so this year, with honours even, we thought we’d try a team-racing event. The idea of team racing isn’t coming first, but to amass enough points for your team to prevail over the other in a series of short, sharp races. So with two two-boat teams, for example, if you come first and fourth, you lose. In three boat teams, second, third and fourth beats first, fifth and sixth, and so on. What this means is that you should get close, tactical racing, and we got it in spades.
Race officer Chris Crosland set a triangular course with a beat to No 4, a reach to No 3, a run to No 1 and then repeat. An Enterprise team of three boats was first to go, crewed by an all-star cast of Alan Beaney and Jess Holly, Martin and Vian Dixon and Robin Johnson and Beverley Beech. Five minutes behind them came the Visions with two boats per team helmed by Simon Hills and Rhys Triffit and crewed by Alex Scott-Tonge and Ed Hipkin respectively.
It was all go in race one in the Visions after the boats made a tentative start following a single recall flag. Simon and Alex found themselves well in the lead as the other boats held back, with Rhys and Ed caught in the dirty air of the Sea View boats, sitting nicely in a winning position. It looked as if Rhys would overtake, so Simon hovered in the lead, but on the second lap, proper team-racing tactics kicked in, and Simon sailed slowly towards the leeward mark with jib flapping forcing the Sea View boats behind and to leeward to slow down and letting Rhys force an overlap. Unfortunately a lull slowed the whole shebang down, and the Sea View boats regained their positions. One-nil to the visitors.
Race two all went smoothly, with Simon and Rhys getting good starts and maintaining a one-two position, and so it should have been on Race Three. With Simon and Rhys again in a one-two position, their lead boat came between them, leaving them at three-four and gaining. Simon took the bait, and went to attack their second boat, and one almighty luffing match ensued across into the tide, which allowed their fourth boat to sneak up out of the tide. Great tactics here as Rhys slowed down to hold them up, the luff was won and, after some close racing and a full and frank discussion about the overlap rules as the boats neared No 1, again LCSC prevailed.
Sea View needed everything they could muster to level the series for the fourth and final race. Again the racing was close, and although Sea View trailed third and fourth again, good tactics from their third boat sailed Simon and Alex off to the Surrey Bank to give their fourth boat time to get to No 4. But again team LCSC thought tactically, Rhys held up their fourth boat, and Simon and Alex regained the initiative from the third boat.
In the Enterprises, the fleet set off at a tight start, and Alan Beaney dropped back to cover the last Sea View Enterprise. The most important position in the fleet is the last dinghy, and one does not want to be last because one has then lost the race. Everyone cleared the first buoy without a problem and the reach across to No 3 was spectacular, huge bow waves and one’s heart in one’s mouth for the gybe around the buoy. On one of the laps one of the Sea View Enterprises capsized and we thought it had been hit by a gust at the wrong moment, but they had dropped their jib stick and the crew leaned over to grab it, forgetting that the helm was on the same side – splash. They were towed back for the next race.
In the third race, on the run back to No 1, Robin Johnson and Beverley Beech were luffed vigorously by Sea View, to which they responded without a problem, but when the Sea View boat tried it a second time they could not respond without t-boning a Vision. Therefore, Sea View had no right to persist with the luff. Much shouting and exchange of opinions about the rules ensued but, in the end, Robin and Beverley decided that discretion was the better part of valour (even though they were in the right!) and did a quick 360.
Very often in team racing one has to depend on the other team mates to do the right thing and correctly determine what their compatriots are trying to do. Robin and Beverley were on starboard and fast approaching Martin Dixon and Vian who were being covered by Sea View. Robin held his course, and breath, Martin dipped behind them and he bore down on the Sea View dinghy – unfortunately, not enough to encourage them to tack, but it gave Martin the opportunity to improve his position – he was gleeful later about ‘brilliant tactics’.
So superb racing, then, and good sport for the spectators who’d amassed outside the club. Yes, this was team racing at its best, with lead boats turning back to help their comrades, lots of tacking, gybing and luffing and good bursts of speed to try and gain the advantage.
When we last sailed against Sea View on their waters they absolutely creamed us, and we expected that they would do the same this time. It was not to be, we had a lot of very tight racing, great fun and the added bonus of winning the delightful mounted photographs Sea View offered as a prize. Everyone enjoyed themselves, the wind behaved itself and we had some really good racing and a lovely meal afterwards, at which we swapped tales of daring-do with a really nice bunch of people with whom we shall do battle next time on their waters.
Thanks to Chris and Adrian in the race box for fitting in eight races over the two flights, to Woody as ever for getting everyone on the water on time, and Gareth ‘Rat’ Llewellyn for standing by on his boat.
by Simon Hills and Beverley Beech
Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, 6 Dec 2009