The International Canoe class kicked off their 2011 open circuit with a visit to the picturesque Llandegfedd Reservoir in South Wales.
With the 2011 Worlds in Germany rapidly approaching, the southern area fleet were competing for National rankings and together with new boat designs and a forecast of strong easterly winds the weekend’s competition promised to be entertaining.
Saturday morning and the early visitors were met with the forecast 20+knots. A number of new faces to the class were hesitant to rig their boats with the increasing challenging conditions. More experienced crews set their rigs, choices of asymmetric kite were the massive 24m², the 17m² or the conservative “no-kite” tactic.
Race 1 and with a starting gate positioned not far from the beach the fleet produced a Le Mans style start as the boats were launched with the minimum of time allowed to get to the start line. The conditions quickly claimed its first casualties with Steve Clarke struggling to control his newly designed sliding seat system in strong gusts while Jim Champ sporting his new innovative “Fat-A**” stern design retired before reaching the windward mark with numerous capsizes.
Keeping the challenging boats upright was the order of the day, with turning the corners both upwind and downwind costing capsizes for each competitor, the resulting positions of the fleet changed frequently on each leg.
The next casualty was Dave Timson being unceremoniously catapulted through his main sail on his final lap, limping home to finish with a self venting sail behind a very sore Robin Wood who had a received a serious cut to his upper leg region requiring an overnight stay at the local hospital. Rob Bell was next to retire having tried to tame his “Timewarp” with excessive cunningham a loud snap indicated the limiting performance of his main halyard, his sail suddenly becoming very full as it steadily lowered like a flag to half-mast.
A depleted fleet completed the remaining races on day 1 with Chris Hampe commanding the IC fleet showing good boat handling skills in his recently acquired “new rules” Monkey while Maurice Clarke led the AC fleet with a very conservative tactical steady sail against the hard charging local Steve Bowen.
The Sunday forecast was for much of the same and after a typical canoe fleet “fluid” social evening the helms were hardly rushing to get afloat.
After a discussion with the race officer the fleet decided that the conditions if anything would worsen later in the day so any postponement was kept brief and once all the fleet were afloat the race officer and his team promptly commenced the starting sequence.
Race 4 saw Steve Bowen and Chris Hampe break away from the fleet establishing a significant lead as they rounded the windward mark leaving the chasing pack to take up the remaining positions.
With the start of the next race, large bands of wind again filled the length of the reservoir rising to a steady 20knts. The fleet got away cleanly, Dave Timson and Jim Champ went right to the east bank with the rest of the fleet continuing on starboard to the west bank. The shift came and Jim led the fleet at the windward mark.
Dave Timson gybed to port before hoisting his kite to gain a significant advantage over Steve Bowen and Rob Bell who continued on starboard.
In the new rules IC’s Jim Champ was quickly reeled in by Chris Hampe whose boat design enabled him to sail deeper and with an equivalent boat speed reached the leeward mark marginally ahead securing the meetings IC event title.
In the AC fleet Steve Bowen took his second win of the day again from Dave Timson and going into the final race Steve had the lead spot firmly in his sights. The maths going into race 6 indicated that he needed to only finish in front of Maurice Clarke who until this point had struggled to replicate his Day 1 earlier form.
The start of Race 6 saw Steve Bowen untimely capsized close to the bank and he could only watch as the rest of the fleet sped off up the beat from the start gate.
There was confusion at the windward mark as the leading boat, Rob Bell’s, seat and carriage failed resulting in a capsize close to the mark.
With Steve Bowen’s earlier poor start Maurice Clarke had a chance to keep his tail clean of Bowen and continued with his conservative tactical decision and sailed without hoisting his kite. Dave Timson swiftly hoisted his kite and put some distance between himself and Clarke leading through the gate for the second lap.
Steve Bowen chased hard downwind seeing the absent kited Clarke running deep towards the leeward mark. The opportunity was there for the taking but Clarkes conservative approach paid dividends when Bowen again failed to complete his gybe with the kite in the challenging gusty conditions. Dave Timson took the final race win from Maurice Clarke who’s second place secured the AC event title spot from Steve Bowen on count back of the number of race wins.
The OD, his race team and rescue crew were all thanked for managing to complete the full 6 race programme in the challenging windy conditions.
The next stop for the travelling International Canoe circus is Ullswater YC in two weeks time when the Northern area fleet get their chance to make their mark prior to the Nationals at Weymouth in June and the 2011 Worlds at Travermunde, Germany in July.
1st Chris Hampe, GBR 308 (Saltash SC)
2nd Jim Champ, GBR 257 (Island Barn SC)
1st Maurice Clarke, GBR 282 (Corus SC)
2nd Steve Bowen, GBR 290 (Llandegefdd SC)
3rd Dave Timson, GBR 303 (Llandegfedd SC)
4th Rob Bell, GBR 298 (Emberton Park SC)