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International Canoes at Grafham Water Sept 5/6th 2009

Grafham Water Sailing Club hosted an International Canoe, International Moth and Vortex Open meeting on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of September under the exemplary race management of PRO, Iain Stowe and his team of helpers. Club Commodore, Hilary Talbot welcomed the visitors to ‘the finest inland sailing venue in the UK’. Even the weather was dry and the sun was visible at times, a special treat for the sailors from Wales. On both days those Canoe sailors who had turned up were rewarded by experiencing perfect, end of the seat sailing conditions with force 4 to 5 winds, accompanied by some 25+mph gusts on the Saturday. On Sunday the wind was mostly slightly lighter but still with enough force in the gusts to ensure everyone had at least one swim, if only between the back to back races, and to scatter a few upturned Vortex hulls as obstacles to negotiate round the race track. The ACs, Moths and Vortex sailed a windward leeward course and the ICs a trapezoid, but using the same windward and leeward marks as the ACs. This configuration gave a splendid three quarter mile beat each lap. The ACs and IC started together on the first start, followed by the Moths six minutes later.

Normally any class would be proud to boast that 25% of the entrants at an open were new to the class, but on this occasion it implied a warm welcome to just two IC recruits, Phil North in K162 and Bob Clements, taking time out from sailing his 12ft Skiff, also in another ‘One Design’ IC. However, what the turn out lacked in quantity it made up for in quality with a two times National Champion and a former European Champion to show how it is done in the ICs and, in the ACs, three stalwarts including, a many times open meeting winner, a self-described, ‘very old ex European Champion’ (the Class Chairman) and the best of the up and coming youngsters, Charlie Chandler making a very welcome return to the circuit after falling victim to recent life event traumas necessitating two stays in hospital.

As for the racing, this was tight and competitive in the ACs between Gareth Caldwell and Charlie on day one, before Alistair James joined in the fray on day two. Although the results sheet show Gareth with five bullets and a DNC and Charlie consistently in second place till the final race, Gareth had to work hard for his results. Finding the lines of wind downwind was the trick that resulted in substantial gains.

In the ICs John Ellis had an easier task achieving his five bullets and a DNC, as after race one when he had the odd wobbly tack, letting Colin Newman lead for the first half of the race, he found his form to keep Colin at bay from then on throughout the weekend. Colin had a consistent run of seconds but, by race 5, a rapidly improving Bob Clements and Jim Champ, who both by then had eliminated swimming from their race strategy, kept Colin behind them for the first lap and a half. An all carbon ‘One Design’ IC has the edge on the older boats, especially with a lightweight on board downwind. However, by race 6, after a victorious John had returned ashore to prepare for his return drive to almost the North Pole, Bob all but deprived Colin of his one bullet of the weekend. Setting out to prove the principle that ‘the sooner I get behind the longer I have to catch up,’ after a shocking first beat Colin rounded the top mark some 400 yards behind Bob. However, after four laps and a final decent last beat by Colin, Bob was to discover that by the finish, IC racing can be like going to the post office, there is always an OAP in the line ahead of you! Still it was the best, closely fought IC race of the weekend which was enjoyed by all.

Phil Norton, experiencing IC racing for the first time, though lapped in every race was nevertheless always there at the finish to be awarded a special ‘endeavour prize’ for finishing every race; no mean feet for a novice in the windy conditions prevailing throughout the weekend. One wonders if any of the new, skinny-hulled, new rules, 33.5 Kg lighter weight ICs had turned up if they would have done as well? Conditions were such that the old rules ‘One Design’ ICs might have had the edge in the staying upright department. New sailors rather than boat innovations were to the fore at this weekend, but it was good to see Charlie performing well and pointing high with a distinctive new shape of mainsail from a ‘new to fleet’ sail maker. Off the water, former IC sailor, George Gingell turned up to meet old chums. After dinner at the club, the visiting Moth sailors, which included Robin Wood who finished fourth in his event, joined the Canoe sailors at the local pub on Saturday evening. Those who missed this event missed the best wind of the entire year! Even the Red Arrows and a Lancaster bomber put on a fly past to trump the foiling Moths who we had surrounding us with their magical flying display all weekend!


Asymmetric Canoe

1st Gareth Caldwell, 5 points
2nd Charlie Chandler, 9 points
3rd Alisdair James, 18 points

International Canoes

1st John Ellis, 5points
2nd Colin Newman, 9 points
3rd Bob Clements, 14 points
4th Phil Norton, 20 points
5th Jim Champ, 25 points

Report by Colin Newman