Race report - Datchet Flyer, 9-10 December
Published 00:00 on 12 Nov 2023
Luke South reports:
Charlie persuaded me to make the arduous journey up north to Datchet for the Flyer to pick up his RS300, but with the horrific forecast, I wasn't keen!
Saturday: The format was 3 handicap races on Saturday and a pursuit race on Sunday, but the weather had other ideas!
Race one was the lightest of the weekend's races, at 15-20knts. We started fairly close: I was higher than Charlie and thankfully he was caught up in the fleet traffic, allowing me to have a slight lead as we met at the first mark where I stretched out. Needless to say, I went swimming on the second reach, letting Charlie rush off to the position of 1st RS300 by some margin!
Race two was where life begun to unravel for the RS300 fleet, and to be fair, for most other fleets too! We started in a manageable 20knts but by the end of reach 1, it was a steady 30knts gusting 38knts+. Charlie made the windward mark a good 10 boat lengths ahead of me, but on the bear away on to the second reach, with the breeze FULL ON at 38knts+, his RS300 decided that that was it for the day, forcing a return to shore. Once past him, I then spent the next ½ hour or so in between capsizes trying to get the bow down and in the process unearthed new techniques for ballistic wind sailing on a run, namely capsize, stand on board and get blown downwind! Not elegant but practical as the breeze was steadying out at 35knts! As it was an average lap race, I just needed to do the beat to get a finish. Once I'd drifted past the bottom mark, I righted the boat and pushed upwind: most remarkably, of those that did finish, I wasn't last!
Wisely race 3 was moved to Sunday morning, giving Team RS300 + pit crew almost enough time to get boats fixed and back on the water.
I made the race 3 start just in time, whilst Charlie was busy re-tying ropes just behind the line when the gun went! Seeing junior struggle, I did the fatherly thing and went for a swim just after the start. A quick recovery meant that again we met at the windward mark. It wasn't much of a tactical battle; I pulled away down wind and Charlie steamrolled upwind reeling me in, and so it continued, with me finishing just ahead of Charlie.
Race 4 was a pursuit race, which seemed to really fox the RS300 fleet. Luckily one of us had actually read and understood the SIs and spent the time between races trying to explain it!
We had a start to ourselves with a small mix of fast and slow racers going off before to follow. Basically it was two pursuit races run simultaneously with double points: I know, I'm still confused! The four RS300 cruised off at the pin end on starboard with Charlie and I together and the others higher and behind. What they hadn't realised was that the 1st mark was over their shoulder and we needed to tack! I went 1st followed by Charlie both ducking Tom and Neil who eventually woke up and followed suit. The next two reaches were tame in the lighter breeze allowing me to pull out a healthy lead on a lucky gust whilst Charlie, Neil and Tom exchanged places. With a very one-sided course and a lap being around 15-20 minutes long, it was confusion on who was where on the track, and the breeze was powering up. By lap three I got a nasty surprise at the end of the beat with junior politely saying "hello" as I rounded to go down the reach. Again, it was yo-yo time between the two of us as the breeze built and built. Charlie showed very impressive nerves of steel and skill on the run in the big breeze, pushing 25knts, throwing the bow down hard to get sailing by the lee with his kicker off and going incredibly fast whilst I took the safe option of two reaches. After 76 of the 95 minutes that we were racing, age finally gave way to youth and Charlie pulled past, calling the lay line correctly. The clock was counting down now and, on the 88th minute, the voodoo worked and Charlie rolled it in as I cruised past to take the RS300 line honours! 3:1 to me!
All in all an adrenaline-filled weekend, sailing the RS300's at the edge and beyond! It was fantastic to be racing against Charlie for the first time in the same class, though I'm not sure the results will often go in my favour!