Catapult TT at Grafham Cat Open
October 19th-20th

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Catapult again finished the season with a final TT at Grafham Cat Open, making up most of the Slow Handicap (!) fleet with seven boats (rising to eight on Sunday.)

The club set their their usual port-rounding trapezoid course, suiting Catapult, with the Sprint 15s  starting 4 minutes ahead, for three back to back races each day..

On Saturday the forecast SW breeze stayed moderate, with periods allowing trapezing for Gareth Ede and John Terry. Most helms went out left from the start and coming through the finish line each lap, turning onto port as the Handicap fleet met the Sprints running down.

In Race 1, from a tightly-contested starboard end start, John Terry was away well chased by Gareth Ede, but John's great upwind speed took him out to the front throughout the race. George Evans came up through the fleet into third, and as the race went on began to threaten Gareth, who held on for the second place. Behind, Alastair Forrest and Stuart Ede contested the three laps closely until Stuart gained upwind on lap four to take the fourth place.

Race 2 start was close-fought, and Alastair fiercely defended the Committee boat end, pushing Mike Gough up and up, until Mike hit him, then attempted a quick 360', hitting the Committee boat  and then the following Dart! (Photo evidence below) John quickly tacked away into clean air after the start which paid dividends, with a comfortable lead at the windward mark. Alastair pursued the leaders, but again George Evans came up from the start to hold a comfortable third.

(Below: Action-packed start to Race 2, as Mike hits the Committee boat, and the Dart hits him, but Gareth (grey hulls) to leeward is unconcerned, building speed.) (Photos Syd Gage's on-board camera.)

Stuart and Mike were at the head of a pack on the left side of the beat. Stuart tacked but got caught on starboard by Mike, ending up stuck in irons after luffing up. Gareth got into second but couldn't match John's speed upwind so was unable to close the gap on John on laps 2 and 3, all the while very aware of George slowly catching up. Gareth realised, in time for the final lap, that his sail was incorrectly set, and the readjustment was noticeable on the final lap as he started to close on John on the beat. Some good downwind gusts saw Gareth catch John at the leeward mark but John managed to keep first place on the short beat to the finish.

(Below: downwind mark Race 2, as Alastair tries to stay ahead of George in the short beat to go through the gate, chased by Mike and Syd, camera.)

By Race 3, the combination of a slightly brisker breeze and a correctly-set sail saw Gareth regain his upwind speed, and he took the lead up the first beat, held to the finish. Unchallenged for second place, John was never far behind. George's consistency saw him score his third 3rd. Further back, Stuart held on to a comfortable fourth round three laps until the final run when his mainsheet strop broke, and his running repair let Mike and Syd Gage past.

On Sunday Chris Phillips joined the Catapult fleet to lift it to eight.

Winter arrived, with the breeze shifted to the NNW, staying moderate but fluctuating and swinging. It quickly became apparent that there were some significant wind holes waiting to catch out helms.

The same port-rounding trapezoid was narrower, so the Sprint and Catapult fleets met each other beating and running each time, with cooperative but careful avoidance.

On the longer run down, the shifting breeze gave tactical decisions on gybing and covering (or gybing over to be on starboard, catching the boats running on port, effectively used by Stuart on Alastair as they closed to the mark.)

(Right: close fleet downwind manoevres in Race 4, with (left-right) Stuart, George and Mike.

In the next Sprint start ahead of Catapult, one boat successfully crossed the whole fleet from a port end start, and  noting this, for the Race 4 start John Terry tried the same tactic, only to lose disastrously with no way through the pack on starboard, tacking below them. Gareth took the opportunity to head out right without John dogging his footsteps, and gained a good lead, in stronger breeze, with Stuart and Mike following him. (Photo below: Mike tacks ahead of Syd to go out to the right after the start.)

 On lap 2 upwind, Gareth lost his lead to John who had recovered and come through the fleet, but on lap 3, Gareth stole back the lead as he found the better wind, holding the lead to the finish. Again George came through gradually upwind to hold a comfortable third, with Stuart gaining well from going out right and picking a lift along the shore to be comfortably in fourth. Chris Phillips' speed upwind lifted him away on the third lap into fifth. Behind Alastair, Syd and Mike were close, with Mike suffering in the lighter breeze, and the three had a compensatory bonus when the Race Officer flagged the end of the race as they came through, while the others headed off on a final fourth lap.

A very tight start for Race 5 had John, Gareth and Mike inches from each other and the Committee boat. All continued on starboard tack until reaching the lay line for the windward mark. As they tacked, they encountered a line of Sprint 15's coming downwind on starboard. Gareth got lucky and sailed straight through an opportune gap, but the others lost ground having to alter course. On lap 2, Gareth's lead was under serious pressure from John, pointing considerably higher. A knot of Sprint 15's at the windward mark bought Gareth some breathing space as John got held up. On lap 3, John was again pointing far higher than Gareth, when on starboard tack, and was closing the gap. However, Gareth seemed to gain the advantage on the final port tack to the mark and clung onto his lead.John took second with George, predictably, in third.

(Below: at the top mark, Race 5, with John chased by Alastair, and with Mike and George coming up - but Gareth has already gone.)

In the upwind battles behind, Alastair,with Mike just below and ahead, came to the windward mark on port, and they both saw and responded to Stuart coming in fast on starboard from the right hand side.  Unfortunately they decided opposite tactics; Alastair bore off to pass below Stuart, while Mike luffed up to tack below Stuart. In the brief space before Stuart arrived they had thumped together, and Stuart in turn crashed into them. The disentangling and 360's left them all still close and battling round the next lap. Finally, Stuart got an overlap on Mike on the final reach, and as they rounded tight together Mike nudged into Stuart, so his 360' let Alastair nip in gratefully for the 5th place.

Stuart and Alastair came in a little early to
the Race 6 start, and had to bear away, starting fast on the gun, pulling out to a quick lead, but looking back they then saw the whole of the rest of the fleet climb fast over them up to windward. John elected to try something different, and tacked right midway up the first beat, but lost out, while Gareth stuck to his tried and tested route up the lefthand side, for a decisive lead held unchallenged to the end, for a fourth win. Behind, the fleet was close, and George battled with John as he pulled back up, and this time could take the second place. Stuart held on to fourth ahead of Alastair, and Chris Phillips could rely on his consistent upwind speed,to come through the fleet to hold sixth.

(Below: tight downwind racing, Race 6, with John leading Mike and Alastair, and Stuart and George weighing up the mark.)

Gareth could count 4 wins, for a 2-point lead over John for the event, firmly cementing an already-solid hold on the 2019 Jon Montgomery Travelling Trophy, and George counted four thirds to add to his second, to be well clear in third.

 On handicap, George's pushing of the leaders through the event gave him a sweeping victory (including a dead-heat second with Gareth in the final race!)

Catapult made up the large part of the Slow (!) Handicap fleet, and Gareth and John captured the second and third places.

The GSC website writeup of the event comments
"The handicap fleet had Gerry Reeve leading the charge against the Catapult fleet and if anybody has tried to beat this lot itís not easy; they are all old boys who know what they are doing and a Catapult makes an A class look like an oil tanker, so down wind they just go like the clappers"

Probably fair comment on balance!

Gareth Ede and Alastair Forrest


Rank Helm R1
R4 R5 R6 Total Nett
1st Gareth Ede (2) 2 1 1 1 1 8 6
2nd John Terry 1 1 2 2 2 (3) 11 8
3rd George Evans (3) 3 3 3 3 2 17 14
4th  Stuart Ede 5 5 (6) 4 4 4 28 22
5th Alastair Forrest 6 4 (7) 6 5 5 33 26
6th Mike Gough 4 6 4 (7) 6 7 34 27
7th Syd Gage 7 7 5 (8) 8 8 43 35
8th Chris Phillips (9) 9 9 5 7 6 45 36


Rank Helm R1
R4 R5 R6 Total Nett
1st George Evans (2) 1 1 1 1 1.5 7.5 5.5
2nd Mike Gough 1 4 2 5 2 (7) 21 14
3rd Syd Gage 3 2 3 4 (5) 4 21 16
4th Stuart Ede 4 5 (7) 2 4 6 28 21
5th Alastair Forrest 5 3 6 (8) 3 5 30 22
6th Gareth Ede 7 7 5 7 (8) 1.5 35.5 27.5
7th John Terry 6 6 4 6 7 (8) 37 29
8th Chris Phillips (9) 9 9 3 6 3 39 29

                                            (Above: close racing at the top mark, Race 6)   

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