Catapult TT Racing at Lake Bala
The Bala Gala July 23rd-25th 2011

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The Boat

        (Below: Catapult fleet in the late evening sunshine, Lake Bala)

  Catapults returned to a favourite setting for the "Bala Gala", where a good fleet was rewarded with three days of warm sunshine, two with enough wind for excellent racing. As usual, the shore-based starts were clearly and firmly managed, helping control a marked starboard bias for the first set of races.

 The anticipated meeting of the "top three" of the few last years confirmed their domination, and they divided up between them every first, second, or third place across the five TT races (bar one third place). Paul Ellis won the event with a tie-break over Alex Montgomery with Gareth Ede just three points behind.

 (Below: TT racing gets underway in Race 1)                (On-the water photos by Bala CC Rescue crew)

 After warming up in the Pairs Race, Race 1 for the TT was set around a figure-of eight in a light NNW breeze. Paul was away fast from the start, with Alastair on his heels and George Evans in contention. However, by the end of Lap 1 Gareth had moved to the front of the chasing pack and was trying to narrow Paulís sizeable lead. He overtook Paul up the next beat by trapezing in the increasing breeze. Meanwhile Alex had worked his way through the fleet after a bad start to also catch Paul. He also very nearly caught Gareth when Gareth sailed into a hole near the leeward mark, but Gareth held on to a narrow advantage to the finish. Alastair Forrest was threatened for fourth place first by John Peperell, and then by Stuart Ede (going low downwind) and Nigel Harrison, but a good second long beat secured fourth

  Meanwhile Alastair had gained downwind (staying lower early where the breeze was clearer, to be able to tighten up for speed in the wind shadow at the leeward mark) and pulled away from George to take fourth, with Tony Costall keeping good upwind speed for fifth.

   In Race 2 a wall of boats crossed the line on the gun (photo right) .

[Alex Montgomery, coming back to racing in a bigger Catapult fleet commented later that this was unheard of three years previously, showing how the fleet had developed.]

Alex was first around the windward mark followed by Paul and Gareth. Alex rounded the leeward mark the logical but wrong way, to let Paul and Gareth through with the rest of the fleet hard on their heels.

Paul held off Garethís challenge up the next beat and increased his lead downwind to take first place with Alex coming third behind Gareth.

 Sunday brought back more sunshine and the NNW breeze, again picking up through the morning so that Race 3 had the boats moving comfortably. Alastair got away at the start, and George pulled up in the beat, but these two could not hold their lead as the "top three" came through again. Paul and Alex duelled all the way round the rest of the course, while Gareth had to fight off George for third place. He eventually drew away, but could not catch Paul and Alex who took first and second places, respectively.

 Meanwhile Dave Jennings, who was breaking in a new main crafted by John Peperell, had been well placed through the first laps, until George took fourth and John P took fifth after a lengthy duel with Alastair (reclaiming the lead upwind after Alastair's downwind gains).

 The tight contest for the starboard end to start Race 4 saw Paul forced over before the gun, but he and Alex (also starting late) then gained a lift and sped past most of the fleet to windward. George Evans had a good first beat to take the lead and Justin emerged high up in the fleet at the second mark in a "kite" course. George held on to his lead, with a great second beat, for two laps until Paul (recovering well from failing to sneak past a mark) and Alex came up to tussle for first place. The wind picked up enough to tempt trapezing in the gusts, but never consistently.This time Gareth could not close on the front three.

  As with each race in the NNW breeze, the shore end of the finish line was favoured, tempting a boat in close competition to aim to shave the spit. Alex, in the lead as he and Paul approached the line, tacked a bit too soon and could not make the line in one tack. Paul went on a bit before tacking so crossed without having to pinch, allowing him to snatch first place by seconds. He admitted to being quite pleased about that!

  (Below: Stuart and Alastair get a good port-end start, Race 5)

The third day, and Race 5, began in a light NW breeze with Stuart and Alastair picking the port-end advantage to get a useful lead. The dying breeze allowed the fleet to close reach down to the second mark, but only Alex had just rounded it when the wind shifted 90˚ and died away, and he ghosted away to a huge half-mile lead while the rest of the fleet collected, almost stationary, trying to beat back up to the mark behind

  The wind then filled, and everyone moved to the next mark up, whereupon it died to nothing again. OOD Don Findlay called the fleet ashore, and then after a half-hour, with the breeze re-filling, made the correct call to re-start.
 This new Race 6 had an enforced downwind start, and George and Alastair picked that a start at the extreme leeward end (further away from the first mark) would let them slice up on a broad reach from below the fleet running down, and they took the lead for the first two marks. They could not hold it and in shifting winds, Alex and Stuart built up a large lead on the next beat. However, Alex got stuck in a hole at the last mark, where a scrum developed as the rest of the fleet caught up. Alex emerged first and held a narrow lead to the finish, while Gareth broke away upwind to snatch second from Paul, and Stuart held off Alastair for fourth

   (Below: Race 6 start: Alastair and George risk a longer journey to the first mark, but have better spoeed reaching up.)



   Race 1  Race 2    Race 3    Race 4   Race 5        Points

1       Paul Ellis                  (507)                     3            1              1               1            3*                  6

2       Alex Montgomery    (1)                       1            3*            2               2             1                   6

3       Gareth Ede               (91)                      2            2              3              4*            2                   9

4       Alastair Forrest      (524)                    4             4              6              7*            5                  19

5       George Evans         (510)                    8             6              4               3             8*                 21

6       John Peperell          (540)                    5             8*            5               5              7                  22

7      Justin Evans            (518)                     9            10*          8                6              6                 29

8      Stuart Ede                (531)                     7            9             11*           10            4                   30

9      Nigel Harrison         (522)                      6            7               9               9              9*               31

10    Tony Costall             (51)                      10           5             10               8            10* DNC       33

11    Dave Jennings         (30)                     13 DNF  13* DNC    7           13 DNF       10                43

12   Steve Fenner           (230)                    13 DNF 13 DNC  13 DNF     13 DNC 1    3* DNC        52

    (Click for the  Unofficial Report )        (below: Fleet start on Saturday: Photo thanks to Bala Rescue Rib.)

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