Catapult TT at Stone Sailing Club
August 3rd-5th


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  A small fleet came back a second time to  Stone Sailing Club in  Essex  August 3rd-5th, for the Monday to Wednesday of Stone Week, racing on the Blackwater Estuary (alongside the Unicorn Nationals.)

 The big low-pressure system hammering Scotland gave warm SW-SE winds, so the local and visiting fleets were tested by gusting Force 4-5 SWs for two days (photos below) easing and swinging S-SE for the final day. The strength of the wind blew the Unicorns off the water (so Catapult gained credit for racing hard throughout) but was unlucky for new member John Coster, getting an excess of breeze twice in two events.

 George Evans consistently pushed to the front, with four wins in six races, with Alastair Forrest behind.


  The small  fleet at Stone all moved usefully up
the TT Leaderboard and John Terry (absent and with a DNC score to count) had the Yellow Pennant prised off him, as Alastair got to the top, just three points from George.

(Below: Syd at speed as he rides his luck downwind, Day 1)    (Photo John Coster)

  Race 1 got off to a scrambling start with unfamilar signals, with Alastair Forrest leading from the windward end to the top mark, and holding the lead round a course of a shallow triangle and windward/leeward laps. George Evans pulled up to battle for the front, finally holding a small lead.  Paul Ellis and Syd Gage stayed close, until Paul trapezed to the end for a close 1-2-3 finish (Photo below).

 
By Race 2 on the same course, the strengthening tide against an 18 knot breeze gave a steep high chop, so tactics depended on keeping some speed going banging into the steep waves, tacking in any smooth water, and managing a quick smashing gybe in the strong breeze at the top mark. Alastair was eventually first around gaining downwind, but messing up his quick tack after the bottom mark put him plumb in front of Paul on starboard, and a 360' put him to the back, with all the battle upwind to do again. George pulled upwind into the lead, holding round the next lap to the finish. The Club shortened to two laps, as rescue boats were fully stretched by club and Unicorn casualties.

(Below: Paul comes through the start-gate at speed, Day 1)                  (Photo John Coster)


  Tuesday
brought the same SW breeze, with strong gusts, again with a steep chop as the tide turned and built. The Unicorns elected to stay ashore. A good start for Race 3 saw Alastair ahead in the scrambling tacks in steep seas at the top mark, defending the lead from George. Paul trapezed to good effect but was then hammered over by two successive gusts, the mast sticking in the mud below to prevent recovery. George chased Alastair hard, catching on the last long downwind legs, until Alastair caught a big gust, roaring past and then still stretching away after the gust reached George, for a lead at the final turn, just enough to hold the lead at the finish by a few yards as George came up fast.

 Race 4 was almost a replay, on the same course (again round two laps only, with rescue boats fully stretched) with a tight fleet reduced to three by now, beating up in steep seas to the lurching gybe at the top.. George took back Alastair's intial lead, and kept it round the course, with Syd in touch but not threatening. The steep seas gave brief downwind surfing, limited by the bows burying in the next wave, not quite "checking" as an imminent capsize, but needing fast jumping back in the gusts.

(Below: Finish, Race 1, George leads from Alastair and Paul)                      (Photo John Coster)


 On Wednesday the low pressure system shifted north, to give warm S-SE breeze under cloud, Force 3-4  The Unicorn withdrawal the day before benefitted Catapult, as the Club agreed to run two races for both fleets (instead of joining the Club Long-Distance and Pursuit events) The Club set a "W" course anticipating a shift SE, with long starbord-favoured beats, so that the tactical question became how far to avoid the main tide going upwind.

 Race 5 started on a broad lead, Alastair leading off well, only to have the sail head slip off the hook, so running off to a shingle bank downwind for repairs took him far behind. The reduced fleet stayed tight around the dog-leg course for the two laps with Syd chasing Paul for the lead, until Paul pulled away in the windshifts in the final beat, and George came through for second.

Race 6
kept the same dog-legged course but reversed the start, giving a running start, with the tide---so this meant that not being early and swept over the line was crucial. Alastair timed it well with a good lead, and again George pulled up for a close battle. The wind swung SE to give two long beats on the next legs, and Alastair kept George in his wind shadow through the beats back.

 Downwind again George sportingly hailed Alastair's rounding the wrong mark but gained a lead at the mark, both staying out in the fairway for the beat back. Behind, Paul and Syd chose to tack to come along the shore, risking less breeze to avoid some of the tide, with a gradual gain. Syd’s showed great boat speed on the final beat lifting him away from Paul to threaten Alastair, closing on the final run, but with the finish coming up, defensive luffing to the different ends of the long finish line allowed Alastair to defend the second place.

(Below: George chased through the moored boats downwind by Paul, Day1 )                (Photo John Coster)


George's consistently pushing to the front let him count four wins after with Alastair behind. All the small  fleet moved usefully up the TT Leaderboard and John Terry (absent and with a DNC score to count) had the Yellow Pennant prised off him, as Alastair got to the top, just one point from George.

  

                                                              RESULTS
 

                                                           Race 1          2             3           4            5              6          Total         Nett

          
1)   George Evans                  1              1            (2)          1            2             1             8                 6

              2)   Alastair Forrest              2               2             1            2           (5)           2           14               
9
 
              3)   Syd Gage                         (4)            4             3            3            3             3            20             
16

              4)  
Paul Ellis                           3              3         DNF6     (DNC 8)     1            4            25              17 

          
 5) John Coster                   DNF 6      DNC 8    DNC 8    (DNC 8)     4        DNF 6        40              32      

  
 
(Below: George and Syd in technical discussion  beside the wide expanse of the Blackwater at high tide.)



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