Catapult TT at Stone Week, Blackwater Estuary
August 1st-3rd

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Catapult was back on the Blackwater estuary for three days of Stone Week, August 1st-3rd. Westerlies, varying light to very fresh, and the tides in each direction, gave different challenges for each of six TT races culminating in two medium-distance events, one looping around Radio Caroline moored in the estuary, and the other circumnavigating Osea Island 

Race one in a light westerly taught the visiting Catapults about the tide,  pouring up the channel against the breeze, giving a steep short chop, and the chance of being swept onto a mark. The Club set an extended "W" course. The start was tightly contested amongst the moored boats with the local fast dinghies . Paul Ellis led at the top mark, and onto the downwind dog-leg, and extended his lead on the beat back with the tide. George Evans and Syd Gage came up fast on the next long run bringing up the breeze,  but were unable to quite catch Paul. Alastair Forrest, already with a 360' tangling at the start, found he wrote out a wrong version of a perfectly simple course, staying racing the others for the practice, and John Coster used the race for more familiarisation.

For Race two,  the tide had turned, sweeping out to the sea, running with the breeze and flattening the water, and the course was simplified to an elongated rectangle with long beats and runs. The local boats started on port close to shore, and tacked tightly along the beach out of the tide. Paul and Alastair mixed it with them, watching for the multiple crossings with the fast dinghies, and claims for water or right of way.

George and Syd went out to the right, chasing fresher breeze, only to be disastrously held back by the tide tacking in the fairway. The technique rounding the top mark was to get well above the lay line close inshore, and then go fast out to the mark avoiding any tacking in the tideway, and then on the next tight lead across the tide, watching the tidal leeway and the risk of being swept downwind or onto the mark.

(Above: the tide on the up-wind mark!)

Paul protected his close lead over Alastair from start to the finish, and George came in ahead of Syd as both plugged away finishing after the first-lap delays.

On Tuesday morning, the breeze had swung to the WSW, less than forecast, but still a good light sailing breeze. For Race 3 the heavily port-skewed start was again contested with the pack of fast dinghies, and the tactics seemed to  stay out in the tide with the penalty of having to drive through the chop with the wind against the tide. Alastair led the Catapults away but was caught by George and then Paul, the boats staying close down the long long run against the tide.

Paul  tangled with the RS400s at the mark, being swept onto it for a 360'. On the long beat back, George eked out a better lead that was then pulled back on the second long downwind leg by Paul and Alastair neck-and-neck. Paul luffed Alastair hard on the short fast reach, and George seized the chance to flash past below them.  For the final contested beat to the line, George's tactic of going to the left into the bay (risking the loss of the tidal help) gave a goo gain with a lift along  the shore for the win, ahead of Paul.

By Race 4, the tide had turned, and again the tactics were to keep close to the left-hand shore. From good starts, Paul closely followed by Alastair built up a good lead. In the lighter winds, the short reaches at each end of the course needed a careful watch of the tidal effect, to avoid a looping course and a scramble to round the next mark. On the second lap Paul stretched away from Alastair, to take the win, and George came steadily up to threaten when  Alastair over-cooked  the spare space above the lay line before going out to the mark, but was held back at the mark by the tide, to give Alastair a comfortable gap for the run down and beat to the finish. Syd again had a torrid time in the tide at the top mark.

 Wednesday morning brought much more challenging but exciting conditions for the Stone Week Fun Races (raced as TTs by Catapult) with a fresh westerly for the morning race to Radio Caroline, moored down the estuary. This clearly didn't meet the definition of fun for most, as Catapults made up most of the fleet and dominated the racing. Alastair was well away from the mid -line for the initial beat upstream, gaining from being out in the tideway, at the cost of the boat rising and slamming in the steep chop. He over-stood so Paul rounded just ahead, and the four Catapults came closer and closer together down the long run to past the club and down to Radio Caroline.

Syd came steadily through downwind  to round just behind Paul  with George 30 yards back, just ahead of Alastair.  (photo above, from George's camera) Rounding Caroline revealed that the wind had picked up, with an arduous slamming beat back. Alastair correctly picked that going back out into the tideway gave an uncomfortable gain,  to be ahead of George and Syd when the fleet crossed again, holding this to the finish behind Paul.

For the afternoon Round Osea race, the tide was still making, and the fresh breeze promised of a fast race in the sunshine. with the sun out.
Paul Ellis gained the best windward slot in the port-skewed start, and again staying out in the tide was right, keeping boat speed while  plunging and slamming. Below him,  Alastair's short lead over George was gradually extended as the boats worked
to windward.

Nearing Osea, Paul correctly concluded that the steep waves in the middle longer showed tide assistance as it reached its peak, and went for the smoother water close to shore, lifting along by the beach to have a useful lead by the time they turned to the short reach above Osea. The long run back had some tension as lulls and headers around the island gave bursts of speed but the distances between each boat stayed settled. The three Catapults were comfortably the first boats home behind the F18, and scored on handicap.

Paul Ellis (as a Blackwater local!) steadily recorded first positions in the five-boat fleet, to comfortably win overall and on handicap, with George Evans and Alastair Forrest battling closely behind, Alastair just taking the second place. Paul beat the home fleets comfortably for the combined distance events (and Catapults were the only boats completing both races, a good demonstration of speed and managability.)

Alastair Forrest 


Rank HelmName R1
R4 R5 R6 Total Nett
1st Paul Ellis 1 1   (2)   1    1 1 8   5
2nd Alastair Forrest (6DNF) 2   3 2 2 2 17   11
3rd George Evans 2 3   1 3 3 3 15  12 
4th Syd Gage 3 4   4 4 4 (DNC) 26   19
5th John Coster DNF DNC  DNC  DNC  DNC (DNC) 36 24


Rank HelmName H'cap R1
R4 R5 R6 Total Nett
1st Paul Ellis 881 (1) 1 1 1 2 1 10    5
2nd Alastair Forrest 881 (6DNF) 2   2   2    2 2 16  10
3rd George Evans 865 (3) 3   3 3 3 3 18  15
4th Syd Gage 865 2 (5)   4 3 3 5 26  18
5th John Coster 965 DNF DNC  DNC  DNC  DNC (DNC) 46 38

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