Catapult TT at Stone Week
July 30th-August 1st

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  Five Catapults again enjoyed the hospitality at Stone Sailing Club, running a TT event across the first three days of Stone Week, racing in a mixed fleet of cats and fast dinghys.

  The Blackwater Estuary sailing waters brought back the challenges of managing the tides effectively, in winds ranging across the three days from strong to non-existent, to give absorbing races.

 The TT was underway for Race 1 in a light SW breeze against the incoming tide. The running start, able to hold against the tide, meant a crowded line before heading off downwind.  Paul Ellis headed away from the fleet out right, planning to gybe downwind but lost out, and Alastair Forrest with good downwind speed gained a lead, held upwind and extended downwind again, looking comfortable.

However in the Lap 2 beat back to the club, Paul and George Evans came up fast, so the front three raced tightly downwind and across the next tight lead, with Paul and George getting away on the beat beat.

George's downwind speed took him past Paul for the win. Behind, Mike Gough picked up speed in the freshening breeze to close but could not catch.

By Race 2, the SW wind was piping up, against the incoming tide, raising a steep chop slamming the boats as soon as out in the channel. Syd Gage concluded that the heavy gusts hitting the boats indicated a cautious withdrawal.

 Alastair in the last 5 minutes tacked across Mike, and in disentagling, the tide planted Mike on a moored boat. He scraped himself off, and appeared to have got a good start, but was still worried by a half-heard recall hooter, taking off downwind chased by Paul.

Paul although finding the conditions one of hardest races he had experienced, gained and held on to the front, chased by Mike relishing the stronger blow.

(Right: Mike Gough dips into the chop, Race 1. Photo Syd Gage' on-board camera.)

  Behind, George had the bows dip to the front beam downwind, but survived, only to be confused to find a Lap 2 mark blanketed by a dismasted  club boat across it so that he missed it. Alastair, lying fourth around the two laps, was content to survive. Back on shore, Mike was confirmed as being over the start line, and Alastair (having caused the mix-up) withdrew, leaving Paul the sole finisher after a hard afternoon's work.

Tuesday had sunshine and a variable SW breeze, building enough to kick up a steep chop against the tide. From the crowded Race 3 start on a tight reach, Paul gained in the next upwind leg but was stuck missing tacks at the top mark amongst the crowd, going from first Catapult to the back. He recovered through a fast reach and downwind, to form a close front group with Alastair and George.

 In turn a big pack of club boats pushed George away from the downwind mark, letting Paul and Alastair get away, until George gained on the next two upwind legs. Behind, Syd and Mike were chasing but hit a lull running downwind against the building tide, to slip back. Paul stretched his lead, and George chasing him on the final beat had a confused port-starboard meeting with a club boat in the Fast fleet, doing a 360' that let Alastair through for the second.

By Race 4  the tide was running strongly, able to be managed in the light-moderate SW breeze (photo above) but Alastair illustrated its risks, as even when it was helping upwind, he got himself plastered against the top mark, needing a 540' turn to do the penalty and regain  his course. From the back of the fleet he saw that the boats ahead had let the tide sweep them well above the next mark, and he was able to adjust, to closely follow Paul around. Paul extended his lead in lap 2, and George took Alastair upwind. Then Paul just took off, building a huge lead in lap 3 through boat speed to the finish, with George steadily gaining from Alastair for a comfortable second.

 Wednesday brought a gentle NW breeze (photo above) and the Catapult fleet elected to join the Club long-distance racing for Race 5a short beat and then a long leg down the estuary to round Radio Caroline moored in the channel.

From a tight on-wind start (photo above) Alastair built a useful lead in the short beat, and after turning onto the broad reach against the tide extended this gradually to a big lead as the fleet ran steadily down against the tide across the shallows.

400 yards from Caroline, he looked unassailable, ready to turn and reach back with the tide, only for the wind to die, just enough to stay 200 yards away, gaining or drifting back over the next half-hour.

  Behind, seeing Alastair motionless ahead, Paul and then Mike bore up to the north shore shallows, where they made slow distance over the ground, to go far beyond Caroline (finding themselves pushed back each time they ventured into the tideway.)

(Right: The long run to Caroline: Syd (camera) and George creep over the glassy sea. Ahead, Paul heads out left, and the dots on the far right are Alastair and the ship to turn around.)

(Below: Alastair stuck before the turn, with Paul and Mike away out left, creeping along in the shallows)

Meanwhile Syd and George used puffs to inch up to Alastair, all three unable to progress further. The minimal breeze swung round the compass until an easterly sea breeze sprang up, and Paul and Mike could set off from their distant shore, reaching across the tide to Caroline for an enormous lead. In the puffy easterly, George and Syd tacked far left, and Alastair going  right caught the best of the building breeze to finally make it, with a similar huge gain over the two others, with Syd narrowly beating George after two hours racing.

(Right: A welcome sight: Syd Gage gets round the top mark!)

Race 6
after lunch proved just as character-building, as the sea breeze died as fleet jockeyed for the upwind start against the tide. Alastair had the right place at the pin end, but could make no progress, and all the helms had to look backwards as the tide pushed the boats backwards amongst the moored launches.

Enough puffs arrived for Alastair Mike and Syd to creep to the first mark, and bear away, while Paul making no progress from the start had gone right over to the shore and vanished.The front group clumped, slowly stemming the tide to the bottom mark, with Syd first around, but even with a wide berth the tide planted him hard across the mark.

Once around, the group went right upwind, until Alastair tacked across seeking more breeze, where he saw Paul and George appearing from nowhere, getting sustained freeing brisk breeze, racing to the lead.

Out on the other side, Mike and Syd were still in soft breeze, now heading them, with a complete reversal of all the places within ten minutes. In a final brisk finish to a long race, Paul completed the upwind leg assisted by the tide, followed by Alastair, and they ran down to the curtailed finish

   Paul Ellis, (at  home Essex waters, could count five wins from six races for an emphatic victory, with Alastair Forrest second. Paul took the Handicap win as well, but only 2 points covered the total Handicap scores of the five helms.


Rank Helm R1
R4 R5 R6 Total Nett
1st Paul Ellis 2 1 1 1 1 1 7 5
2nd Alastair Forrest 3 DNF 2 3 3 2 13 13
3rd George Evans 1 DNF 3 2 5 3 14 14
4th Mike Gough 4 DNF 4 5 2 5 20 20
5th Syd Gage 5 DNS 5 4 4 4 22 22


Rank Helm R1
R4 R5 Total   Nett
1st Paul Ellis 5 1 3 1 2 2 14 9
2nd Alastair Forrest
4 DNF 1 4 3 1 13 13
3rd Syd Gage 1 DNF 4 3 4 3 15 15
4th George Evans 2 DNF 2 2 5 4 15 15
5th Mike Gough        3 DNS 5 5 1 5 19 19

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