Catapult Nationals at Bala SC
July 13th-14th

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Bala Sailing Club again hospitably hosted Catapult for the Bala Gala, combining the series of fun races (on Friday) with the 2019 Nationals (held over from the blown-off Bridlington contest.)

The looming high-pressure over the UK gave light NE breezes through the weekend, able to provide good racing (but vanishing for a half-hour in the final race!)

On Saturday,  the Race Officers looked at the weekend forecast, with a reasonably-steady NE breeze Force 1 - 2 on  Saturday, due to die to nothing from the north on Sunday, and it was quickly agreed to run an additional Saturday race with fingers crossed for the final two the next day. The wind from the hills under low cloud was chilly for the nine Nationals contestants, warmed up by close competition.

 The ROs set a trapezoid course, with a very short beat to the upwind mark, almost able to be laid in a single port board from the start, so the start tactics were clear, and in each race the boats crowded on port at the outer distance mark and arrived as a pack to turn to starboard a couple of hundred yards away at the up-wind mark.

In Race 1 the tight-packed start was led by John Terry, who held this on the following reach and turned onto the long dead run with a useful lead, chased by Paul Ellis, Gareth Ede, Alastair Forrest and George Evans. Just behind, Mike Gough crashed into Syd Gage, coming up fast as the boats rounded and slowed,  with a slow 360' in the light breeze. Paul and John had their own battle, moving out to well ahead over lap one.

 After the reach to the downwind mark, Gareth found himself languishing whilst the others disappeared up the beat. Paul took the lead on lap 2, after John realised that he had rounded the wrong up-wind mark twice, so that withdrawal was inevitable, letting Paul away to a runaway win. Behind, Gareth had come up to catch George, and at the end, staying close inshore beating up they both hit useful breeze and took Alastair who was out in the lake searching for breeze.

 Race Race 2 followed back-to-back, with John and Mike Gough off to a good start, but Mike, rounding tight after the short beat, hit the mark and stuck, hopelessly stalled in the light breeze. Determined to make up for his mistake in Race 1, John took the lead and extended it to the finish. Gareth managed to come through and hang onto second place. Behind, George Paul and Alastair came down the long run tightly together until Paul stretched away, still well behind John and Gareth. Alastair gained again downwind on George. The Race Officer, mindful of lunch and the light breeze, shortened to three laps, to Gareth's relief, as George and  Alastair were closing in. George came steadily up to threaten Alastair just missing catching him.

Race 3 in the afternoon had the same start position,with a port tack pack at the outer distance mark, so Alastair decided to disrupt them all, easing up on starboard to the outer mark. He succeeded in his disruption, with the pack frantically turning to go below him, but then fell below the mark, having to tack around after them.

John Terry had a short lead and aggressively luffed Gareth who was unable to react quickly enough to avoid touching hulls, waiting for the fleet to spread out a bit before doing a 360' by the windward mark, and  the fleet sailed away on the run,  leaving him briefly in seventh place.

When Alastair caught up with John down-wind, these two stretched a gap over the next lap, but
by the end of lap 2 the wind picked up and Gareth's luck changed. Tacking on some sizable shifts and flying a hull, Gareth steamed up the beat, leaping from 6th to 1st, and George had similar fortune, riding good breeze to climb to 2nd.

With breeze due to fade on Sunday, a further Saturday race made sense, and Race 4 followed back-to-back, with the breeze swinging back and forth. Paul realised that the transit defining the start line was now yards ahead of the outer distance mark, and gambled on a high-speed start ahead of the pack, to round first and then extend his lead steadily.

 From behind, Gareth moved up quickly on the second beat to get past John into second, and was slowly gaining on Paul whilst the gap back to John in third widened. From a delayed start, Chris Upton was well up downwind, and up the first beat.  George came through to successively take Syd Gage and then Mike and Chris, to threaten Alastair who held on to a comfortable-enough fourth.

On Sunday the lake was glassy at 9am,with little prospect of boats beating up to the start in time from the down-lake campsite; however breeze came in from the ENE, and the camping fleet appeared for the fifth race to start almost on time

n Race 5 in the port starting pack at the distance mark, Syd got an excellent start and, in doing so, closed the door on Gareth, who was forced to loop around and start at the back of the fleet. John Terry got away fast and turned ahead of the chasing group to then get a useful lead and clear air, stretching out to a lead held to the finish.

 A group behind began the long downwind lying close together, and by the bottom mark Alastair Paul and Mike reached the mark line-abreast, with some hectic last-minute gybes to the mark. Alastair eked out a lead in the tight reach across and then up the beat, with the tactical split between staying inshore to be sure of tightly laying the gate/finish mark, or going out into the lake for searching for breeze with the risk of a wind shift.

 There was a battle for second between Mike, Alastair, George and Paul. Then Gareth pulled off another comeback from 6th to 2nd on the beat. As he inched towards the finish, Alastair was worryingly closing-in again, but Gareth managed to hang on for second, and Paul came up to take the 3rd from Alastair.

By Race 6 the breeze had swung further NE, and the fleet had a tight lead to the upwind mark.The last race was crucial to the overall event result, as if John could win he would just pip Gareth to the event win. It looked to be going John's way from the start, as with the wind dropping, Gareth was late to the start line at the back of the fleet, whilst John led. Alastair magnaminimously gave starting space below the mark to Mike. John got good boat speed for a short lead at the first mark, held around the rest of the slow lap. Alastair gained a lead from the chasing pack downwind, and extended this upwind to the end of the lap keeping in touch with John. On the beat to the gate on lap 1, Gareth again got lucky with his choice of tacks and climbed the fleet to third place, followed closely by Mike.

The RO concluded another lap was possible in the light breeze, but as John and Alastair came slowly along the first reach of lap 2, the breeze fell away completely, and the chasing boats were immobile for 15-20 minutes trying to reach the upwind mark. John drifted downwind, with Alastair, Mike, and Gareth inching after him catching what little zephyrs of wind there were to get within striking distance, way ahead of the fleet behind. Finally the wind swung 180' to SW and filled in down the lake, reaching John first and giving him a lifeline.  

This however was shortlived and in the final leg to the finish, now a dead run, the four boats slowly pulled up to be line abreast. Mike caught a tiny gust and drove through the line of the other three, and started to pull away, but it didn't last long enough to see him to the line, and the four bunched up again. Finally it was Gareth who reacted quickly enough to sheet in and catch another small puff of heading wind to propel  him ahead, to claim the win and the event. Mike and then Alastair rode over John, to push him to fourth place, after he had led from the start to just yards from the finish.

The Nationals were fought to the last race. From a fleet of nine, six different helms had a first or second place, and the three leaders had two firsts each. Gareth avoided any bad result, to take the 2019 title by three points from John Terry.

The Nationals count for the TT, and so Gareth keeps a very firm control of the TT Leaderboard.

On Handicap, the winner was Chris Upton, showing that the older TI rig can be made to go!

Alastair Forrest and Gareth Ede.

                                                                 NATIONALS RESULTS

Rank Helm R1
R4 R5 R6 Total Nett
1st Gareth Ede (2) 2 1 2 2 1 10 8
2nd John Terry (DNF 10) 1 2 3 1 4 21 11
3rd Paul Ellis 1 3 4 1 4 (7) 20 13
4th Alastair Forrest 4 4 (5) 4 3 3 23 18
5th George Evans 3 5 3 5 7 (8) 31 23
6th Mike Gough 5 (7) 6 6 5 2 31 24
7th Syd Gage 6 6 8 (8) 6 5 39 31
8th Chris Upton 7 8 8 7 (10 DNF) 6 45 35
9th Damien Cooney (10 DNF) 9 9 (9 (10 DNc) 10 DNC 547 47


Rank Helm R1
R3 R4 R5 R5 Total Points
1st  Chris Upton 4 4 1 2 (10 DNF) 1 22 12
2nd Paul Ellis 1 3 6 1 2 (8) 21 13
3rd Alastair Forrest 2 5 5 (7) 1 4 24 17
4th  Syd Gage 6 2 (7) 6 4 3 28 21
5th Mike Gough 5 (8) 4 5 5 2 29 21
6th  Damien Cooney (10 DNF) 1 1 3 10 DNC 10 DNC 36 26
7th  George Evans 3 6 3 (9) 7 7 35 26
8th John Terry (10 DNF) 7 8 8 3 6 42 32
9th  Gareth Ede 7 (9) 9 4 6 6 41 32

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