TT at Stone Week
August 5th-7th

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  Catapult was back to Stone SC for three days of Stone Week, August 5th-7th. Brisk south-westerlies gave good racing, testing four boats; between them, the helms accumulated three false starts, four wrong mark turnings, one gear failure and a pitch-poling capsize.  

Monday racing started at dead low tide, with 20 yards of thick mud to get through to the water. The breeze was Force 34  SW, fluctuating a good deal with some strong puffs. With this breeze direction, the boats could just lay the first mark from the start in one long fast port board. The Stone SC start sequence, of flags only at five-minute intervals, caught out two of the Catapult fleet, so Paul Ellis and Syd Gage started with the Slow Handicap fleet five minutes ahead, only realising the error well into the first lap, as Mike Gough and Alastair Forrest started in the fast handicap fleet behind them.

 Mike showed his good up-wind speed in the fresh conditions, getting drive through the beginning waves, and although Alastair could haul some of this back down-wind, Mike gradually pulled away round a long thin triangle along the estuary for a comfortable win.

Race 2
followed after lunch, with the wind freshening, now against a brisk incoming tide raising a steep chop where the wind and tide were strongest. From a tight start by the four boats, Paul was able to make the top mark without tacking, getting away as  Mike and Alastair behind put extra boards. Syd coming up took Alastair and Mike downwind (photo below) and Alastair caught Mike, but Mike gained steadily upwind again, pulling away to chase Paul.

(Below: Syd (camera) pulls up on Alastair downwind in Race 2, chasing Mike ahead.) (All photos Syd's on-board camera.)

In the next lap, Syd missed a mark, and then found the boat slamming in the steep seas, and decided that the sailing was no longer enjoyable enough, pulling out.

Ahead, Paul shot away from Mike and crossed the finish well ahead,  but when the race was discussed on shore, this turned out to be from twice turning at the Slow Handicap mark 6 rather than continuing to mark 7, so after a hard afternoon's racing in increasing breeze he had to withdraw.

Behind, with the breeze swinging further west, the long downwind leg became a flat run, and  Mike tried tacking downwind, still finding Alastair gaining behind, but able to be confident that he would stretch away again upwind. 

(Right: Mike crosses ahead of Syd in the beat back to the start line, Race 2)
  On Tuesday, the breeze was a fresh SSW, and Race 3 had a tight reach start, with the fleet away fast. Mike took a straight line through the moored boats towards the mark with a burst of speed out to the front of the Catapults, with Paul chasing, riding over Alastair. Behind, Syd disastrously stuck himself so firmly into the low-tide mud just before the gun that he needed to raise every foil and get out of the boat to swing it back.

Alastair and then Syd each took two extra tacks at the upwind mark so Mike and Paul, pushing each other, opened out a long lead, with Mike taking the gun. Alastair and Syd picked up some distance downwind,  but finally Syd reached the final top mark and turned, only to find that he was one mark short, regretfully turning to beat up further.

Race 4 followed soon after lunch, with the Race Officers getting it in quickly with the forecast of strong westerlies later in the afternoon.

Alastair was fast away, with Paul soon riding over him as they started the first beat (Photo below) but Mike was one of a group of boats over the line, returning  correctly (unlike like the others) round the outer distance mark to cross the line again.

 From this late start, Mike came up steadily upwind, although again losing a bit downwind, so that the four Catapults stayed more in touch than in the previous races.

(Right: Syd has greenish water over the hulls chasing down the steep chop, Race 4)
 The second long downwind ride was getting hairy, with the helms hanging as far back as possible, trusting to luck that a final gust would not overwhelm the boat. Mike consolidated his gains, and at the final mark before driving to the line, Paul was handicapped by other boats, and had to put in an extra short tack to make the mark, so Mike came through for the win. Behind, much the same thing happened, as Syd had planned to give himself longer before finally tacking, and could come straight down a long port board to the finish,while Alastair put in a final short tack, to cross 10 seconds behind Syd.

(Below: first turning mark after the Race 4 start; Paul going up the first beat pointing above Alastair.)

The drama of the race was not over, as back on land, Mike discovered a frustrating mistake; in returning from being over the line, he had gone sharply around the outer distance mark---but the tide had pulled it towards the first mark, so he did not cross back over the transit of the starting line! So a long hard race was for nothing.

(Below right: Alastair survives the begining of a dive, Race 4, practicing for Race 6)

On Wednesday Paul went off to family committments and three Catapults contested Race 5, the traditional long- distance race, down the estuary as far as Radio Caroline, in a very elongated rectangle.

 In a mass fleet start on a tight reach. Syd was first hampered on the start by a Laser to leeward pushing up and stopping him bearing off for speed, and then by two moored boats in the way. Then at the windward mark, before the long run down the estuary, two Lasers on port didn't give way, so Syd crash-tacked between them, into irons.

Meanwhile, Mike again pulled away from Alastair to the upwind turn, holding this down the very long downwind leg. Syd was catching Alastair downwind,and pointing higher upwind, but could not finally pass, and Alastair finished 20 secs ahead.

Race 6 followed after lunch, and Syd suffered a boom failure before the start, struggling to repair it far to lee of the line; he saw the others head away, and also the line of dark cloud approaching in the SW, and decided not to chase them from far behind. .

In the building breeze, Mike again drove away from Alastair upwind, and although the lead was pulled back in the long downwind leg, stayed well in control. Meanwhile the mixed club fleet set off on their planned Pursuit race

The steep chop had the boats slamming upwind, and dipping downwind, with the Catapult helms hanging backwards downwind.

On the second lap, the dark cloud front arrived, and sustained gusts (measured onshore at 40mph) wiped out half of the club race which was abandoned. Mike clawed around the downwind mark, but Alastair behind was pitch-poled, and the boat turned turtle, bringing his race to an end.

(Right: Stone TT event winner Mike Gough lends a hand as Syd returns to shore.)


Rank Helm R1
R4 R5 R6 Total Nett
1st Mike Gough 1 1 1 OCS 5 1 1 10 5
2nd Alastair Forrest 2 2 3 3 2 DNF5 17 12
3rd Syd Gage 4 DNF 5 4 2 3 DNF5 23 17
4th Paul Ellis 3 DNF 5 2 1 DNS 5 DNS 5 23 18

(Below: Syd charges at the Slow Handicap fleet as they contemplate the gybe, Race 1)



Rank Helm R1
R4 R5 R6 Total Nett
1st Mike Gough 1 1 1 (5) 1 1 10 5
2nd Alastair Forrest 2 2 3 3 3 (5) 18 13
3rd Syd Gage 4 5 4 1 2 (5) 21 16
4th Paul Ellis  3 5 2 5 5 (5) 25 20

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