Catapult TT at Grafham Cat Open
October 25th-26th

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   Catapult came to Grafham with the potential of a photo-finish for the 2014 TT series, with Gareth, John and Paul within a point or two of each other, once discards were factored in.

The Open event was back to being big (photo at bottom of page) with the fast cats allowed back (after local vandalism in 2010-2011) giving the event a great atmosphere.  Catapult formed most of a medium handicap fleet, with two Dart 18s the main rivals.  Deep low pressure over Scotland gave consistent southwest winds, moderate to fresh on Saturday under bursts of sunshine, and increasingly strong and gusty on Sunday, with sudden shifts during the gusts.

 The club set their usual port-rounding trapezoid course with a long beat and run, and two fast reaches, sharing the course with the big Sprint 15 fleet, but using a separate downwind mark to separate the fleets in the short beat back through the start line. Three back-to-back races were set for each day.

Race one, only Gareth Ede and George Evans went for the correct first windward mark, gaining a big lead, with Gareth pushing to the front over the three laps, and George keeping in touch, until Gareth stretched out for the win. Behind, the recovering fleet separated over the three laps until John Terry established a good third, ahead of Syd Gage. Paul Ellis' race came to an  end when a Dart 18 on port refused to give right of way, and Paul's  last-minute evasive action tipped him in. 

(Right: Race One: event winner Gareth turns onto the leeward reach, part of the course which became very lively as the weekend developed!)

By Race  two the wind was building, with the lighter helms consistently trapezing to gain upwind. From a tight starboard end start, Alastair Forrest from a good position made a long first tack forcing Gareth (to leeward and unable to tack and cross) to go with him, while  the others successively tacked off onto port. Gareth ended up grateful  when this proved the better tactic, and he was first of the fleet to round the windward mark,  and  held lead for the rest of the three-lap race. John Terry, consistently trapezing fast, came up through the fleet to take and hold second, while George Evans, with the opposite tactic of not trapezing and pushing up in the gusts, gained upwind to take third.

 By Race three  wind was now blowing hard. At the start of John Terry ducked below Gareth in the last 20 seconds and started severely luffing, making contact when a Dart 18 inches to windward of Gareth delayed his response, with Gareth's penalty turn taking him to the back at the windward mark.

  In close fleet racing, Gareth climbed back to what seemed second place.
John flying a hull upwind had stretched out ahead, surviving several nose dives on the challenging reaches, only to be knocked over by a gust on the final beat to the line, ending his race with the boat upside down and mast stuck in the mud. Gareth took the win, and behind, George came through from a start near the back again gaining up-wind  to take second. Alastair Syd and Stuart exchanged places back and forth until Stuart took the third.

(Right: George Evans pushes up to windward in the mounting gusts, to build a second place for the TT event)

 (Below: Race Two; George leads a tight fleet racing in the relative calm of the run downwind, but John is out ahead.)

On Sunday morning the wind held to the southwest, now under darker cloud, with strong gusts fanning across the water. With three back-to-back races scheduled around the same trapezoid course (and the A class cats off home after seeing the forecast) the fleet headed out with some apprehension, but Catapult sails well and can handle winds into the force 6 area, and they found the conditions initially manageable.

   In race 4 Stuart saw the port end advantage, but was just caught by John from a good start in the starboard-starting fleet, and then Alastair, and John stretched out for a good win. Gareth moved up through the fleet from a late start into second, and behind third place was fought over in a close fleet, with George coming through to take the place ahead of Stuart.

   By now, the gusts were reaching Force six, and from a good Race 5 start John took the lead again, chased by Gareth and with George pulling up through the fleet in the windward legs. Behind him, Stuart Syd and Alastair exchanged places around the laps.
  On lap three, the mounting gusts led to a prolonged force 7 burst, hitting the fleet going upwind (and probably not survivable on the reach.) Gareth was forced to sit it out with the boat shaken by the wind. By the time the burst passed, John had lost his mainsheet shackle, forcing withdrawal, and George came through to take the lead. Alastair had chosen the moment just before the long gust to try trapezing, and roared along scarcely in control to move out from rest of the pack. Paul survived the long burst to be then flattened by a further gust.

  Syd made the tactical mistake of
delaying gybing onto port until fully down-wind at mark 3, and was caught by the gust, the sail eventually smashing across and breaking the tiller extension.

(Above: John Terry characteristically powering upwind.)

   His  last reach to mark 4 was a nightmare, with both bows fully submerged at one point and white water over his head clinging to a newly-sculptured 2ft long tiller extension, with a 1ft length of string holding the other piece  trailing behind in the water and getting caught up on everything it could find.

  The Committee Boat concluded that racing was no longer safe, calling the fleet in and cancelling race six.

   Gareth, counting three wins after discards, took the TT event comfortably, ahead of George consistently scoring high.

  The long gust in the final TT race of 2014 and the Committee decision to call the fleet home effectively decided the Jon Montgomery TT Trophy for the year. A
tight three-way split had come to the event, between John, Paul and Gareth, but the reduction in the number of total races meant that Gareth could not "clear" a DNS from his results--and John's string of good results lifted him to be the 2014 winner, four points clear of Paul in second.

  In the Medium Handicap fleet, the winds on the second day favoured the double handed Dart18, which took first, with Catapults taking 2,3 and 4th places.

  (Below: Syd goes smoothly through the upwind gate, Race 1) 


Place                              Race 1      Race 2      Race 3     Race 4      Race 5

1      Gareth Ede                1              1                1               2*             2                     5

2      George Evans           2              3*              2                3               1                    8

3     John Terry                  3              2                5                1               9*                 11

4     Stuart Ede                  5              5*              3                4               4                   16

5     Alastair Forrest        9*             6                4                5               3                   18

6     Syd Gage                   4               7                 6               8               9*                 25

7     Paul Ellis                    9*             4                 9               7                9                  29

8     Chris Phillips             9*             9                 9               6                9                  33

   Below: the Grafham Open fleet. (The A Class contingent sneaked away, after a look at Sunday's conditions!)

grafham cat open

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