Fleet fight fiercely for coveted cup

Friday 14th October 2016 1:23 pm

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After a week of near-gale conditions, last Saturday the 18-strong fleet assembled on the river bank at Dittisham Sailing Club were greeted with a steady gentle north-easterly and a cloudless blue sky.

This being England and this being the Dart estuary, the wind, sensing the eager anticipation on the shore, immediately stopped blowing from any direction at all.

This left race officer Frank Seear to explain to the multitude assembled that although he had already set a fine long course for the day’s race, the River Dart Cup, the usual sequence may turn out to be something less conventional.

And so it proved.

After the fleet had drifted out to the start-line in almost windless conditions, the wind did relent but from a direction at right angles to its previous efforts.

Thus the first leg of the race became a reach, which meant that the whole fleet set off on fairly equal terms in varying wind strengths towards the first mark up near Stoke Gabriel.

At first some of the quicker boats, the RS400, Phantom and Albacore, opened up a small lead, but every time they looked behind them there was the Solo of John Raad and the Laser of Bevis Wright tracking serenely along in their wake.

At the windward mark the puffs from behind caused almost the entire fleet to arrive line-abreast, with much hailing for ‘room please’ and some rather dubious nipping into slots that may or may not have been available.

(It was said that just before the harbour emptied in the days before D-day you might have walked across the Dart from ship to ship without getting wet. Well, here you could almost have got from the mark to the Stoke Gabriel shore by the same means).

On the next few legs the quicker boats started to draw away and for a while it seemed as if they had left the bulk of the fleet a long way astern. But on the second lap almost the same thing happened at the top of the course.

With the quick boats becalmed to the right of the river, the leading boats from the peloton behind drifted up the middle of the stream, passing them, and into the lead.

Although the wind then picked up and the natural order of things was restored, there was now only three legs of the course in which these boats could re-establish their positions.

As things turned out a good-looking lead by the end of the hour-and-a-quarter race was nothing like enough to give them respectable positions on handicap.

John Raad, fresh from his triumph in the Solo regatta fleet, was the winner by a huge margin with Bob Tho­mas in another Solo second. Martin Ely in a Laser just pipped Bevis Wright for third by a handful of seconds.

Over the last DSC beach-feast of the season, everyone agreed that it had been another great day’s sailing on one of the finest locations in the world.

There is no racing next weekend at Ditti­sham, the combination of awkward tides and early darkness making it impractical. The autumn points series resumes on October 23.

Judging by this week’s turn­out it is going to be another well-attended, closely fought affair.

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