Twenty-six boats arrived at HISC on Saturday, the largest fleet at any open on the 2012 GP circuit. Special mention goes to Matthew Lea who travelled all the way down to Hayling from the Isle of Arran in Scotland!
Race one saw gusty 14 – 20 knot squally conditions. The sea state in the bay was confused with a large swell running on to hayling bar and chop from the gradient wind direction.
All the usual suspects were on the start line for race 1 with Gareth Davies (Exocet) being OCS. Chris Rashley (Exocet) rounded first taking advantage of the fact that everyone else overstood the layline due to the strong tide exiting chichester harbour. He was followed by Simon Payne (Mach2) and Jason Belben (Exocet) all of which opened a large gap on the rest of the chasing pack.
The swell caused quite a lot of carnage with plenty of crashes on the downwind legs however at the front, the final positions at the end of race 1 were Chris Rashley 1st (Exocet), Jason Belben 2nd (Exocet) and Simon Payne 3rd (Mach2). At the front of the chasing pack was Peter Barton (Mach 2), followed by relative newcomer Rob Greenhalgh (Exocet) and Gareth Davies (Exocet) who recovered well from his OCS.
Race 2 presented stormy and challenging conditions upwind with large rain squalls on the horizon.
With a clean start, Rashley again led at the top mark followed closely by Si Payne and Jason Belben, Rob Greenhalgh, Peter Barton and Mike Cooke. Halfway down the first run Rashley had to force a capsize to clear his foils of weed which let Payne and Belben through.
The weed got progressively worse with the tide pouring out of Chichester harbour, which then saw Jason Belben pitchpole upwind as a result which allowed Rashley back through. Rashley then caught more weed upwind which meant another forced capsize, allowing Jason back through. In the meantime, Si Payne (Mach 2) sailed off in to the distance apparently oblivious to the weed all over the track.
With another storm looming it was decided to abandon racing for the day giving all the racers a welcome relief from the combination of swell, weed, chop, strong tide and squally winds.
The moth fleet were greeted by far more relaxed conditions on Sunday with a gentle North easterly 8 – 10 knot wind, flat seas, blue skies.
Race 3 – Minutes before the start there was a massive wind shift to the right, so the majority of the fleet decided to start on port at the pin end. Chris Rashley tacked off to the left hand side with the rest of the fleet going right.
The wind then swung back left allowing Chris to round the windward mark in 1st just ahead of Jason Belben who had also chosen to tack across to the left early.
Snakes and ladders ensued in the shifty marginal winds. Rashley went on to win the race with Si Payne in 2nd and Belben in 3rd.
Rob Greenhalgh remained consistent in 4th while Andrew Friend (Ninja) came through in 5th closely followed by Rich Westbury (Ninja) in 6th. Special mention to Matthew Lea (Bladerider) who relished the tricky conditions and posted an 8th place in a very strong fleet.
Race 4 – Conditions stabilised and Rob Greenhalgh took full advantage to claim his first win in the moth class with a solid and convincing race win.
20 seconds separated Greenhalgh and Belben who pipped Rashley on the line. Si Payne followed in 4th followed by a very consistent Rich Westbury in 5th. Andrew Friend again delivered in his favourite conditions posting a 6th.
Race 5 – There was a big shift at the top left layline which saw Si Payne round the windward mark first followed by Doug Pybus (Ninja) and Phil Oligario (Ninja). The first downwind leg saw Payne, Pybus and Oligario get overhauled by Rashley due to them not gybing out early enough, only for Chris to capsize just before the leward mark. Belben took this opportunity to slip through and take the lead followed by, Pybus, Oligario, Payne and a recovered Chris Rashley.
Over the next two laps, Chris regained the lead rounding the final windward mark, however Belben and Payne gybed early making use of the increased pressure on the starboard layline. Rob Greenhalgh came through in 4th followed by Phil Oligario in a very solid 5th place after overhauling Doug Pybus in 6th.
Race 6 – With Si Payne, Jason Belben and Chris Rashley within 1 point of each other, the 4th and final race would determine the overall winner.
Another clean start saw Chris Rashley lead round the windward mark, closely followed by Si Payne and Rob Greenhalgh. Jason Belben was buried in the pack after failing to foil off the start line.
Coming in to the windward mark for the second time, the wind switched off and Payne was able to sneak round the windward mark in the lead. Chris Rashley rounded the windward mark but was unable to make the spacer marker due to lack of wind and the strong tide.
Jason Belben picked up a gust on the starboard layline, and rounded in 3rd followed by Rob Greenhalgh and Phil Oligario who had both picked up the same pressure.
Jason gybed early and remained in the pressure allowing him to overhaul Si Payne and take the lead and overall title.
Chris eventually picked up the same gust and went through to take third followed by Rich Westbury who also gybed early to move up in to 4th.
Special thanks to Hayling Island Sailing Club for their hospitality and great food on Saturday night. Thanks also to Ricky Tagg and the race committee who put together a really great series of races despite the adverse and challenging conditions.