The weekend forecast was always showing signs of a mixed bag of conditions hence on the saturday, the competitiors were greeted by a steady 12 knots, beautiful blue skies then racing postponed as wind died and fluctuated.
Finally the breeze kicked in with 8 – 14 knots and Si Payne wasted no time in taking command of the fleet in his Mach 2 rounding the windward mark in first with the chasing pack of Mike Cooke, Jason Belben, Jason Russell all hot on his heels. Chris suffered an early capsize up the first beat which dropped him back down in to 10th position. Simon extended his lead over the chasing pack however, a fully fired up Chris still getting to grips with his brand new Maguire/ Ellway Moth, found another gear and tore through the fleet to finish 2nd within a few boat lengths of Simon. Ex Fireball champion Dave Edwards delivered a solid 4th place finish in his Aardvark Ninja.
Race 2 got underway cleanly with the winds freshening under a dark cloud bank gusting up to 22 knots.
Si Payne suffered a pitchpole down the first run which left the door open for current UK National Champion Jason Belben to slip through and eventually take the win. Despite being in the lighter end of the fleet, Mike Cooke showed blistering pace and control in his Aardvark built Ninja to take 2nd place in the strong breeze. His off water training schedule is starting to pay dividends. Mike Lennon took third with Si Payne coming back up to 4th after his earlier swim.
Race 3 and normal service resumed in champagne sailing conditions of 15 – 18 knots and flat water. Si Payne, Chris Rashley and Jason Belben led the procession and finished in that order followed by Mike Lennon and Olympic/ 49er legend Simon Hiscocks.
Day 2 started out with a gentle 10 knots and sunshine as the competitors headed to the starting area. Little did anyone know what was just around the corner.
Race 4 got underway cleanly with Chris Rashley and Dave Edwards rounding the windward mark first. The lead changed hands between the top five boats several times throughout the race before Si Payne eventually took the honours followed closely by Mike Cooke, Mike Lennon and a newly energised Doug Pybus.
Race 5 and thing started to get a little wild with gusts of up to 24 knots at the windward mark making the bear away a high octane drag down to the leeward mark. Jason Belben and Ben Paton went over early and caught the anchor line of the pin end buoy which put them out of contention for the duration of the race whilst at the front of the fleet, Si Payne once again hit Mach 2 and took off, leading comfortably in the strengthening breeze. Chris Rashley put the hammer down to drive over Jason Russell, Mike Lennon and Mike Cooke before rounding up for the next beat. By the second lap, Si Payne was still leading from James Phare who was gaining in his Aardvark Ninja and clearly enjoying the tougher conditions just ahead of Chris Rashley. However, once again Chris found another gear and overhauled James down the run and was all over the back of Si Payne. Somewhere up the final beat, Chris out maneuvered Si Payne to take the lead and extend down the final run to win the race. James Phare kept 3rd place with Jason Russell taking 4th and Mike Cooke 5th.
Race 6 and all hell broke loose with an even more ominous black cloud bringing a steady 20 – 25 knots at the start line. Si Payne had done enough to with the event and took himself off back to the safety of Parkstone Yacht Club leaving the remainder of the fleet to battle it out in the most challenging conditions of the weekend. Jason Belben got straight down to business and totally dominated the race taking the victory. Doug Pybus pulled all the stops out to deliver an incredible 2nd place result despite the strong winds. Ex National Champion Mike Cooke delivered a solid 3rd place proving that he can deliver in the big breeze as well as in the light stuff. Mike Lennon and and Jason Russell rounded out the top five places.
The final overall scores had Si Payne (Mach 2) win convincingly followed by Jason Belben (Aardvark Ninja) and Chris Rashley (Maguire/ Ellway)
Most improved title has to be split between several notable sailors. Ex Musto Skiff sailor Alex Koukarakis showed excellent boat speed and handling in the extreme conditions and is one to watch in the future. The Queen Mary crew of James Phare, Andrew Friend and Doug Pybus have all started to get to grips with the Ninja and the Elite foils and their results here are a sure sign that they will do well at the upcoming worlds later in the year at Lake Garda.
The whole fleet would like to thank Parkstone Yacht Club for once again delivering an excellent event and some challenging conditions. We would also like to give special thanks to Rod Harris and Why Jewellers for providing sponsorship in the shape of sapphires for the top three finishers.
Final Results here
Flickr Gallery from Mike Millard here
Flick Gallery from Phil Jackson here
Next stop on the Grand Prix Circuit is Ullswater next weekend.