SLAM Grand Prix Hayling Island

31 Moth sailors arrived at Hayling for the SLAM Grand Prix series event over the weekend of 4-5th June. Being the home of numerous top Moth sailors, the event was set to be a high octane show down, and with only a month to go before the National Championships sailors were starting to home in on their preferred gear, so the event gave them a perfect opportunity to test their selections. With new sailors and new boats in attendance, it also demonstrated the UK fleet is really strong and growing.

With a windy forecast and a really stiff breeze blowing over the dinghy park, you could sense a degree of trepidation amongst saliors as it dawned on them they would indeed be racing out in the bay, and not the luxury of the flat water of Chichester harbour that many remembered high speed Hayling events for.

Saturday’s racing proved challenging, with a stiff F4 and very gusty NE wind, a SE swell with a confused wave pattern, and big wind shifts, clearly made it hard for the sailors to settle. However, the long, well set up race course allowed the boats stretch their legs, yet demanded good tactical concentration even amongst the top guns. The influence of the tide on the race track, and an oscillating wind caused a dilemma as to the favoured side with boats coming out of both corners throughout the day.

The first 3 races saw Si Payne (Abarth) claim 3 convincing wins, having clearly turned the nitrous up to gain a comfortable position – although in Race 1 Richie Lovering (Hyde Sails) showed real pace chasing Payne down hard until the third downwind, when his rudder vertical exploded! This left others from the Hayling Moth Squad – Mike Lennon (Hyde Sails) Jason Russell (Tere), as well as Jason Belben (Ronstan) from Stokes Bay, to snap at each others heels.

Race 2 saw a close first windward, yet after a solid downwind Payne and Lennon were clear ahead, with JasonB and JasonR in pursuit.  On the third lap Payne and Lennon took the left had side of the course whilst the two Jason’s took the right hand side coming out on top with JasonR rounding slightly ahead of JasonB. At the leeward mark Jason B took the lead with Payne in second, yet Payne just pipped JasonB on the finish line in what was a really nail biting race.

Racing throughout bunches of the top half of the fleet was consistently close, with a visible stack of nashing hyeenas in Tom Offer (Gul), James Phare (MAN Group) and Pete Barton (Harken/Marlow), challenging each other. The demanding conditions however also showed a great spectacle of Buzz Lghtyear impressions, with some noticable over the handlebars moments for the less dialled in. For some the conditions took their toll, and there were also some unfortunate retirements due to gear failure, one being Mike Cooke (Aardvark Technologies) whom until then had shown good windward speed.

Ashore, all agreed the racing was a real adrenelin buzz, but physically testing at times. And whilst many felt their bodies had been pushed beyond their years and took themselves off to repair, a fair number of the fleet attempted to subtly mingle into the birthday celebration social of the well dressed that was taking place in the evening – although the shorts, t-shirts, and reddened faces we somewhat of a give away amongst the open and flowing dresses of many around!

Sunday greeted the sailors with a fairly fresh breeze still, but with the forecast for the breeze to drop it seemed to re-stimulate the weary to rig up without hesitation. Yet out in the bay it wasn’t as light as expected, but the sea state had seemed to have the pointy bits filled off a bit, which served as a mental relief to many across the fleet.

The first race saw Si Payne got pushed the wrong side of the committee boat from an expertly judged start by Ricky ‘send it’ Tagg. This fired Payne up to switch gear, resulting in him nailing a comeback win. Yet with less breeze than the previous day the fleet closed up and Tom Offer, Martin Fear and Olivier Vidal showed great speed to drag themselves higher up the rankings too. The second race saw Mike Lennon dial into his tactical mantra, and with great windward prowess won with ease for the deserved win in an easing breeze.

The final race proved the real test of the weekend and at moments turned the form book upside down. Just on the start gun, the wind gods decided to play chequers with the gust pattern. The first windward was to prove a disaster for many, as over to the right hand side and up at the windward mark there was a plethora of airless plug holes that sucked boats down, leaving them completely parked. Lennon lead around the windward mark, but got stuck in a hole.  JasonB in his Ninja rounded the bottom mark with Si Payne, yet after a shortened 2 lap course Payne took the bullet with JasonB in second, followed by a well placed Alex Adams in third.

For many, the downwinds were to prove a partial lottery too, where boats just metres apart were foiling at 12kts, passing others barely moving. However, after a good shake of the egg timer, the flow of the breeze returned, allowing all to foil back to the club, whilst the true flying machine of Abarth sponsored stunt plane performed a distracting and rewarding spectacle over the heads of the boats as they foiled home.

Overall, the whole event was a memorable reminder of the great challenges of high performance racing in such technically demanding boats, where skill, tactical alertness and physical prepardness assisted in shed loads. It was a tough weekend for all, but impressive to see such young guns like Cam Stewart be the first Junior in his first event in what were tough conditions, finishing all 6 races and taking home a well secured 16th overall.

The event topped out with some great prizes courtesy of SLAM. The next round of the SLAM Grand Prix series takes place at Thorpe Bay YC on 18-19th June.

Top 10 Overall:

1 Si Payne HISC

2 Mike Lennon HISC

3 Jason Belben Stokes Bay

4 Jason Russell HISC

5 Ricky Tagg HISC

6 Tom Offer Rock SC

7 James Phare Queen Mary SC

8 Alex Adams Castle cove SC

9 Pete Barton Lymington

10 Martin Fear Bristol Corinthian

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