Battle of the Classes 2010
This year's Battle of the Classes was an interesting one. Last year I was part of a Streaker team who managed to finish 2nd and 3rd to Andy Couch in his Phantom. This year I entered with the Graduate with just a little anticipation and a lot of self pressure. I was being crewed by a young lad, Harry Kennedy, weighing in at 35Kg. The pressure was partly expectation and partly that my reputation was on the line having suggested that the Graduate had a place in dinghy sailing in the UK as the perfect puddle boat for a parent and child, I now had no excuse but to deliver a decent result.We were to start with the Solos, Firefly's and Streakers which was not wholly favorable, but I tried to remind myself that this was to be no ordinary race. The wind was perfectly up and down the dock and between 2 and 9 knots. The course was to be a simple windward leeward. Now you are talking I thought. Sub planning windward leeward courses are great for a Graduate since they seriously outperform their rivals to windward. Just to make the situation slightly more exciting, I had not launched Grad 3001 before, not even set up the toe straps. We had a new stiffer rig on the boat to boot and my new pint sized crew who had not sailed with me except only as ballast on the bow of my laser when having some fun at Stokes Bay. I tried to limit the damage on the first beat since our boat handling was not yet super sharp. We started OK and made it round the top mark in 3rd. I sailed the first part of the off wind leg badly, we struggled with two Solo's and a Firefly on our wind, but we settled the latter half of the run well taking the pressure on the left side of the run (it always looked glassy on the water near the shore - but there was lots of wind at the mast top). We rounded the leeward mark a fair distance behind Tom Gillard in his Streaker but in front of the two Firefly's and Solos. Working our way through the Comets and British Moth on the next upwind leg by keeping near the Excel shore and got the bonus of more wind and shifts, especially under the bridge at the top. We passed Tom (Streaker) on the second beat, I recall, but that was not the first time we met. I think we changed positions half a dozen times, the Grad passing upwind, the Streaker passing downwind. Towards the end of the race our boat work got slicker and we were able to pull a reasonable lead on the Streaker. I think we passed the Mirror with about 15 minutess to go, but in the maelstrom of battle I sensed that we must concentrate on having a good time, keep smiling and focussing on what the wind was going to do next. There were periods of very light wind with big holes. We were able to ghost through the holes to gain a safe lead on the Streaker. The wind crept up again towards the end; by now our boat handling was excellent. I sensed the end of the race was not far away. There was an Albacore and Finn being sailed well, very close behind. We rounded for the last beat (only in hindsight) with lots of traffic to negotiate. I thought to myself that this beat would be significant in the race as we were going to have to pass some much faster boats to keep the momentum we had established. A beat in traffic might even allow the Streaker to catch us again. Lady luck gave us a lovely lift out of the mark, one of those what is progressive with more wind taking us clear over an RS100. Those who tacked onto starboard ahead of us who were trying to sail to this new pressure were on our port side were to be rewarded with a large hole in the wind as it switched back to the right, just in time for us to tack at the barges. We could hear lots of excitement from the crowd as we crossed ahead of the Laser 2000 who had now been becalmed in the centre. This was a very difficult day. Back again onto port, we went past the bows of the super yachts to be in perfect time for another rewarding starboard lifting gust by the bridge; so good that we almost over stood the mark. 30 seconds later with jib-stick in there was a loud announcement with the word GRADUATE in it. I turned behind me to see an Albacore and a Finn close behind. I asked Allen Burrell in the Finn what was that all about and he said "you have won, well sailed". We were certainly happy but still not completely convinced until a rib came close and asked us to pose. So the Graduate has a place on the water. It did not look out of place with new designs and from my perspective it has better lines than many. The guys at the Boatyard at Beer had done an excellent job with the tooling and build, Superspars had done an excellent job with the spars. We had not let them down... Phew! This was what fairy tales are made of. I have always argued that the Graduate is a great puddle boat and that it is a great tactical racer for a parent and child. Could others now believe it too? Two very happy, hard working sailors returned to the shore thinking at least that they could not have worked harder in the conditions. A special well done to Harry for adapting quickly to the conditions and working so very hard.