What a fantastic intense two days of high class racing at Pennine Sailing Club for the Streaker Nationals. We had lots of wind at times, some moderate at times and 5 really big races that seemed to matter to many partisans from the head of the class to the innocent bystander. From the outset it was obvious that Tom Gillard was on form, fresh from his brilliant result coming second at the Fireball Worlds. Despite being 15 Kg lighter than me he was really competitive upwind in the 20 Knots flat water and equally so downwind in race 1. Tom was sailing Dave Butler's PAXO - apparently built and named to quote "Stuff Rooster!" It always makes me smile. We had rounded the leeward mark in close proximity when I looked behind to see him sitting on the side deck - not hiking.
That was not like him, but at the time it was not obvious why until I tacked and saw the rake he had on the boat - lots more than what his father would recommend, I thought and even more than what I like to sail with. It was obviously some gear failure which is always costly in a one discard series. Race 2 took place after a smashing sausage casserole - yum yum which was served by some very hard working and helpful ladies. (Obviously the bedrock of Pennine Sailing Club) With another change of course, navigating round the lake for the visitors was quite daunting. For me, I had one soggy piece of paper with the marks listed and a pen that hardly worked. Poor preparation I can hear you say. The start was again very competitive but after a few decent upwinds I was quick enough to draw clear, but Tom was not for giving up and still came back at me on the last downwind, but thankfully I rounded inside him at the mark and took the gun. Back to shore for Tea and Cakes. Race 3 saw another busy pin end bias that was highly competitive. I found I was in a Gillard Sandwich, Alan to windward of me who had a fantastic start and Tom to leeward. It only took a minute for me to be squeezed out of the back door; Tom tacked and confidently crossed Alan by an inch and was off. When I then tacked myself, it was no surprise that Alan had also reached his layline and tacked too. It took the rest of the beat and most of the offwind to finally pass Alan and start my charge onto catch Tom, but I still had Ian to contend with. Ian kept asking questions of me downwind and took second confidently until the wind built once again and I was able to take Ian back on the upwind leg and got back to be close again with Tom at the finish. The evening was full of fun and frolics with a Skiffle Band. There were many sailors who could remember when Skiffle was top of the pops! I had been using our 2011 Reigal design which was designed for those who like to use vang rather than mainsheet tension; ideal if you like to use a centre main option. I felt that it was really quick to windward, but a little under powered off wind as it had replaced seam shaping with luff curve. With lighter winds forecast I was inspired to try our Pentex Flat design which I had used to win the Nationals in 2007, 2008 and 2009. I knew the mast required more support at deck level with the use of forestay tension. We recently worked hard to improve the deck block of the streaker for the Reigal, so the mast was better supported than it had been before. So I increased the forestay tension and added one half hole tension on the shrouds and took confidently to the water for Race 4.
New re Engineered Streaker Deck Block supports the Reigal mast at deck level better
I had thought through my options before taking to the water. If I could beat Tom in this race, then the Championship would be mine. My first start was rubbish. Tom quickly took the lead and I had Alan still to pass to get back into the race. Alan is not an easy boat to pass at the best of times so it was looking like an uphill task to beat Tom. This race was then stopped as a rib had been anchored near a windward mark and was causing an obstruction. Phew, that was my lucky break and Tom’s bad luck again. There was rumour that races cancelled could not be re sailed; I had read it in the sailing instructions. Fortunately the on the water Judge was able to confirm that it could, as she had checked the definition of cancelled. 4th
Race Restart: Once again I found myself in a Gillard Sandwich. Despite being on my transit, Alan was another boat length to windward of me in a nice controlling position and Tom was to leeward. Both of us had been fighting to win a very biased pin end start and Tom had positioned himself perfectly. Fortunately there was another general recall. The race officer had no ability to black flag the start since it was not in the Sailing Instructions. I could see this repeating a number of times. I was unlikely to get a clean start. In team racing, the best form of defence is attack. So I opted to attack the boat I needed to beat. So I opted to hook up with Tom on the next restart and hoped that I could do a Ben Ainslie on him in the pre start. As I tailed Tom on starboard along the line; we were inside the ‘safe’ triangle. That means that Tom could cross the start line on Port or Starboard, but then I stopped him from gybing or tacking using the standard team racing tactic. If you have never been on the receiving end of this, it is definitely not nice, but the best thing is to stop sailing and hope that the chaser looses steerage and slides into you. Tom tried a couple of quick head ups and bear away’s but was unable to break away. We were now about 20 boatlengths to leeward of the start line and outside the safe triangle and Tom stopped. Time was ticking, he started to move backwards and I started to slide towards him, so I tacked away. We were now late to get a decent start; I had at least upset the order of things. I found myself directly behind Alan at the Pin end with the realisation that neither of us were going to clear the pin. We both gybed onto port; I found a small gap and popped out. I could see Tom had also made his way out onto Port, but much further down the line towards the non biased end. Phew, I had pulled it off. Now at least I had a fighting chance. Then I heard the familiar sound of a yellow flag whistle. Tom was doing a penalty. With the adrenaline flowing it was not a surprise. However, the race was still far from over, there were still two boats in front of me at the first mark and another 60 mins of sailing. On the second beat I took the lead. It was not long before Tom had sailed through the fleet and start pressing Ian Jones for Second and then he was on the chase. The race went on for another 75 mins. At times he drew close but I crossed the line 35 seconds ahead of Tom. I was quite emotional. Twelve months earlier I had sailed the Streaker Nationals with a broken wrist and had finished 4th
. It had been pretty frustrating but had been fun to support the class and be there to watch Tom take the trophy having sailed really quick in the light conditions. I had entered this championship with a very open mind as I rarely get a chance to sail a Streaker and I would much prefer to have sailed on the Sea. As a class builder I find it hard to refuse a customer who wants to buy a boat so to hang onto one for more than a couple of days to do some practising is pretty hard.
Talk on the shore from those watching was that it had been exciting. Even Mike Rimmer said that he was sailing my boat with me on every manoeuvre. When doing a match race, I am always conscious that I can only escape a rule 2 conviction if I can prove that there is a reasonable chance of the tactic benefiting my series result, ISAF case 78. If I could not prove it – then I would be liable for a DNE (disqualification not to be excluded from your results) For example, if I match raced Tom in the last race when I had already won, then I would be liable for a DNE. Similarly if another sailor in the fleet started to match race me with the intention of Benefiting another sailor but could not prove it could benefit their result, they would also be liable for a DNE or even a 69. So after another cup of decaf coffee and a piece of cake we set out for the final race.
The wind had shifted to directly off the club, and so there were large gusts and shifts going down the full length of the lake. The line became more true and I was able to start mid line and take the lead at the first mark. Tom was still flying downwind and we changed places a number of times. There were some memorable moments. One was when we were on starboard, Tom overlapped to leeward and I could see a new patch of wind developing to the left of us, I gybed and ducked Tom to get to the new breeze fist, then I took the right of way 'starboard gybe' back to the right to re-take the lead. Great nip and tuck stuff. I eventually came through to win the race to make it 4 out of 5. However, the result never really reflects the closeness of the competition and this year was seriously close. The prize giving had been organised by Alan Gillard, our hardworking chairman. He kindly let me distribute a bottle of sparkling Lyme bay cider to every competitor as a way of sponsorship from The Boatyard at Beer (the builders of the Rooster Streakers) and Rooster Sailing. It had been an inspired idea from the hard working boys at the Boat Yard at Beer
; I think they enjoyed tasting all the local brews before they suggested Sparkling Lyme Bay Cider.