Wednesday Evening Series Round Up

Please note this is a bunch of entirely personal opinions from your self-appointed reporter, it doesn''t represent the club officers (and of course I''m not one of them) in any shape or form... If they (or anyone else) want to chip in send me an email or write a comment

Looking through my reports there seem to have been a good few windy, even some very windy races, not many drifters, not that much sunshine, and no races lost to flat calms. It hasn''t been a summer of idyllic lazy days, roasting in the sun, so no dominant highs on the weather map, so breeze about...

I guess the big news about this summer has been the increase in numbers. I''m not going to inflict statistics and graphs on you (though I do have them!) but we have been experiencing a downward trend in Wednesday turnouts for a few years, and that has most definitely been reversed. In general turnouts are back to around 2005/2006 levels which is a very satisfactory reversal: we can all pat ourselves on our collective backs, and perhaps buy our new executive a beer after the fun race next week...

Anyway what about individuals? The series leaders are in print enough below anyway. I think its well worth mentioning Alistair Smith as the sole Topper. Another turnout - even a second duty for average points - would have put him well in contention for the podium in the personal handicap series, and he also scored some good results in scratch. We elevated him out of beginner status halfway through the series, and he kept turning out the results. Luke Martin and crew (please remind me of your name mate) also deserve a mention. Starting from week 5 they''ve been out every week but one since then, and are showing improving results all the time. Actually they beat me in the scratch series, in a Club Enterprise at that, so maybe I should delete the last sentence in spite [grin]. Nick Marley in the Topaz Uno is another new face who''s been turning out and improving.

There were a few old faces it was good to see back too. Tom Wilson was back and in form in an increasingly competitive Solo fleet, going especially quickly after he treated his boat to a new sail at the end of the series, and Kevin Pearson and John Reay were always competitive and knocked out race wins in their Lasers. Its instructive to look at the awarded average points for duty evenings... Gareth Griffiths sits at the head of that list after his super consistent series, but Kevin and John, both with 3.4, were up there with Mike Curtis (3.3) and Peter Curtis (3.4). When its so close its really important to get as many races in as possible, and you''ve got to have some sympathy with Peter, whose new job left him unable to compete at the end of the series. Peter actually beat Gareth in three of the five races they both sailed...

Still, you can''t take anything away from Mr Griffiths. Every finish in the top 4, and only one 4th at that. Wonderful consistency in such a competitive series. Here''s his thoughts on getting his name on that big board in the clubhouse...

"So Gareth - what made the difference this year?"

Over the years I''ve sailed at the Barn in many different classes - first Scorpions in the early 80s - quite successful at that time, winning a few Opens (including WOTSC) but I didn''t have time for Wed. Then after a few years boat-less with a young family I started sailing a Moth becoming just a Wed sailor sailing it for fun because I couldn''t devote the time to become competitive. Then my daughter got a bit bigger and we started sailing an ISO again only on Wed (she wasn''t really big enough but it was fun), when she went to University and my son started to sail we dropped down to a 29er (much lighter sheet loads than an ISO) again doing only Wed. When he stopped, I sailed his Topper for a season before changing to Solo last year and returning to more full time sailing. I had dabbled at other sports (notably ice hockey) but last year I decided I was getting too old for Ice Hockey, needed a boat I was more suited to and so bought an older Solo to learn the ropes. I spent the first winter learning to love the Solo in an old boat (now sailed by Tom Wilson) before getting my current boat just after the end of the Wed series last year. The biggest difference is that I''m sailing weekends again and getting the practice of sailing in a fleet where I have to be on my toes to win. Sailing the winter series against a few winter members and having Arthur pushing me in lighter weather not to mention Peter, Mervyn and Frank who can be a real handful in light weather has made me a much better sailor again.

So, this year is the first year I have sailed hard and felt properly competitive for many years - last year with the old solo I was getting close (third overall just behind Mike C) - sailing weekends and Wed again and getting back in the groove. This year, I think for the first time, I started the series with a fully competitive boat that I had sailed successfully all winter so I hit the ground running, in a class that I really like and for which I am a sensible size. I have to say it probably helped that Peter Curtis was unable to make the last few weeks but we have had a very close series between the top three, and the lasers of John Reay and Kevin Pearson would have been close with a few more races.

"What''s it like doing Wed in a Solo?"

The first thing that''s different is we start first - I previously thought that was an advantage when I sailed ''fast boats'' because we start in clear air but now I''m not sure. At the weekend when we start after the lasers they make great wind indicators for the first beat. On Wed it''s a very different feeling - same as in the pursuit series - knowing that you are on your own up front being chased by faster boats with nothing to easily tell you what the wind will do next (and they can watch every shift you get). That is a very different feeling which has taken some getting used to - winning a race from the front is very different to winning a race by overtaking everyone and I''m not at all sure which is easier!

The new Wed membership has allowed us to tempt Tom Wilson back into fold (with my old boat but a totally different rig) as well as some seriously good laser sailors. We had to reclassify Tom half way through the series on the personal handicaps. I looked at the board in the club last night - did you realize that Tom won the Wed series in a Solo back in 1974. As he has got to grips with the class again has clearly not lost his skill, and with a brand new sail last night he is only getting quicker. Despite being the one constant fleet over all those years the Solos have rarely won the Wed series. Only Tom in ''74, Craig Moffett a couple of times and Peter Cottrell have managed it compared to many Scorpion, Fireball, ISO and RS wins. It''s funny how the classes move on like that. This year we have different classes in the top four positions which is pretty healthy for the handicapping.

I think this year the standard in Solo fleet has gone up, I am definitely more competitive at Open meetings and it''s still just as hard to beat the fleet. We are seeing new sails and we know that we will see a new boat in the autumn. It''s got to be a good sign for us as a fleet, but also for the club. Not only are Wed numbers looking much better, our weekend turnouts have been well up. Practice certainly pays. Maybe this is the start of the ''Solo years'' on the honours board.