The twenty 200s were one of several flavours of RS gathered for their annual splash and dash, The Sprints. Ignore those who say the format is kerazy, bada-bing, bada-boom, the Rutland people have it off to a 'T' (thanks to John Fothergill, David Rowlands and team). It is fun, and intense, and there isn't much hanging around between the twelve, one lap races, coloured flights (on day 1), no discards, and general recalls involve the entire fleet restarting round the ends of the line – the 3 minutes between fleet starts never stops. The two-day format is pretty binary, Saturday's results determining whether you were in Gold or Silver fleet on Sunday.
Day one was cold and a force 4-5. Which was a shame for lightweight team (The Killer Shrimp) and me – she may be perfectly formed but properly tiny and underclothed that morning. I stacked it on the same tight gybe.... twice. After the second time we got going – and having plucked her from the raging vortex of the self bailer – she was so cold she couldn't speak - I headed shore-wards. Therefore Claire Walsh reports:
"In a slight change to previous years formats we began randomly assigned to 4 flights and did 3 races in a round robin to provide seeding for the racing after lunch. With the breeze in a south westerly direction, the shelter of the clubhouse made it seem deceptively warm and non-breezy, something which was soon corrected as we all planed our way down to the damn in about 18-20 knts and wished we hadn't thought hikers and a rash vest was a good idea...
The first round robin saw some very mixed results for the majority of the fleet as boat handling was tested by the very gusty conditions and short courses. After the round robin we went back ashore for a quick lunch, the addition of about 4 layers and our new flights. The afternoon saw a further three races in those two flights, and with the breeze dropping down just a touch the racing became incredibly close with Ian and Chloe Martin and Ali Martin and Tommy Wright showing the most consistent form in group 1 and Caroline Martin and MJ Gifford with an impressive score line from group 2.
Back ashore (but sadly not in time for rounders) we rallied round the Rutland bar, for some nice rum to soothe our aches and get prepped for the next round of gold and silver fleet racing the following day."
Sunday dawned sunny and less breezy. But this was the Midlands in Spring – when we got out to the other end of the lake, it was a robust force 4 or so. Having defaulted myself out of contention for the gold fleet Saturday (instead I sat in a hot bath all afternoon with a large Jack Daniels), Claire Walsh says of the Gold fleet:
"...6 races back to back were scheduled and we moved, into the southern arm of the reservoir. As we got there it turned out, yet again, to be surprisingly windy and with the change in sailing area we saw even shiftier and gustier conditions. Tom Wright and Ali Martin were on great form with blistering speed downwind seeing them win 3 races. Other race highlights included bullets from newcomers Richard and Luke Bailey (with an interesting pin end start) as well as Caroline Martin and MJ Gifford. The shifty conditions challenged everyone and some very high tension mark roundings made for an adrenaline filled day. In the end Ian and Chloe Martins consistent scores saw them take 2nd place to Tom and Ali followed by Claire Walsh and Darren McNamara in 3rd."
In the Silver Fleet, I made a complete 'barker's egg' of the first two starts (an Ulsterism, and something definitely worse than a dog's breakfast). 'Call Me' Dave Jessop with Megan Chamberlain and Keith Escritt and Andrea Clough won these races. A change in strategy for Team Bradley – crew today drysuited (her 'yowser trousers'), and we port tacked the next 4 starts – a nice, long, under-populated line, albeit pretty unbiased. Peter Nelson and Nic Holden pipped us in race 3, but we returned the favour in race 5, and John McKelvie and Sarah Watson won the 6th race. No discards meant consistency was key – nothing silly upwind, pop the hull offwind, avoid undignified wetness. Peter Nelson and Nic Holden of Northampton SC won from the Killer Shrimp and me (Wembley SC). 4 of the 6 winners had ex 'Pat's' on board - from the same corner of Strangford Lough, Norn Iron.
Great format, huge fun. Plagiarism being quicker than original thought, we have *ahem* adopted the format for an annual fixture at Wembley Sailing club – it works very well, is a change to the usual 1-hour slog, the RO never gets bored and we'll repeat this year. Fleets used to more orthodox racing will initially regard the format with the expression you get teaching a dog a card trick, but once they've done it, they love it.