Debutants in Command

Ruminating on the history of the Royal Air Force was probably the last thing on the minds of Charlie Walters and Dougal Cram (GBR) as they set off on their solitary trail as pathfinder in Race 4 of the SAP 505 World Championships.   However, as they began the countdown to their run, the rain that was to fall throughout the rest of the day started, the famous motto of the RAF’s 633 Squadron “Après moi le déluge” was more than appropriate.
The fleet headed into the breeze that was a little further to the south than on earlier days and apparently more influenced by the bulk of the Isle of Portland, with many variations in direction and pressure.  At the first mark it was the newly crowned UK National Champions, Andy Smith and Tim Needham who led, followed by Nathan Batchelor and Sam Pascoe (GBR), with Jens Findel and Johannes Tellen (GER) just behind.  The fleet showed little agreement about the right way down the next leg with some taking the left, some the right and others picking shifts down the middle.  Smith and Needham still arrived at the leeward gate first, with Findel and Tellen not far behind.
On the second upwind leg the leading bunch, which by now included Wolfgang Hunger and Julian Kleiner (GER), consolidated their positions, although Batchelor and Pascoe worked their way back past Findel and Tellen upwind.  The leaders all filed down the first reaching leg but things started to get interesting after the gybe mark.  The wind had backed to the south making the leg very broad and tactically more like a run, with most boats having to making one or two further gybes to maintain speed to the next mark.  Batchelor and Pascoe called their angles right and swept passed Smith and Needham.  Then things got even worse for Smith and Needham.  The tactical gybing on this leg made them forget that this was a reaching leg when there is only one leeward mark instead of the gate used at the end of the run.   They rounded the wrong mark and were followed by five times World Champion Wolfgang Hunger.
This effectively gave Batchelor and Pascoe a seemingly impregnable lead but the drama had not yet finished.   In hoisting their spinnaker to start the final downhill run, it somehow got caught under the bow and dragged under the boat.  This enabled a number of the trailing boats to overhaul them before they recovered.  At the finish the first two boats across the line were Smith / Needham and Hunger / Kleiner.  However, their earlier error meant that Mike Martin and Adam Lowry (USA) were confirmed in first place, with Batchelor/Pascoe pipping Findel/Tellen to the runner’s up spot.
By now the rain was more persistent and the wind more capricious, with a few short squalls of up to 18kts but often dipping down to 10kts, which presented as big a challenge for the Race Management team from WPSNA as it did for competitors.  However, this crack team were more than up to the task of swinging the axis of the course and altering leg lengths multiple times during the racing to make everything as fair as possible for all.
Race 5 got away with the minimum of delay behind the pathfinder, Timon Treichel and Morten Roos (GER).   First to show was the Danish pair of Jorgen and Jacob Bojsen-Moeller, but the Batchelor and Pascoe star remained in ascendance when they came through down the first run to take a lead they did not surrender, in spite of the wind backing 20 degrees to the south and variations in pressure across the track.  After the drama of the previous race, there was little remarkable apart from the British duo’s dominance of the high quality field.  The Bojsen-Moeller’s took 2nd place just ahead of Tyler Moore and Andrew Buttner.
At just over the half way mark in the series the fleet and army of volunteers helping run the event have a well earned rest day tomorrow, before the contest resumes on Wednesday.  In the meantime, class newcomers, Nathan Batchelor and Sam Pascoe are pinching themselves at the heady position in which they find themselves. Batchelor said that coming into the event they had targeted a top twenty finish for their first Worlds in the class and were ecstatic to get three top ten results in the first three races, as this would almost guarantee they would meet this goal.  To follow up with a 1st and 2nd  today means they opened up an eight point lead over compatriots Pinnell and Davies after discarding a relatively lofty 9th place.  This gives them a greater margin for error in the remaining races than their rivals, so surely it is now time for them to recalibrate their sights.
In the classic fleet line honours again went to Michael Wilson and Phil Hardisty, but under the handicapping system used for these older boats, the leaders of this competition at the half way stage are the South African pairing of Grant and Courtney Ballantyne sailing 4437, having recorded three first places on adjusted time.


Nathan Batchelor and Sam Pascoe poer past Andy Smith and Tim Needham in Race 4 © Christophe Favreau
Close racing in Race 4 © Christophe FavreauSome tight rounding action from Race 5 © Christophe Favreau