High Adrenalin on Weymouth Bay

After yesterday’s intermission which brought gale force wind, rain and low cloud rather than ice creams, hot dogs and the safety curtain, the show resumed today at the SAP 505 World Championships.  Most reviewers agreed that this latest act was among the more memorable productions by the assembled 505 cast, and most actors and spectators left happy, even though the full scheduled performance had to be curtailed.
 
Having learned of the forecast the ladies and gentlemen of the Classic Fleet decided by mutual consent that the circumstances might prove too testing for their elderly craft.  They preferred to take advantage of the opportunity of the live video stream of the main event from the comfort of the sailor’s lounge at the Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy.  In the meantime, the cast of the world championship fleet enjoyed a brisk sail out to the stage, set in east Weymouth Bay beneath the chalk cliffs of the Dorset coast.
 
By the time the overture had started, the wind was steady from the south west with a speed of between 18 and 20kts, which gave the pathfinder boat of Howie Hamlin and Andy Zinn (USA) a brisk push to open the gate.  Unfortunately, they had to provide an unexpectedly early encore when the gate boat was obstructed by a stray actor just under three minutes up the line, but the repeat allowed the cast to set about its business with earnest.
 
Andy Smith and Tim Needham (GBR) narrowly led the American heavy weather tyros, Mike Martin and Adam Lowry, at the first mark, although a tangle hoisting their spinnaker let the US duo past.  Having established that there would be slightly less tide against them closer inshore, Smith and Needham went for an earlier gybe than Martin and Lowry.  This proved to be a master stroke as the Americans stood on too long on the starboard gybe and lost significant ground at the end of the leg by having to drop their kite early and two sail into the gate.   Smith and Needham had a comfortable lead at the leeward gate ahead of the German boats, Timon Treichel and Morten Roos (9101) and Wolfgang Hunger and Julian Kleiner (9152).
 
By now the wind was beginning to build consistently above 20kts and the contra tide was creating a difficult short chop.  However, this proved little obstacle for the leading boats, with the SAP tracking data showing the leading boats slapping and spanking upwind at almost 11kts.  By the time their pursuers had rounded the windward mark, Smith and Needham had stretched their lead down the reach to almost 500m.  Providing they made no mistake then this race was surely theirs, although with the wind now regularly gusting over 25kts significant skill and concentration were still going to be needed.  Smith and Needham proved they were more than up to the task, going on to one of their more emphatic victories.
 
Behind them, second place was being hotly contested by three American and three German boats.  The USA boats were those of Martin/Lowry, Holt/Smit and Hamlin/Zinn.  On the German side Hunger/Kleiner and Treichel/Roos were joined by the renowned heavy weather blasters, Stefan Bohm and Gerald Roos.  By now the skies had fully cleared and the sun was whitening the crests of the growing waves, like the gleaming teeth of a shark anticipating its prey.  While the top group all avoided this predator,  it was the Americans who proved they had the edge in the conditions, with Martin/Lowry, Holt/Smit and Hamlin/Zinn all following home Smith/Needham ahead of the German trio.
 
With the wind forecast to carry on increasing for the next few hours and with considerable attrition of the fleet having already occurred, Race Officer Tim Hancock wisely postponed the scheduled 7th Race allowing many elated but exhausted sailors and their boats respite before action resumes tomorrow.
 
The championship leaders heading into this race, Nathan Batchelor and Sam Pascoe (GBR) found that they did not quite have the horsepower of the heavier crews in the big wind, but still pulled through from a modest position in the forties around the first mark to finish fourteenth.  This still leaves them clear at the top ahead of the final two days.
 

 

Richard Lovering and Matt Alvarado take to the skies starting the 6th Race of the SAP 505 World Championships © Christophe Favreau
Smith and Needham show the winning style © Christophe FavreauFast and furious fiveoes © Christophe FavreauSmith and Needham take line honours © Christophe Favreau