Slow handicap regatta beats weather at Pagham

The forecast didn’t bode well, but despite the promise of strong wind and rain 15 young sailors from four different clubs joined together at Pagham Yacht Club on Saturday 15th June for a new event in the WSSYSA Calendar – a Slow Handicap Regatta.

With experienced weather watchers at Arun and Felpham the verdict was “no chance of sailing”. But at Pagham just a few miles west the conditions were excellent for racing! A good breeze but certainly manageable, even without a reef for most.

So, after a race briefing by the race officer, Ross Fisher from Felpham SC, the four safety teams set off to lay the trapezoid course with a start line off the club. The mixed fleet of Laser 4.7s, Teras, Toppers, Fevas and a Pico all launched successfully with the help of an experienced beach team and all was ready for the first race. Then during the five minutes to the start a sudden squall came through that tested sailors and safety crew alike. Visibility from the race office ashore plunged to very little, with comments being raised about the lack of wipers blades on the windows! By the time the first Laser (Miles Vidler from Crawley Mariners YC) had reached the first mark the squall had passed but both Chloe Robinson (Pagham YC) and Samson Cross (Crawley Mariners YC) in Toppers and Anna Collins and Joe Markworth in a Feva struggled and subsequently retired from the first race. After just that one squall the wind gods behaved themselves and the rain held off sufficiently long for four races to be completed.

Miles proved to be the one to beat showing mastery of his Laser 4.7 both on the upwind leg and on the awesome reaches. He achieved bullets in every race with the two following 4.7s of Jack Goodland and Zak Smith (both from Pagham YC) constantly vying for position, perhaps losing ground against Miles by chasing each other around the course — they certainly had a great day testing each other to see who could be fastest.

In the second race Mia Gray (Tera Sport) and Josh James (Topper 4.2), both of Felpham SC, were both over the start line by a huge margin. A prompt from a safety boat encouraged them to turn back from half way up the first beat to re-cross the line. Josh did this and went on the post a sixth place but Mia didn’t quite back track far enough so did not conform with the correct starting procedure. Rules is rules so she posted a DSQ on Race 2. Meanwhile the Laser trio blasted through to take the top three places closely followed by Edwin Cross (Crawley Mariners YC) with the best result of his day in fourth place.

Race 3 saw a rested Samson in his Topper bravely get back sailing after his DNF (with downwind shore recovery) and DNS in Race 2. Well done, Samson!

The first three races were timed to be around 30 minutes for the lead dinghy, but the last race was reduced to two laps and 20 mins as the weather was closing in.

One factor affecting all racers was the strong tidal flow east to west. Many competitors made a huge arc in going from mark 3 to mark 4 having not taken sufficient account of the effect of the flow. Only one racer (Josh) made a consistent straight track between these marks. A learning point for everyone else!

Four races completed on a decidedly grotty day was quite an achievement, so a big thanks to the race officer and his team, safety crews and the beach team for a smoothly run and fun day. The kitchen crew were also busy supplying hot drinks and hot food.

A big thanks to Vicky Collins (Rear Commodore Sailing, Pagham YC) for organising the event and to Pagham YC for hosting it. And big thanks too to the parents who hauled their children and dinghies over to Pagham.

The prizes were awarded in two age groups as follows:

1st – Miles Vidler, Laser 4.7 (Crawley Mariners YC)
2nd – Zak Smith, Laser 4.7 (Pagham YC)
3rd – Jack Goodland, Laser 4.7 (Pagham YC)

1st – Joshua James, Topper 4.2 (Felpham SC)
2nd – Edwin Cross, Topper (Crawley Mariners YC)
3rd – Mia Gray, Tera Sport (Felpham SC)