Salcombe Winter Series Race 5
Published 15:16 on 4 Dec 2017
Far out in the cosmos, the sun and moon together, conspire that in Salcombe, low water spring tides invariably occur around mid-day. This happens to be the start time, thereabouts, of the SYC club racing programme.
Last Saturday and more locally, a substantial high-pressure system also dominated the British Isles. This meant there was no wind to be had in Salcombe other than in the dinghy park. This being the so, there was a good case for binning the race and doing something more productive; such as watching Exeter Chiefs thrash Bath RFC in the rugby premiership. This is especially true because this was about the fifth week of little wind; unhappily all of which being the NW. NW is a deadly direction in Salcombe. In these conditions Salcombe dinghy racing protagonists, become officially “specialist”. As such, cancelling races is not our style.
Even so, it was a triumph of hope over experience that fifteen helms appeared attired and rigged in the launch area at Batson by about 12:00. Those who foregathered were struck that Chris “Chubby” Cleaves had turned up with a clapped-out Phantom having sold his Solo on account of his, these days, un-diminutive stature. There is a growing fleet of Phantoms in Salcombe. It is yet unclear if others in that class are ready for Chris Cleaves’ presence among them.
Once launched, gaining the vicinity of the start line was not the work of a moment. First off, was a fleet of ten Solos in what eventually proved to be a two hour driftathon to the finish via Mark 3 and Mark 2 both to port. Getting to Mark 3 down-tide was more straightforward than the return leg to Mark 2 against the ever-gathering flood.
It is possible that as the fleet left mark 3, the zephyr went southerly and increased from nothing to something. The leaders attained the Portlemouth ferry steps in reasonable order. Murray Walker, were he commentating, (in an effort to generate interest), might remark that it is one thing getting to the ferry steps; quite another getting past them. This is a notorious tidal gate in little breeze.
One of the attractions of Salcombe is the many vantage points for the spectator to watch the action. Those queuing for the Portlemouth Ferry were able to take in the breath-taking sight of ten stationary Solos parked just off the ferry ramp for fully half an hour, like so many resting gulls, each with their own vociferous personality. Here the Solos totally blocked the ferry from landing, thereby delaying passenger access to the pub and rugby. Notably, your correspondent alone having made it past the obstacle, then achieved the feat of reversing his Solo, stern first, into the ferry ramp courtesy of the tide and lack of innate skill. He was then able to engage in conversation at leisure with bemused ferry passengers, leaving behind much gelcoat and his pride in the process.
In all the farrago, the Solos were soon joined by the handicap fleet headed by Peter Cook and Janet Exelby in their Firefly, along with the aforementioned Chris Cleaves and Paul Ellis in their Phantoms who had started ten minutes later. The leading group, of Simon Dobson, Bruce Hattersley in Solos plus the vanguard of the handicap fleet, ultimately made progress. Not that soon they were eyeing the prospect of making the break from the Portlemouth shore to mark 2. This buoy is tantalisingly planted out in the mid-stream. It was by now sporting a decent bow wave, courtesy of invisible planetary forces. The question in your racing sailor’s mind was: when to leave the shallows and make the break?
Dobson judged this best and was among the first round the mark, followed by the leading handicap fleet. Almost everyone hit the buoy and had to do turns. As the leaders “rounded”, back in the race hut, race officer John Wylie lifted himself from an agreeable afternoon nap to consult the calendar. He strolled onto the balcony and hoisted the shortened course flag to put the leaders out of their misery.
Meanwhile Bruce Hattersley had sailed almost as far as Bolt Head so as to be sufficiently up-tide to round mark 2. Not for him, was the prospect of under-cooking things; no siree. In the event he was swept swiftly and ignominiously past the buoy. It was some time before we saw Bruce again, by which point he was in a dark mood.
Among those even less fortunate, there remained an argument for retirement. But being “specialist”, comparatively few did. Greening thought about the attractions of the rugby and crossed the estuary to go home. As he did so, he was met with a breeze so he changed his minded and ploughed on, up the Town side. This was his Mistake no 2; No.1 being, going sailing in the first place.
“Action” shots: courtesy of Ed Stephens.
1st Simon Dobson
2nd Graham Cranford Smith
3rd Robin Hodges
1st Peter Cook and Janet Exelby: Firefly
2nd Chris Cleaves: Phantom
3rd Paul Ellis: Phantom
Last updated 15:13 on 27 February 2019