Last Bank Holiday weekend, Coniston Sailing Club welcomed 50 boats to their annual regatta, sponsored by Lennon Racewear. Their three racing fleets comprised; Fleet 1- the fast fleet (PY Below 1050), Fleet 2 -the second fleet (PY above 1050) as well as Fleet 3, made up of five juniors.
Saturday's sailing started just after lunch in bright sunshine, with a South Westerly F3 to 4. The fast fleet had a perfect start and all 12 boats cleared the line without incident. However, the start of the second Fleet, despite the friendly and sporting nature of this event, was to be an indicator of just how close & competitive the competition was going to be! At least half a dozen boats were over the line at the Port end, which called for a General Recall. At the restart, there was still a lot of jostling and shouting on the line, but they managed to hold position until the final signal.
During the first race the clouds came in, and the wind swung round to the South. By the time of the second race, the strength had steadied to a F4 building to F5, and our planned beats became a close reach. This was evidently much to the enjoyment of the racers, who were speeding from mark to mark, only to become becalmed at the finish line, due to the wind shadow.
Sunday morning dawned wet and windy, with a Westerly blowing F4/5. The course was all set; the committee boat was in position and the fleets just setting off, when the wind decided it was time to play games and started gusting F6/7, blowing somewhere from the North to the South. This caught out a few boats, sending their crews in for an early swim. With all the boats assembled on the water, we initiated the start procedure, which was immediately followed by a sudden, strong gust, knocking down a couple of boats, to whom our safety boats promptly responded. This event was closely followed with a radio call from the Red RIB - "We've lost steering." The steering cable had snapped in the gear box.
With the countdown on, we had to make an instant decision to co-opt our camera boat into service as a back-up safety boat and to carry on with the race. We believed if they were sailing with a purpose, they would be less likely to capsize and collide with another boat.
The strong gusts made for a more cautious start line and so all 3 fleets had a clean start, with no one over the line. It was difficult to tell if the crews were smiling with excitement (as they were the previous day!) or whether it was a grimace of fear, whilst they waited for the gusts to subside. Either way, nearly every boat capsized at some point during the race, ensuring our safety boats definitely earned their Sunday lunches that day. Following lunchtime, the weather forecast was studied and the decision was made to cancel the remaining two races for the day, with the option for an independent race in the afternoon, if required. Unanimously, there were no takers for this option.
Monday arrived with a chill in the air and some trepidation of what the weather might bring. The forecast was for a Westerly F3/F5, so we opted for two shorter races to be held in the morning, with the final race after lunch. At the start line, Coniston's micro-climate lived up to its reputation and defied the weather forecast, with the wind dropping off to a gentle breeze and only occasional gusts blowing through. All the starts were clear, and some close and tactical racing ensued; with the boats catching or just missing the wind shifts, as they blew through. During lunch the results were examined (and re-examined) by the crews, bringing about the realisation that there was only a very small margin of points separating each boat - it would be "All to play for," in the last race.
The final race began in the afternoon, with Fleet 1 getting away with a clean start. Unfortunately, this was not repeated by the second fleet! With the honour of an overall win at stake, there was once again crowding at the start line, and, with lots of shouting and jostling for position, this forced a General Recall. At the restart, a further 5 boats jumped the line, but these were identified for an individual recall, enabling the race to continue. The boats raced neck and neck from gusts to lulls, with the lead changing throughout, until finally, we had a result and our overall winners.
The successful regatta weekend drew to a close with a prize-giving ceremony. All racers were thanked and commended on their cheerful, friendly and sporting participation and sailing skills, throughout the weekend. The Commodore thanked Lennon Racewear for their continued generous support for the regatta.
Congratulations to all our winners:
1 st Mike Preston & Joe Preston, Flying Fifteen, Blackpool & Fleetwood
2 nd Rob Shaw & Ian Little, Osprey, Kielder
3 rd Tony Johnson & Paul Jones, Kestrel, Coniston
4 th Alec Mamwell & Arthur, Osprey, Coniston
1 st Tom Burke, Laser Radial, Coniston
2 nd George Swyer, Laser Radial, Coniston
3 rd Ben Swyer, Laser Radial, Coniston
4 th Sam Jones, Laser, Coniston
5 th Joe Quick, Solo, Coniston
6 th Stephen Roberts, Laser 4.7, West Lancs
7 th Peter Dewhurst & Patrick Hamilton/Andrew Davey, Burwain
Fleet 3 (Junior)
1 st John Bridgeman, RS Tera Sport, Coniston
2 nd Grace Culling, Topper, Coniston
Tom Marsham Shield – Mike & Joe Preston
Wave Trophy – Tom Burke
Gondola (Best Coniston boat) – Tom Burke
Hughie Carroll (Best Junior) – John Bridgeman
Race Officer of the day, John Sharpe and Membership Secretary, Judy Leese (May 2019)