Alton Water Phantom Class training day and Open Meeting.
The second event in the Phantom class Eastern series attracted 25 entries over the weekend of 6th and 7th April and at long last the sun made an appearance.
The training day on Saturday divided into a choice of either boat tuning and rig tweaking ashore or tuition afloat addressing specific problem areas under the watchful eye of Ben Falat afloat and James Jarvey and Ian Miller ashore.
In the afternoon a Grand Prix racing format of short races was tried over short windward / leeward courses. The first race was used to select pairings from the fleet and subsequent races were scored on this basis. It would be easy to say that some tactical place changing took place but the truth is that in the light shifty conditions it was very hard to see if anyone had held back or tried extra hard! The starting and mark rounding practise was much appreciated by the somewhat rusty fleet and it was notable how much better the starts became as the afternoon progressed. The eventual winners of the Grand Prix chocolates were Ben Falat and Doug Conway with Daren Pike and Josh Richardson in second and stalwarts Matt House and Jez Taylor making a keen pairing in third place.
After a great days sailing and banter the fleet retired to the Kings Head for a hearty meal that had been pre booked on entry - thanks Ian!
The Open meeting on Sunday looked ominously like it may follow the pattern of previous events with a mist having descended over the reservoir and an hours postponement was. put in place to allow the sun to attempt to disperse the haze. Happily this took place and the sailors were delighted to see a light breeze start it fill in, although it was obvious that this was going to be somewhat unsettled and patchy.
Eighteen helms had managed to obtain full weekend passes and took to the water.
Race 1 was over a trapezoidal course with a committee boat start and Chris Roberts showed his liking for the conditions by working the shifts well to round the windward mark with a significant lead over the fleet, only to park on the downswing leg and watch the fleet again bunch up with James Jarvey and Clive Morley closing him down. The fraught downwind leg saw Roberts maintain his lead and despite intense pressure from Jarvey he held this for two laps and the winning gun. This followed the same pattern as the previous year when Roberts had again won the opening race.
The second race got underway with individual recalls and again Roberts found his way to the windward mark first and led the fleet downwind, only this time the wind faded and filled in from astern to allow the following pack to sail over him and head for what was assumed to be the leeward mark. Unfortunately it had not been appreciated that the Race Officer had swung the course and in the absence of a lead boat the majority of the fleet followed the course sailed in the preceding race. With the wind remaining patchy and the fleet split with some heading for the wing mark the decision was made to abandon the race and head ashore for lunch early.
This proved to be a wise move as no sooner had the fleet assembled in the tea and buns department than the breeze was seen to swing and grow as the influence of a sea breeze became dominant across the reservoir.
Three races were run over the afternoon in a very pleasant breeze that saw the lighter helms work hard and the heavier helms find their toe straps and stretch their legs.
The conditions suited Ben Falat who got away from a good start and left the pack behind fighting hard for places in nip and tuck battles throughout the fleet. James Jarvey took second place after a battle with Matt House and Bob Portway from the home club.
The third race was won by Tyler Harmsworth who show remarkable pace and clearly avoided going left which had not paid whenever he had tried it before.
Race four looked like it would be a tense affair. On the water calculations as to who had scored what proved problematic with three different race winners and an incredibly tight pack with good results. It seemed clear that the best policy would be to go for a win but pay attention to who was placed second. Any of five helms could win and Tyler Harmsworth clearly wasn't under race team orders as he stepped up a gear and took the lead and kept it to the gun. Behind him the racing was tight and remarkably close. Falat looked well placed in second but Bob Portway was in with a shout and needed a win to taken the Open Meeting. The same applied to Jarvey for whom a third might have been enough. Roberts needed a result better than fourth and these four boats fought hard to the end. Much gybing and mark rounding manoeuvres saw places change and a big shift on the third beat saw Roberts lose his third place and allowed Portway and Jarvey to push Falat to the very end, with Portway getting the upper hand on the last mark to take second from Falat, Jarvey and Roberts.
Third place was enough to give Falat the win by a single point with the following three boats all on eight points and Roberts a point further adrift.
Ben made a point of thanking everyone involved in the training day and organisation of the event. In particular the fleet thanked the race team of Gavin, Jonno, John and Jerry who freely gave up their time to officiate and support the class.
At the prizegiving the usual spread of goodies was distributed throughout the fleet with particular mention made of newcomer Chris Nelson from the local fleet at Walton and Frinton sailing a classic wooden boat who clearly enjoyed his racing.
The next Eastern series event is at Up River on 27th/28th April.
Ben Falat 1359 gt Yarmouth & Gorleston
Tyler Harmsworth 1340 Shoreham
Bob Portway 1205 Alton Water
James Jarvey 1423 Hickling Broad
Chris Roberts 1395 Creeksea