Catapult TT at Grafham Cat Open
October 20-21st


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Grafham Water early on Saturday morning had mists lying across still water, but by the time racing began a light SSW arrived to clear the lake and stay steady, 1-2, (with the last of summer sunshine) to keep the boats moving consistently.

  Catapultís seven boats made the largest part of the mixed Medium Handicap fleet (shared with Dart 18s, a 16, and DXís )  A big fleet of 30 Sprint 15s shared a port trapezoid course, with two short reaches, and longer beat and downwind legs. The Sprints were away 4 minutes earlier, so the Catapults (threading through their fleet by the second lap) had some tricky tactics up wind and down.The fast single-handers (mainly A-Class) had the same start and gate, racing on a longer windward/leeward course, so joined the other fleets upwind and down, adding to the excitement as they crossed.

  The club ran three back-to-back races each day, keeping the port trapezoid for all six for the Catapults.

  In Race 1 Stuart Ede and Alastair Forrest picked the marked port-end start advantage, (Stuart arriving on starboard and spinning on the button) and these two held a big advantage upwind. With the heavy left-hand bias to the course, they could make the top mark on port, only to meet a packed wall of Sprints coming in on starboard. After ducking below 20 boats one after other, they then had to duck below most of the rest of the late-arriving Catapults, and Alastair completed the disaster by drifting onto the mark in the disturbed air as Sprints collided and argued.

   Gareth Ede picked up a useful lead which he held to the finish, the rest clumped together (several losing ground by swinging too wide onto the slower run dead downwind.) In the light swinging breeze the tactical decisions were around staying headed straight to the mark (gybing as the wind shifted) or heading out one side or other for clearer air, not easy to get right. At the downwind mark, a useful lift as he rounded let Alastair climb to windward of the fleets in clear air on the left, almost straight to the upwind mark reclaiming the lost places, and with the light breeze restricting the race to two laps, a safe second place.

 At the Race 2 start, Alastair defended the starboard pin end savagely from Paul Ellis, but lost the advantage as Paul climbed to windward of the fleet, and then steadily built a lead which he extended throughout the two laps for an emphatic first.

 The rest of the fleet closed up, and in the downwind leg and second beat, George Evans came through to take and hold second. Gareth and Stuart duelled gently downwind side by side (photo right) but Gareth's upwind gain passed Alastair to take the third place.

 Downwind Stuart pulled up on Alastair and on the final short beat was threatening to take him until a sudden Sprint tack forced him away. This turned out to be a blessing, as he found in clean air and an extra puff and stormed in to pluck 5th.

In Race 3, Stuart and then Alastair were well-placed in the starboard start, giving clean air to build a useful lead by the top mark, which Stuart extended steadily through the rest of the two laps, to take a firm victory.

 

   Gareth came through the fleet beginning to push Alastair who had enough in hand to hold second to the line, while Paul took the fourth place ahead of new member Syd Gage in fifth.

 By the end of Saturday's close racing, five of the seven helms had scored a first or second through the day, with three helms tied on equal points, behind Gareth narrowly in the lead.


 
Sunday
brought changed conditions, with the wind swung round to NNE, a fresher force 3, slowly building during the three back-to back races, and still swinging. Upwind, after coming through the Committee boat gate most boats continued into a long starboard board before turning at the top mark on a long port board keeping clear air. Tactically it had the downside of finding a place to tack to round the mark with a stream of boats approaching on starboard. The freshening breeze gave longer four-lap races, with Gareth and then Paul able to trapeze upwind.

 The long downwind leg was also absorbing, with tricky tactical decisions around avoiding the Sprintsí wind-shadows, and watching for the downwind tacking of the bigger cats, aiming to arrive at the mark on starboard. Different Catapults went left and right, with wide separations at times, and a rush together at the mark.

  In a packed starboard start in Race 4, Gareth to leeward had good speed to pull ahead and lead Alastair and Paul at the top mark. By the end of lap 1 Gareth, Paul and Alastair had caught up with the Sprint fleet. Unable to point as high as the Sprints, Gareth lost ground as he had to sail below them whilst Paul and Alastair's superior pointing allowed them to stay upwind of them.  Paul took the lead from Gareth on the second beat. Gareth fought back on the last lap and on the final reach, the pair were side by side. A desperate dash for the finish line saw Paul claim the win by just a 1 second margin.

 The rest of the fleet battled it out, George steadily pulling up for third, and John Peperell gaining fourth, with emphatic reaching speed with the Hood main.

(Below: George comes through to the finish in the gentle Saturday conditions, amongst the 'A's and Sprints



  In Race 5 the fleet again packed the starboard end. Alastair defended the pin end hard from aggressive starting by the Dart 18s, but Paul following across the line pulled up fast to windward. Gareth was now able to trapeze, establishing good speed, and he and Paul pulled away from the rest of the fleet. The key challenge for Gareth was maintaining his lead over Paul on the downwind leg. Gareth chose not to go for a dead run and aim for clean air out to the right, but was careful to watch Paul and mirror any gybes that he made.  This paid off with Gareth eventually taking the victory . George again came steadily through to third, and on the second beat Alastair despaired of matching his boat speed, tacking away from the starboard procession out to the right not gaining or losing in the chase, so George gaine the third comfortably.

 At the start of Race 6 Stuart picked the marked port bias, but his port-tack start was destroyed as Alastair and the Dart 16 tore down the line to claim starboard on the gun. Stuart's delay then forced him to duck below the whole of the starboard-starting fleet, and head off alone to the right-hand side---but this did him a favour as he gained, coming to the top mark in third place, after Gareth and Paul again confirmed their upwind dominance. Although Paul was now able to trapeze some of the upwind legs, Gareth revelled in the upwind trapezing to move well out ahead for the first time without anyone breathing down his neck.

  The freshening breeze gave a (long) four-lap race, with the remaining four boats battling it out. The fleet closed together downwind, but George again pulled out to gain the third, (pulling up steadily to threaten Paul, only a few lengths ahead at the finish) and Alastair and Stuart exchanged places with Syd close behind. Stuart's reaching speed took him to the last short beat with enough in hand, but a starboard A Class forced an extra tack to the line, and Alastair plucked back the fourth by a boat-length.

   RESULTS

 Place                                  Race 1    Race 2    Race 3    Race 4    Race 5     Race 6       Points

     1        Gareth Ede                  1            3*          3              2             1                1                 8

     2        Paul Ellis                      3             1           4*           1               2               2                 9

     3        Alastair Forrest          2             5*         2             5              4                4                17

     4        George Evans             6*           2           6              3              3                3               17

     5        Stuart Ede                   4             4            1             6*            5                5               19

     6        Syd Gage                     7*           6           5              7              6                6               30

     7        John Peperell              5            7             8*           4              7                8               31

           

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