Catapults at Bala 2013: The TT Races

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The high pressure over the UK gave only whispers of the gradient NE breeze as boats prepared on Saturday, postponing racing, but by afternoon the predicted light SW had arrived. Courses through the three days took in both sides of the starting spit, with long beats and runs enlivened by the dog-legs and gate at the spit, with good views for spectators.

 In Race 1, John Terry and Alastair Forrest had the best of a pack contesting the pin end of a starboard favoured line, but went to the left side of the lake to be disastrously headed, although John fought back into touch with the leaders.
The front fleet stayed tight all the way round the long first lap (photo below)  Gareth Ede crafted a small lead only go the wrong (intuitively correct) way round the downwind mark, so eventually withdrawing.

The light breeze then swung right round back to NE, after drifting patches, and this produced a dramatic spectacle. The back fleet ran up with the light NE wind, catching the front group so much that they fitted into gaps between them, formimg a pack of twelve boats running in line abreast, equal first.

 Paul Ellis down to lee could tighten up to claim the inside rounding and the lead, but Alex Montgomery extricated himself best as a fleet thirty yards wide swung round the mark, and he hugged the right-hand shore to snatch and build a big lead to the finish. Behind, in the final beat George Evans tacked out into the lake for better breeze, coming through for the second place ahead of John and Paul.

 (Below: a tight front fleet comes to the downwind mark, Race 1)

catapult sailing at bala

For Race 2, the breeze stayed in the NE sector, but light and swinging, and a short reach back and forth across the lake was added at the windward end (photo below). Alastair risked a starboard start in the shallows a few feet from the start flags, with  a good gain, then catching John Terry as he came across to the favoured end on port (with John grounding on the stones as he manoevred.) The breeze swung or died at times with big gains and losses, but Alex came through the fleet to hold a lead to the end, from  Paul and Gareth, in a close group round the two long laps. On the final beat to the line, George pressured Alastair, who seeking better breeze tacked out into the lake, lifting him from fifth to second past the boats sliding along the shore.

   (Below: the short reach across the lake gives the chance of a burst: Nigel leads George and Stuart)

A glassy lake on Sunday morning again needed a postponement, but this time the SW breeze arrived firmly after lunch, and the Race Officer added a leg reaching across the lake and back at the downwind end. In Race three. Alastair blocked the attempt by Alex to come in at the starboard end of the line, but that did him a favour forcing him out to the right where he had a useful gain. Meanwhile John Terry came through for a useful lead, chased downwind by a close fleet (photo below) On the second lap, John realised he had not gone through the upwind gate at the spit, turning back, convincing Alastair that he had not as well, requiring each to do an unwinding long half-lap. Paul Ellis fought off Alex for the win, with Gareth third.

(Below: John Terry leading in Race 3 has time to look back and snap the chasing fleet of Alastair Alex and Gareth)

 Race four followed back to back on the same course with the breeze building and steadying, still moderate, but now the reach back and forth across the lake gave an exhilarating bursts if the puff arraived.

It was enough
to let Gareth trapeze, and with John show good upwind speed, into the first and second places, with Alex in third this time. Chris Phillips' good beating speed gave a continuing battle with Paul and Alastair and sixth place.

Sailors woke again on Monday to find mist hanging over a glassy lake, but an hour before the start, a SW breeze swept up the lake and steadied into a Force 2-3, still swinging unpredictably. The Race Officer set the day's courses further SW down the lake to the distant windward mark, keeping the reach at the downwind end.

For Race 5, Alastair won the starboard-favoured start, and gained steadily away from the fleet, but could not hold his lead, as Alex and John moved up to battle for the lead, Alex scoring another win. Alastair hung on for third in the upwind battles from Paul and then Gareth. Further back, in one of the many  race-within-a-race tussles by close rivals, Stuart Ede and Nigel Harrison stayed no more than 50 metres apart all the way round, Nigel getting ahead upwind and Stuart overtaking downwind, until with Nigel two boat lenghths ahead, Stuart grabbed a dead heat by gambling on tacking early and scraping over the line right by the spit (only feet from the line judges) as Nigel crossed further upwind

In  Race 6
John captured the pin end from the pack, and then tore off into an increasing lead looking uncatchable, but over the two laps Alex climbed to push him, these two out ahead with Gareth further back. Sydney Gage's upwind speed competed with Paul for fourth, until Paul pulled away in the second long beat. George firmly closed out Alastair in a personal battle, and Nigel with battens loosened to take out the extreme camber in part of his sail had obvious better speed, crossing two seconds behind Alastair as they denied Syd his 5th place in the last yards of the race.

  Results table, and fun races      

(Below: the team gets Don's guidance  at the race control.)


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