The Catapult Bala Gala: TT races

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 The Bala Gala again brought a good turnout, including two new members (Rob Baker, ex-windsurfing and new to cat sailing, and Dermot Mangan, over from Ireland, returning to Catapult after sailing a range of other cats there.)

 The breeze stayed SW through the long weekend, directly up the lake, so largely unobstructed for racing, and determining largely windward-leeward courses. The Club had suffered the loss of several  fixed marks in winter storms, but the starting marks at the spit on either side of the lake could give short reaching bursts back and forth across the lake in each race.

 The wind direction, and the resulting courses, were the only constant features, as everything else varied wildly (wind strength, sun, clouds, and rain) often within one race.

  Race 1  got away with the breeze gusting 28 mph, with Gareth Ede leading from a straggling start and Paul Ellis trapezing after him. Behind, Stuart Ede and Alastair Forrest duelled as the breeze built, until a ferocious gust at the gybe mark sent Stuart lurching away downwind. Alastair chased Paul, catching him near what turned out to be the finish after two laps. The remaining boats on the water saw frantic signals from shore that the race had been shortened and stopped, because all the Safety Ribs were away downwind rescueing club cats who had been overwhelmed in the gusts (a good demonstration of Catapult's ability to survive.)

(Below:  interlude between Race 1 and 2, sunshine and wind.)

 As part of the strangeness of the weekend weather the sun then emerged over whitecaps down the lake (photo above) until the breeze eased back to 23mph gusts, enough to let Race 2 start (and the cloud returned) . Gareth and Dermot trapezed away from good starts, Gareth keeping ahead (photo below), with Stuart going well upwind with a reduced rig. Nigel Harrison enjoyed trapezing the first beat until the forestay strop parted and “the boat exploded”. Paul chased by Alastair across the reach to the gybe mark, had the remains of Nigel, and the rescue boat to gybe around (photo below.) Paul trapezing pulled up to threaten Dermot, and George Evans pulled up steadily for 5th.

brought the promise of reasonable racing breezes and the threat of rain. The course remained W/L with a short reaches, and lengthened to go further down the lake, just off dead-downwind. For Race 3, Stuart and Dermot picked the port end advantage, and with the very long start line gained a good lead. Alastair, going further to the left of the beat picked up a good lift, to round the top mark with these two as the wind faded. They ran gently down to then pick up better speed across the short reach and back, and went running gently on. Behind the wind died away in patches and the fleet spread out almost randomly.

 To keep the pattern of no pattern, the three front boats got a sudden prolonged heading gust, giving a tight reach storming to the downwind mark (with Alastair frantically luffing up to get the boards down again) to have a huge lead, turning side-by-side as the wind died again. Dermot turned first, but on the long tight lead back to the finish, Alastair got the boat into the groove a little quicker and gained a slow slow lead, held to the finish, with Dermot easing in ahead of Stuart. To round off the weirdness of the day, as the front three finished, cloud and rain swept in and the rest of the fleet staggered home in fierce gusts, barely visible in the downpour.

(Below: Gareth leads and Dermot chases, Race 2) (Photo Bala CC Race Team)

 To keep the uncertainty certain, for Race 4 the wind died down again, still shifting around SW, and the fleet straggled over the line, with Dermot leading and George making good speed behind. The slow beat to the top mark saw Dermot ease around and get away comfortably, and then George suffered the humiliation of drifting onto the mark so solidly that Stuart, Syd Gage and Alastair following behind had to turn outside the combination of George and the mark. Paul coming up behind after suffering from the shifts was stuck rounding with Damien. The fleet behind Dermot eased gently downwind a few feet apart (with George facing up to a 360' in whispers of breeze) towards finishing a predictable shortened course. Stuart, defending against Alastair's gaining, cleverly saw that the downwind finish in the shortened course was before  the gybe mark, and reached up faster to the line to take the second from Alastair with Syd in fourth.

(Below right: Paul, 507, followed by Alastair, negotiate the gybe round the mark and the rescue of Nigel, with Stuart, 531, chasing with the reduced rig.) (Photo Bala CC Race Team with thanks)

For Race 5, with the breeze still light but able to be raced, the fleet got away tight at the starboard pin, and Stuart had good speed in the middle to pull out a lead held to the top mark.

 Dermot and George carried on well out to the left, to be shunted to the back by a big shift.The breeze died again, protecting Stuart's lead, and Alastair eased away from Syd for the second place. Again, the Race Officers had no doubts about shortening (so that for two successive races, no boats made it to the "fast" reaching legs!)

On Monday, the forecast of a reasonable racing breeze under cloud eventually delivered. Alastair, with the event lead to guard, started well at the pin end and gained enough to put rivals Stuart and Dermot in his wind-shadow, slowly building a lead at the top mark, held downwind and across the two short reaches, then staying just ahead of Dermot upwind. Stuart, having fallen back in the fleet went to the left of the next beat early, with a good gain.

  Alastair survived the horror of sitting in a downwind hole with the fleet behind bringing up the breeze, and held a comfortable-enough lead on the final short beat to the line. He then inexplicably decided to tack to the left end of the long finish line, letting first Dermot and then George (holding their course to the starboard end) through to take first and second in the last 50 yds.


 (Six races: one discard)

Place                                   Race 1       Race 2     Race 3      Race 4      Race 5
        Race 6           Total         Nett

1          Alastair Forrest          2               (4)             1              3                  2.                 3                   15            11

2          Dermot Mangan      (12) DNC      2              3              1                   6                   1                  25            13

3          S
tuart Ede                    5              (6)              2              2                  1                  4                   20            14  

4           Paul Ellis                      3                3               6              5                   4            (12) DNC           33           21 

5          George Evans              4                5             (7)             6                   5                  2                   29           22     

6           Gareth Ede                  1                1                4           12 DNC      12 DNC      (12) DNC          42            30

Syd Gage               (12) DNC    12 DNF         8               4                  3                  5                   44            32      

8           Damien Cooney     12 DNS           7          (12) DNF      7                 7                  6                   51            39

 9          John Peperell             6             12 DNC          5           12 DNC     12 DNC         12 DNC           59            47

10         Nigel Harrison          12 DNF     12 DNF         9          12 DNF     12DNC          (12) DNC         69            57

11         Stan Tobin                12 DNC    12 DNC      12 DNF     12 DNC    12 DNC         "12) DNC         72            60

   (Below: the short reach back and forth in front of the starting spit; Syd, 506, chases.)(Photo Bala CC Race Team)

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