Day 1: Sat 30th Sep
After a recall, the Race 1 started under a black flag with start line bumper cars and barely avoidable contact – putting some contenders into an early spin. Huge first beat wind shifts switched up the pecking order, launching Chris Massey/Charlotte Graham into a giant lead at the first mark. While they were busy extending their lead, the fleet behind were tightly bunched. However, the wind shifts hadn’t had their final say. As the leading group closed up down the final leg, Massey/Graham just held on from a fast-charging (or just plain fast) Ollie Groves/Esther Parkhurst, who were having a final downwind ‘getting to know you’ session with class LegEnds Nick Craig/Toby Lewis. Amazingly the entire fleet finished within two minutes – some super close racing!
The wind built slightly for Race 2 and Groves/Parkhurst showed the fleet how it was done, despite the wind regularly shifting through 30 degrees. This time they were chased by Mike Simms/Jack Holden, who managed to regain their balance after so much first race spinning. Craig/Lewis fought hard for third.
Another notch more wind, so it was now 8 knots gusting 12 but still with massive shifts scything through the fleet. Dave Exley/Alistair Coates showed their faces at the front but behind them it was still super tight in the bunch. Groves/Parkhurst mystifyingly recovered from a first mark spin to storm through and win the race ahead of Exley/Coates. The ominously consistent Craig/Lewis fought their way in third yet again, foreshadowing what would happen the following day.
Most of the competitors rolled out to the local pub for an excellent meal and a friendly social before rolling back into bed to get some much needed beauty sleep for the next day of racing.
Day 2: Sun 1st Oct
Sunday dawned with less sunshine but plenty more wind – now 12 knots gusting 18 and a lot steadier in direction than the previous day. Not content with the previous day’s ‘getting to know you’ session, Craig/Lewis had a good sniff at Simms/Holden at the start, but after some handbags they somehow avoided contact, gave a cheery wave and went on with the racing. Up front, Jon Heissig/Nicky Griffin clearly had plenty of beauty sleep and were smashing it downwind into the lead, closely followed by Tom Halhead/Paul Hilliar. Huge gusts down the final run splintered the leaders, taking Halhead/Hilliar well clear and bringing the chasing three-all into the final leeward mark together – Craig/Lewis somehow squeezing through to second ahead of Heissig/Griffin in a blanket finish.
Into the penultimate race and Sam Knight/Chris Bownes looked to be in a league of their own, sailing into a huge lead until…Craig/Lewis went from zeros to downwind heroes in one gust that simultaneously buried Knight/Bownes and turned the bunch inside out. Craig/Lewis finally got to hear the winning hooter, with Jamie Morgan/Oliver Davenport playing second fiddle.
Scores on the doors going into the final race meant the overall result was going to come down to a duel between Groves/Parkhurst and Craig/Lewis. Craig/Lewis somehow avoided a last minute change of their mucky mainsail and got on with match racing Groves/Parkhurst for the title. The fleet were treated to the sight of the two fastest boats getting in a proper spin. Groves/Parkhurst got shepherded way over towards the RS200 course while the rest of the fleet got on with the actual race. Knight/Bownes and Morgan/Davenport did an absolute horizon job.
Groves/Parkhurst finally escaped the clutches of their adversaries to start the race and they made a great effort to claim the title by sailing fast through the fleet. Close, but alas not close enough by only 50 yards, it left Craig/Lewis as the deserved champions.
The Rope4Boats RS400 Inland Championship provided an excellent standard of friendly but tight racing – there were five different winners from the six races. You can see the results here. Grafham Water Sailing Club was welcoming with superbly run racing, great facilities and on-site camping – which is a massive win and really helps the event atmosphere! Thank you very much to generous RS400 National Tour sponsors Rooster.
Looking forward to seeing you at the last event on the RS400 Rooster National Tour which is the RS End of Seasons Regatta at Rutland Sailing Club, 4th – 5th November 2023.
Event report by Paul Hilliar
Photos by Paul Sanwell/OPP