This weekend I traveled to Rutland SC for my second 300 event of the year: the Sprints.
The format for the Sprints is unusual. The first day is all about seeding for the second day. The sailors are split into fleets of 6-8 boats, and sail two rounds of 4 races each. The results are used to determine the fleets for the second day (Gold and Silver), and do not count towards the finals.
The racing is full on, with lots of short intense races. As soon as a race completes, there is a short respite of 5-10 minutes before the preparatory signal for the start of the next race. The race course is very busy, this weekend we had 21 RS200s, 15 RS400s, 16 RS300s and 3 RS100s all on the same track. Lots of interesting encounters with the other fleets, and confused chop everywhere.
Saturday was properly windy, f5-6 for the most part but with the occasional squall beyond that. Some of the 300 fleet found the conditions too much, and opted to sit out some of the racing. The final race of the morning saw an enormous squall hit on the final run, certainly too much for me (but persevered to finish 4th in the race). Somewhat battered, we came in for lunch and the wind die to a very pleasant f3 and sunshine! But as is often the way with these things, as soon as we got back on the water the wind piped back up to similar levels to the morning, and we ground out another 4 races. Everyone was thankful to get to the pub in the evening.
Sunday was better weather-wise. A very shifty F3-4, bright sunshine, beautiful conditions. 6 races back to back with 10 mins between.
So the objective for Saturday was to qualify for the 'Gold' fleet, by finishing in the top 4 of the fleet. Managed this OK, finishing 4th in my fleet. Given the windy conditions I was pleased, and frankly just happy to get round the course in one piece.
Sunday was more interesting. The 'Gold' fleet was probably the most competitive fleet I've ever sailed in, the fleet (myself excepted!) are experienced and skillful 300 sailors who have placed well at a national level. The race was determined by the start and first beat and I had my arse handed to me on almost every race! Ended up scoring 8,7,4,6,4,6 and placing 7th overall with 35 points. The shifty conditions made for a high scoring regatta, with 3rd to 8th separated by 10 points.
- Overall, the weekend reinforced the amount of practice and racing that I need to do! The better sailors in the fleet were quicker and tactically more savvy. Time to re-evaluate what is required from training I think.
- The racing was very close, with all boats finishing a race within 30 seconds on some races. So small increments in speed or tactics could make a significant difference in placing, which is heartening.
- I can forget the concerns about being one of the lighter guys in the fleet. The difference to the fleet leaders was the similar in the strong and light winds. Technique is the dominant factor, not weight.
- Pleased with fitness, not tired today and probably sailing tonight if I can get a pass.
Points for reflection:
- Thought I was quick before the weekend - I'm not quick! But not miles off the pace. Tim Keen in particular had great pace and height upwind. Matt Sharman was just lightening downwind, and overtook me to leeward twice!
- Thought I was OK at starting before the weekend - I'm not! The pin end was favoured for many starts, and I lost count of the number of times Steve Bolland got under me with 20 seconds to go. Also, the other guys had better pace off the line. Losing half a boat length on the line equated to 7 places as you were spat out the back of the fleet.
- Didn't get to grips with the shifty conditions. But the top guys did, the top two were always in the leading pack.
Overall a bit of a learning experience, its the most intense and competitive sailing regatta I think I've done, thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and the company of the 300 fleet, they are a great bunch.