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By Adrian Smith

“It’s not normally like this here !” was the refrain from the locals, heard by the small but perfectly formed fleet of Contenders who visited Hythe & Saltwood Sailing Club for a one-day open meeting on Sunday 17th May. A cliché it may be  - but also true, as the highly unstable wind (both in direction and strength) which greeted sailors on the Sunday (and which had bedevilled the Snipe sailors throughout the Saturday, for the first day of their open meeting) is mercifully rare for HSSC. Setting a workable course was highly challenging for “team Dodds” (Barry and Simon) in the racebox and perhaps even more so for those on the water tasked with laying the marks – namely, the team of members manning the HSSC safety boats, along with Rob and Mac Purvis from Redoubt SC who kindly assisted all weekend in their “pocket rocket” of a RIB.

For the first race, the wind was flicking about wildly and the fleet split between those like Adrian Smith, who attempted to head left, anticipating the wind to fill in first out to sea, against those who headed along the shore to dodge some of the strong tide.  With the wind contriving to die to almost nothing at the start and to shift left at that very moment, those inshore – notably Peter Noble from Broadstairs and HSSC local Tom Coley – won out. That said, with the wind very light throughout the first leg, the positions were still very tight by the first mark with Tony Cook and Alan Mollatt from Downs and Rob Smith from Castle Cove all vying for position with the others.

Together with tide judgement, the race had a bit of everything including swinging direction as the breeze gradually came in shifting lumps. Peter managed to hold his lead throughout, with constant place changing in the tight battle behind. Both Smiths chucked some turns practice in for good measure ! Although the forecast for the day was for the wind to build a little, not far through the first lap the breeze settled in from SSW and continued to build to 15+ knots by the finish. With the course layout now (unavoidably) sub-optimal, those most able to power through the building lumpy seas on a close reach/fetch and to hang on down the waves on the broader legs won out.  Peter Noble did well to hold onto his lead, from the challenge of “big boys” Tom and Tony, who filled the next two places – Tony having just got past Adrian on the final leg.

The wait for Snipes & club racers finishing, and substantial course re-setting, gave the breeze and swell time to build further, so that 18-20 knots provided a good blast for the successful port tack starters. Despite a decoy overstand to retain the gap to Tony (actually looking for the mark !), Rob Smith led round mark 1 and held this for 3 laps despite the ever closer attention of Tom who was gaining every upwind leg.  Unnecessary fiddling on the 2nd run led to a big turtle for Rob, racing being close enough that everyone else also got through. Now at 20+ knots with the famous Hythe waves - Tom held his gap and Adrian sped downwind but again couldn’t quite hold Tony off on the final fetch to the line, with Rob getting back to 4th and Mol beating Peter for 5th place.

Coming in for lunch before 2 more races had been the plan (and an appealing one for those who had under-dressed for the eventual conditions), but after some “exciting” landings (thankfully no damage to speak of) the concensus was that with the breeze continuing to build further and the tide still dropping, the shorebreak would be best avoided to save any recovery drama . So a more relaxed lunch and early showers were the order of the day.

The results ended up:

1st Tom Coley – Hythe & Saltwood

2nd Tony Cook – Downs

3rd Peter Noble – Broadstairs

4th Adrian Smith - Hythe & Saltwood

5th Rob Smith – Castle Cove

6th Alan Mollatt – Downs

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