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Blithfield Barrel Round 2, 10th December 2023

The weather forecast was accurate and the high winds spent themselves overnight, revealing a benign on-shore Southerly of 5-9 knots and sporadic rain for race day. Despite missing some of the Merlins to their class event, 29 boats were on the water for the start of the first race. 

The wind then built with gusts in the 20s but the start sequence proceeded smoothly right down to the final minute when the wind suddenly veered to the West and forced almost the entire fleet prematurely over the line before hitting them with a punishing and sustained squall, recorded on shore at 35 knots. With some capsizes and the safety boats fully committed, the next 15 minutes were about resolving the on-water issues and making plans to recover the racing situation. Some 11 boats headed for shelter and despite some incidents close to the shore, and the use of alternative beaching spots, all were safely recovered with no reports of major damage or injury. The Cttee boat crew had their own issues with the loss of some course lap cards over the side - so the spare set had to be called for. They do float, so if anyone sees them…...

As is the way, it quickly calmed down and left a wind of around 11 knots from the SE. The course was adjusted to suit and the remaining 18 started cleanly. The 505 of Charlie Chandler and Owen Mills led the way throughout the 3 laps, their enormous orange spinnaker adding a real splash of colour to the grey overcast, and with a considerable gap back to the next boat, the Phantom of Adam Froggat. Nevertheless, the corrected time winners were Mike Senior and Ollie Goodhead in their GP14.

Lunch was Chilli Con-carne, a great choice for its warmth-generating properties. A delayed start to the second race was inevitable given the dramas of the first one. Heading onto the water at 1420, the wind was 11 gusting 23 knots from the SW. A clean start however, was not on the cards, but with time now critical, a black flag saw success at the second time of asking. With glorious sunshine as the backdrop, the 505, once again, led the way and achieved line honours with Adam’s Phantom not quite as close behind as in the first race. Most boats squeezed in 3 laps before the fading light fell across the reservoir. 

Report & photo credit: Alastair N C Reid 

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