A small fleet of Fifteens – but perfect in every detail! – gathered at Grafham over the weekend of November 16th – 17th for the annual Ovington Inland Championships. The weather forecast was for little breeze on Saturday and less on Sunday and this undoubtedly affected the size of the entry. Nevertheless, six home boats and two visitors hit the start line right on time for race one of the six races scheduled. PRO John Reynolds and his race team set an ‘old’ Olympic course round the club’s fixed marks. The fickle south-westerly breeze took the fleet up to a mark off the clubhouse shore, alarmingly close to the lay line to the 29ers’ windward mark on the next course. The fleet negotiated this challenge without event (other than a lot of place changing in the disturbed air) and the pecking order for the first race was established; at the front, a closely-fought tussle developed between Nick Taylor and Geoff Lloyd from the home fleet and Ben and Terry McGrane from Chew Valley – a contest won, after two triangles and a sausage, by the McGranes.
Nick got his revenge in Race 2, sailed over the same course. Elsewhere in the fleet, there were major changes in fortune: Barry and Katy Wyatt, from Grafham, soared to the unaccustomed heights of 2nd and the McGranes had to content themselves with 3rd. In the failing breeze, the PRO rightly decided to switch to a windward – leeward course. The Wyatts, finding themselves blanketed off the start, tacked off early and followed a lonely – but ultimately profitable – route up the right of the course to round in first place – a position they held to the end of the race. They were followed home by Les Rant and Susie Sontag (Grafham) and the ever-consistent McGranes. With both breeze and daylight failing, Race 4 was an attenuated affair, won by – you’ve guessed it! – the McGranes, closely followed by Nick Taylor. So, at the end of Day 1, after one discard, Nick led Ben and Terry by a single point.
Sunday dawned grey and miserable but with the bonus of a light NNE breeze that made racing possible, if not exciting. The PRO promised – and delivered – two sharp windward-leeward races. His judgement proved immaculate when the fickle breeze finally died just as the last boat came ashore. Conditions were challenging, in a cerebral sort of way. Should one stay in the middle of the lake, where the breeze was at its strongest or go for the expected lift off the north shore? Opinions were divided and no convincing answer emerged. A 30 degree wind shift during the final race further clouded the issue but, at the end of the morning, Ben and Terry, with a first and a third, did enough to topple Nick and Geoff (second and fifth) by a single point. Grafham Fleet Captain Jonathan Knight, crewed by his wife Tricia, ended on a high with a win in the final race.
All competitors were grateful to Grafham’s race teams and to race organiser Duncan Hepplewhite from Ovington Boats for an extremely enjoyable event, with a social side that is rapidly becoming the envy of the rest of the open meeting circuits.
Barry Wyatt, GWSC