Musto Skiff Open
Meeting at Datchet Water Sailing Club 9/10 June 2012
Article: Ian Martin
Datchet Water Sailing Club welcomed eighteen
Musto Skiffs including nine visiting boats to its event
on the 9th & 10th of June. This was the final opportunity
for the fleet to judge how well their early season training
was going against the fleet in a variety of conditions
prior to the World Championships in two weeks.
The wind on Saturday was a challenging
20 knots blowing onshore with some feisty gusts on top.
A handful of boats decided to sit out the first race
– launching required three people to help get boats
off the beach!
With a heavily biased port end start line in the first
race, the majority of the fleet opted to start on port
‘Riva del Garda’ style which also minimised the number
of tacks required upwind in the survival conditions.
Ben Schooling led round the first windward mark with
a good lead to the pack but capsized as he hoisted the
kite. The pack blasted downwind with the majority capsizing
on their first gybe. Some boats were finding white sail
downwind sailing was more effective rather than risking
capsizing with the kite up!
Chris Webber kept his boat upright more than the rest
to lead at the downwind gate and through the next couple
of laps until an injury forced him to retire from the
event. Cooper took over to lead only to capsize after
the final gate and just metres from the finish line.
Jamie Hilton, recovering well from his early swim, sailed
though the fleet and took the bullet – Sergei ‘I don’t
capsize’ Samus was 2nd and Cooper finished 3rd.
Race two started with more boats on the water after
an on shore postponement waiting for the challenging
wind speed to drop. Cooper sailed well to get the win.
Martin followed in second and Hilton was third.
The final race of the day was held in perfect ‘champagne
sailing’ conditions. The usual faces appeared at the
front as Hilton led round the first windward mark. He
was overtaken by Martin who gybed early into a bigger
gust. Hilton used a left hand shift on the next upwind
leg to regain the lead which he held onto until the
finish. Cooper threatened second place momentarily towards
the end of the final lap however was forced to settle
for third at the finish behind Martin. Palfreman finished
4th and Samus closed out his very successful day with
a second 5th place putting him in 3rd place overnight
after Hilton and Cooper.
Sunday dawned with totally different conditions
– the water was a mirror. The fleet were held ashore
for an hour for the breeze to fill in.
Racing started in light patchy, puffy breeze with the
odd downdraft from aircraft landing at nearby Heathrow
causing ‘mini-hurricanes’ on the water and resulting
in surprise capsizes throughout the fleet.
Cooper took the fourth race followed by Schooling and
Martin. Fifth race was also won by Cooper who was now
starting to turn the screw on the rest of the fleet.
After a bit of course moving for race 6, David Annan
sped in to lead from the left side of the beat. He led
round most of the race and unfortunately sailed into
a hole after gybing early down the final run. This allowed
Dave Poston through to take first place and Hilton to
take second. Cooper followed Annan over the line to
Going into the final race only two boats could win the
open meeting – Cooper was ahead of Hilton by just one
point. To take the overall win Hilton needed to either
win the race outright or finish second with at least
one boat between him and Cooper. This led to exciting
watching as Hilton engaged Cooper in some pre-start
Whilst this was going on, Palfreman found his usual
light wind boatspeed and sailed off into the distance
to take the win by a considerable margin. It was helped
in part by a mini-hurricane which capsized second placed
Poston near the windward mark preventing other boats
from rounding more quickly. Schooling and Martin sailed
though Poston to complete the top three places.
Whilst Hilton managed to sail Cooper down the fleet,
he was not able to sail back up to second – even after
a bell ringing final beat – and finished the race in
5th place. This handed the overall event win to Cooper
who sailed very well demonstrating consistency throughout
the variety of conditions.
Many thanks to Datchet Water Sailing Club for running
the full race programme. Next event is the Musto Skiff
World Championships at Weymouth at the end of June –
with record 104 skiffs entered to date it promises to
be a legendary event.