The Bristol channel looked like a mill pond when competitors arrived for Clevedon Sailing Club’s 2016 D Zero and Laser open race meeting. Sailors had travelled from as far away as Southampton and Northampton and were looking forward to similar challenging conditions as experienced for the 2015 meeting.
However, after a delayed start time, a gentle south westerly 5 knot breeze filled in and race officer Ian Hotchkiss set a figure of eight course in the bay. After the competitors took to the water and the preparatory signal was sounded there was a 180 degree wind shift so a running start ensued.
In the De Zero class local sailor Robin Goff made an excellent start sailing in shore to stay out of the tide. Meanwhile, Ian Morgan and Graham Cooper found extra breeze further out in the tide and led the fleet to the first mark. Goff left his transit to the first mark too late and ended up rounding last, but using his experience of the tide managed to pull back to third by the end of the first lap. Up at the front the battle for first place between Morgan and Cooper continued with multiple place changing. Cooper eventually broke away and went on to take first place with Ian close behind him. Further back in the fleet the battle for third place started. Goff had elected to stay inshore again and once more was passed by the rest of the fleet. Toby Peacock then broke away from the pack and remained unchallenged for third place. Using his skills over the tide Goff finished fourth as the wind dropped and the rest of the fleet were forced to retire.
Only nine Lasers turned out for this year’s open, less than previous years, possibly due the forecast of rain and little wind. Starting after the D Zeros the light breeze that had developed vanished and the fleet struggled against the incoming tide eventually making the windward mark set out to sea. John Ling steadily increased his lead in the trying conditions putting a considerable distance between him and the rest of the fleet. The occasional light patches of wind faded altogether leaving the majority of the fleet stationary as they approached the windward mark for the second lap. With the tide about to change there was no hope of the fleet completing the course and all boats with the exception of Ling retired. Unfortunately, Ling had been over the line at the start and was disqualified, consequently there were no finishers in the Laser class.
No other races took place due to the prevailing conditions. The results from race one therefore completed the open series.