Midland Bell – South Staffs Race Report

19 boats came to South Staffs SC to contest the penultimate round of the 2019 Midland Bell series. This was quite possibly the strongest fleet assembled so far this season on the local circuit, though the wind direction made it quite likely to be snakes and ladders!

The first race got underway cleanly though a sudden shift with 5 seconds to go made an early tack onto port seem a winning strategy. Nobody told whichever god was in charge of the wind about this however and the several boats who must have been rather pleased with themselves coming in from the right of the course were left somewhat dismayed to see the other half of the fleet coming into the windward mark on a massive lift from the port layline! There was surprisingly little chaos though the predicted running order was slightly disrupted. One team who were not disrupted were Mike and Liz Senior who rounded the mark never to be seen again. Mark McKeever and Kevin Hopkins were comfortably second for much of the race only to slip on a banana skin and down several ladders on the penultimate lap. The group behind were waiting to pounce and Dave Young and Laura Burch came though to second, with Mark and Kevin fighting back to third.

Race two was preceded by a large squall and fairly hefty rain. Once the sequence got underway the wind dropped back down to around force three and the direction stabilised slightly to the north of where it was in race one. RO John Billingtion had duly altered his course and again we got underway cleanly. Again the right hand side seemed to pay and this time there was much less of a left wobble. Again Mike and Liz got around first and disappeared leaving second place the one to fight over, six boats being in the mix for it! Midway through the second lap Chris Martin and Samuel Bailey found a wind lane on the run and charged through to third place. They then nailed the subsequent two beats to take and hold onto second with as comfortable a lead as its possible to get in such shifty conditions – you are never truly safe! Dave and Laura made a late comeback, but didn’t quite get close enough to challenge and had to settle for third.

For race three the wind had gone round even more to the north, and the apparent strength had increased. It was however by now very turbulent and unstable with some quite wild shifts and gusts on the water that never connected with the sails. Clearly Mike and Liz Senior found one of these as they were observed in reverse at speed on the start line at the gun, eventually crossing the start line DFL. The large shifts made the top of the beat taxing and calling your lay line nigh on impossible. Mark and Kevin got this right and rounded first with Dave and Laura and Ross Kearney and Steve Graham hot on their heels. You can never write off a world champion, and as the race got on it was clear that Mike and Liz were not going to settle for two wins and were progressing through the fleet. Ross and Steve had assumed the lead by mid way through the race before an enthusiastic roll tack combined with a cruel wind shift saw them take to the water up a beat. This allowed Mike and Liz through to first resuming normal service. Dave and Laura had also been on a charge and taken Mark and Kevin to take second place in the race and overall. Mark and Kevin had to settle for third in this race, Ross and Steve again took to the water on the finish line but had already finished so there was no opportunity for Chris and Samuel to take fourth place.

Mike and Liz Senior from SSSC were clear winners in all three races, despite making the third about as difficult as possible. A consistent performance from Dave Young and Laura Burch also from SSSC saw them take second overall. The battle for third was less clear cut, SSSC/Midland SC’s Chris Martin and Samuel Bailey’s second in race two seeing them pip Mark McKeever and Kevin Hopkins also from Midland SC on count back. Ross Kearney and Steve Graham came in fifth.

Thanks to all at SSSC for putting on a great event. The Midland Bell series concludes at Chelmarsh SC on 5th October. First place is sewn up, second is very much up for grabs!