The god of sunlight smiled down on the thirteen competitors - including five visitors - in the first Albacore Open of 2021, recently held at Maidenhead Sailing Club on Sunday, April 18th.
The god of decent wind, however, was off having post-Covid drinkies in a beer garden somewhere far from Maidenhead, which left the sailors with some interesting light wind sailing, and quite a bit of drifting.
After a short postponement waiting for it to materialise, what wind there was come from the north; a good direction for Maidenhead according to the locals. Race Office Jon Hirsh and team set a figure-of-eight tight course - so as not to confuse the visitors - and with a lead boat we were off in drifting conditions.
Stuart McAdam/Sarah Mayhew sailing 8211 meant business, getting ahead of the start leader Mike Hamilton/Joe Jones in Who Ate All The Pies (807) at the second mark and never looking back. Barry Wicks/Julie Maidment (8132) from South Cerney - Barry having been a Maidenhead sailor - used his knowledge to lead the rest of the fleet in the challenge to take runners-up spot. David and Rebecca Brown of Whitefriars SC, having swapped their RS400 for the Albacore Association boat You Can Call Me Anytime (8253) took third, while for the rest of the fleet it was a battle round to the finish line.
After another postponement for the wind to make up its mind, Race 2 got away on the same course in a lucky-to-be-force-one zephyr-like 'wind'. The sun and the blue water gave a Mediterranean feel to the lake, as we watched a tangled web of Albs criss-crossing the course.
Snake Eyes 8211, McAdam/Mayhew, again took control of the race, showing admirable roll-tacking skills. Team Brown challenged them closely, and sailed into a solid second place. Mark Reddington and Colin Anderson (7426) from Bartley SC, showed admirable consistency, starting and finishing in a well-deserved third, a credible result for this well-known Merlin Rocket pairing.
There was excitement after lunch as the god of wind paid a visit. After watching the wind for a while - wind direction being notoriously fickle on Summerleaze Lake - and several changes of course, RO Hirsh reversed the course from the morning's direction.
With wind in the sails and the odd visit to the windward-side deck, Matt Biggs and Mark Fowler -sailing a Kingsfield Marine (6922) - took a commanding lead, which they held to the finish. David and Rebecca Brown took their second second place of the day, with Snake Eyes McAdam/Mayhew bringing 8211 in third.
Young guns Leo Wilkinson and Tom Knight, sailing in their first Albacore Open, had their best result, a fifth place sailing Te Wero Gal (8129).
The last race of the day brought more head scratching for Jon Hirsh, as wind strength and direction again became a lottery. The lack of strong wind, however, gave the competitors the chance to enjoy the talking countdown from the committee boat, accompanied by the harmony of all the other watches bleeping.
With light winds, being on the right side of the start line was a challenge not everyone managed, with Biggs/Fowler in Bullitt having their second OCS of the day. Wicks/Maidment made a strong show in this race to take the win, with Biggs/Fowler overcoming their original setback to take runners-up, and third place went to an improving John and Janet Woffinden sailing The Usual Suspects (8213).
With their two pre-lunch firsts, Macadam/Mayhew had first place overall sewn up, but with three teams on 7.0 points, the minor placings all came down to the final race. Wicks/Maidment, having come first in that race, just pipped Biggs/Fowler to second overall. Silver Fleet winners were Wilkinson/Knight, who look like they might be up to the challenge of the Traveller series.
All said, it was a difficult day for Race Officer, Jonathan Hirsh, but... we did get four races in, and the fleet had time to enjoy being back in the Alb after a long lay-off. Thanks to Jon and his crew for all their hard work.
The next event is Bartley SC on Sunday 16th May. The club is well placed at M5 Junction 3 and is expecting a big turn-out for their first Open Event, with five club boats waiting to greet the visitors. There might even be some wind!