Another fine and sunny winter's day for the running of the 2016 IOM Mid Winter Challenge. BOM forecast was for light to moderate NNW'erlies around 5 knots in the morning, strengthening to 10 to 15 knots in the afternoon, and apart from an easing off to calm conditions around midday, was pretty much what was on offer for the thirteen skippers that fronted for the day. I took on PRO duties for the day and I am greatful for the assistance of David Murfet and Les Hanson for observation and scoring roles.
With a couple of the marks still out of position from the wild weather of recent and lack of calm conditions and the opportunity to put them right, the course was set: start between 1 and 2, solid beat up to 6 to port, short downwind to 4 then into 3, shorter beat back up to 6 then a longer run down to the bottom gate before another, that proved to be decisive, short beat to the finish between 1 and 2. With a solid days racing of 16 races completed, I wont give a race by race account but for those that were not there, I can tell you that the racing was fiercely contested with close starts and a few OCS's, more than one way around the course with the Brook's enigmatic shifts, floating weed still a problem for those that encountered it, and a few racing incidents that you would expect in a solid fleet of 12 boats all wanting to perform, increasing by one with Wayne Behrens turning up for Race 9.
After Race 4 and the first drop, Michael Hickman led the field with 6 points, Rod Jackman and Ray Joyce in second and third, both on 7 points and David Jones and Chris Wood in fourth and fifth place respectively, both on 14 points. By the completion of Race 6, the midday doldrums set in so lunch was called, and with the calm conditions, the opportunity to do some mark position management was taken. With all the marks back in position, racing resumed with a course change to include the top mark 5 after rounding mark 6 to starboard, the rest of the course remaining the same.
By Race 8, the breeze had strengthened a tad to around 10 knots with a bit more westerly in it, and after the second drop of the day, Michael Hickman still held the lead but only just on countback from Rod Jackman, both on 15 points, Lisa Blackwood leapfrogged the field to hold third place with 21 points, David Jones 1 point adrift in fourth place and Matt Gray rounding out the top five with 24 points.
For the remaining races of the afternoon, the breeze steadily increased to around 12 knots or so, and testing conditions for the majority of the fleet that held their A Rigs, and not quite there for the one or two skippers that opted for, or had no choice due to A Rig malfunction, to use their B Rig. With the completion of Race 14 and a bit over half an hour's racing left, I shortened the course to 1 lap up to 6 and 5 then down to the gate and finish, in order to get 16 races completed and a third drop for the skippers.
So, after the final race, Race 16 and the final drop, the day's event went to stand out performer for the day, with all bar one non podium finish after drops, Rod Jackman with 29 points, streets ahead of second place Michael Hickman with 41 points, and Matt Gray taking third place, 4 points adrift with 45 points. Lisa Blackwood and Ray Joyce rounded out the top five with 55 and 58 points respectively.
Next Sunday sees the return of the Marbleheads with Round 4 of the Winter Series with racing from 11:00 AM.
Till then, wet sails.
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