Misty Welcome at Tropical Frampton

 

A drop in temperature and thick mist welcomed the British Moth fleet as they arrived at Frampton On Severn Sailing Club on 12 October. Despite visibility being only around 25 meters, the sailors were keen to get going and were soon on the water. Race officer, Andy Smith, set about the unenviable job of creating a course, despite not being able to see from one buoy to the next. At the same time sailors navigated the lake, becoming accustomed to the patchy and shifting wind, occasionally being greeted by the silhouettes of sails emerging from the mist, before disappearing once more.

Soon, the first preparatory signal was fired and the fleet quickly emerged from the fog and amassed at the start line. The sailors condensed at the starboard end of the line and soon calls of “windward boat keep clear” replaced the eerie quiet that had cast itself over the picturesque lake. Andy Matthews, visiting the club for the first time, managed to lead by the first mark, closely followed by Chris Latham and Roger Witts in third. Matthews and C.Latham extended their lead, whilst Witts headed the chasing pack that formed, alongside Tony Latham and Ian Heywood. Matthews opened up a commanding gap throughout the rest of the race to take first. Witts made his move, opting to gybe out in to the middle of the lake on the longest downwind leg, managing to lose T.Latham and Haywood and close the gap on C.Latham. However, C.Latham managed to hold on to take second, with Witts having to settle for third. T.Latham and Haywood enjoyed a good close fought battle, one of the trademarks of this wonderful class of dinghy before taking 4th and 5th respectively.

The second race started with only mildly improved visibility, the mist still providing the dramatic backdrop to events. The shifty wind proved to be a cruel mistress for Ian Heywood who started the second race very well before, being caught out on port crossing another boat on starboard as the wind shifted and the resulting penalty turns relegated him back down the fleet.  Matthews was again showing quick speed but this time hotly pursued by Witts. Behind them Anne Widdows, despite sailing with a broken toe, made a move downwind to get into third before C.Latham managed to get an overlap. T.Latham was now showing good boat speed, trying to catch his son in third place, but wasn’t able to. Matthews managed to get his second win of the day before the fleet headed for lunch, with Witts taking second and C.Latham third.

Over lunch the competitors reflected over the mornings sailing, with many commenting on how the poor visibility had meant they had to ‘feel’ the wind more than usual. Whilst sounding slightly spiritual, it did accurately reflect the difficulties when you lose a lot of the usual visual aids that help decide what way to head up the beat or whether to aim high or low on the reach. All of the sailors concurred that the race officer and his team had done an incredible job, managing to set an even beat and fair race, despite not being able to see the full course at any one time.

After lunch the wind temporarily picked up and started to blow away the mist, before returning to its shifting, bending habits of the morning. Lunch didn’t break Matthew’s rhythm and he again lead by the end of the first lap with Witts second and C.Latham chasing in third. C.Latham managed to catch Witts, before Witts showed a master class in covering as C.Latham tacked to try and get clear air, Witts tacked on top, the wind shadow almost stopping C.Latham as Witts sailed away. T.Latham benefitted from this moving up in to third. Matthews, Witts and T.Latham spread out as the race continued before Witts unfortunately had to retire from the race due to other commitments, benefitting T.Latham who was then promoted to second. Meanwhile Heywood had found more of the pace from the start of the second race, comfortably sailing his way up to finish 3rd.

Matthews having won three of the four races that had been planned did not need to sail in the final race. This left the battle for second overall to be played out between the two Lathams. The race started and T.Latham took the early advantage opening up a gap on C.Latham up the first half of the beat, before C.Latham played the wind up the left to round ahead of T.Latham, before T.Latham used his superior boat speed to pass downwind. This was the pattern that established itself with places regularly changing, until T.Latham was able to cover up a beat and open up a gap off wind that could not be overturned. Behind them Heywood was showing his good speed, constantly trying to bridge the gap from 3rd, but held up by other boats around him who were taking part in the  afternoon club racing series. T.Latham took line honours, C.Latham 2nd and Heywood 3rd.

Matthews deservedly took 1st overall, clearly demonstrating that he was the fastest in the shifty conditions, taking the Suspense Trophy on his first visit to the club. T.Latham took 2nd and C.Latham 3rd. Widdows despite only recently taking up the sport took home glassware as the ladies champion. Thanks went to the race committee who did a great job getting four races in despite difficult conditions.

The day’s racing showed why the class, which is widely known for its friendly atmosphere and close racing, is so popular. The British Moth is a joy to sail and race; something all of the sailors would attest to after another days racing.