Chelmarsh Sailing Club in the heart of rural Shropshire saw the first event of the inaugural RS Aero UK Series kindly sponsored by Magic Marine. A forecast of 16mph with gusts into the 20s encouraged a healthy fleet of 25 sailors from around the UK to this picturesque piece of water.
The direction was almost perfect for Chelmarsh, straight down the lake giving the ARO, Tony Hanan the opportunity to use most of the 100 acres to set a course perfectly suited to the Aero Fleet, reaches of varying angles with a thrown in tactical run.
With the bodyweights of the helms ranging from 50kg to over 100kg, all three rigs were being used, all getting underway with a mass start; the order of the day being handicap racing to find the overall victor, with the separate rigs’ results being extracted to be used for the four-event traveller series.
With a wide range of experience within the fleet, racing was always going to be close, those who have spent time in their boats to work out how to make it go fast at the sharp end, racing alongside several owners having taken recent delivery of their new toy, as well as those who had grabbed one of the Association boats for a taster race. The spectrum was completed with those helms who know how to do it but need more time to really make it work.
Leading the 25 strong fleet around for most of the day was Matt Thursfield (RS Aero 9) however the particular aspect of Chelmarsh with gusts sweeping down one side of the lake then the other, meant that the chasing pack were always in with a shout of narrowing the time gaps sufficiently to bring the handicap system into play. Peter Barton (RS Aero7) was the helm with the fastest medium rig. It was he who had covered Matt throughout the runs all day, Cat and Mouse sailing with Matt trying to break cover, Pete’s lighter bodyweight (75kg vs 104kg) giving him control despite having the smaller rig. It was the reaches where the 8.9m2 rig came into its own – just getting on the plane that fraction earlier allowed Matt to get away – but by enough? Only after the results were processed would we really know.
With a four race program and three races completed, the lead two were in a position where whoever took the last race would be the event winner. The final result was in the hands of the other sailors on the water, Matt in his nine rig had managed to get away and into clean air, Peter in the seven was sailing amongst other seven rigs of Pete Townend, Gareth Williams, Paul Robson and Dave Cherrill who themselves were being slowed by Richard Watsham and Gareth Griffiths in their nines. All looking good for Matt, three laps done, the shortened course flag up, the gun taken. The wind for this few minutes of the last race was going to be key. The nines of Richard and Gareth along with Peter Barton had managed to break through the other sevens and were screaming along the final two reaches. Would Barton close the time gap to Matt who was anxiously clockwatching? Just 1 min 54 secs after a marginal planing upwind fetch to the finish on a nice shift. It had been almost three minutes at one point. Was it still enough?
As the Magic Marine Prize Box was being forklifted into the clubhouse, SailWave was doing its stuff. Matt had done enough by 45 seconds to win the event based on the last race sailed, both he and Pete having three points. Third went to Gareth Williams (RS Aero7), fourth to Gareth Griffiths (nine), fifth was Paul Robson (seven). Leading the fives home was Ffinlo Wright having made the journey across from the Isle of Man; lead lady was Cathy Bartram also in a five rig.
It was a brilliant day both on and off the water. A huge vote of thanks to all behind the scenes, the amazing lunch from the Whitehouse/Collingwood/Stanley kitchen, the Race Management team of Mike, Tony, Maria and Tracy supported by the safety squads, as well as fleet captain Rob Fisk-Moore for organising the day and generally getting Chelmarsh to be such a hotbed of RS Aero Sailing. Chelmarsh would also like to thank RS Sailing, Junior in particular, for supporting the event and the class as more potential sailors got their first experience of what the boat has to offer.
The next event on the circuit is Lymington on 13th-14th June. With Harken providing a very generous supply of prizes and goodies and Vibrant Forest Brewery generously supplying two casks of beer for after racing tipples it looks set to be a weekend to remember! With a large fleet of their own, the Class could see a whopping turnout on the startline. Be there! Full details and online entry here.