One good thing about bad weather from the racing sailor’s perspective is that it tends to keep casual boaters ashore. That has been very good news for Zhik Poole Week, leaving the harbour mercifully free of the usual plethora of jet-skis and gin palaces.
The plan had always been to send as many of the classes as wanted to go into the bay on Thursday, and out they went: the XODs, Flying Fifteens, Lasers and the mixed RS fleet that comprised an assortment of 100s, 200s and 400s racing on handicap.
The main handicap fleet, together with the Shrimpers, Dolphins and Wayfarers opted to stay in the harbour where they enjoyed some good racing, but the bay sailors were the ones who came ashore in the afternoon with the biggest grins on their faces.
Strong winds from the southerly quadrant over the previous few days had sent enough of a swell into the bay to liven up the second reach of the Olympic triangle sailed by the Lasers and Fifteens.
Thursday’s wind –12 to 14 knots, building gradually and gusting into the low 20s – was from the south west and the weather marks were under the lee of Hook Sands, but further out in the bay, between the gybe mark and leeward mark, the swell was very much in evidence.
The only boats unable to enjoy it were the XODs on their windward/leeward course, though they were sufficiently engrossed in their usual close racing not to feel deprived by the lack of surfing opportunities.
XOD guru John Tremlett was back in action helming Mike Pascal’s Zoe. He was pushed hard by Parkstone’s Willie McNeill in Lara in the first race and had to succumb in the second, when the positions were reversed.
Another visitor making his presence felt was Simon Dodds from Hythe and Saltwood, scoring two firsts and a fourth in his RS100 to sit 5.5 points clear of Stewart Bowen’s 200 in the RS fleet. Shaun Walsh brought his Laser down from Nottingham and followed the fleet around, but thoroughly enjoyed his first experience of sailing on the open sea and said what a change it made not to have to tack every 50 yards.
Some of the closest finishes of the day were between the top three in the Flying Fifteens, who were effectively sailing their own race. It was close in the Lasers too, especially in the first race when Roger Hakes and Giles Kuzyk were locked in battle well ahead of the pursuing pack and sailing each other all over the ocean on the last two reaches. Hakes had his nose in front to within 100 yards of the line and took Kuzyk well above the mark, but gybed first towards the finish. Kuzyk gybed inside and took the gun by a whisker.
he answer to the question of whether a day in the bay would bring different names to the fore appears to be that, on the whole, it didn’t. A more significant factor might be the forecast reduction in wind strength for the final races on Friday morning. All will be revealed by the time of the prize-giving on Friday afternoon.
Full results on pooleweek.org