The weather for the RS300 Winters at Leigh & Lowton was more benign than that experienced last year at the same venue when the wind was blowing down the lake in huge lumps. Although the sunshine was welcome this time around the sub 10 knots breeze was not. In addition, the wind was blowing across the lake on Saturday which made for short beats and with the windward mark interestingly tucked up under the trees on the southern bank, exiting from the windward mark proved almost as tricky as the approach in.
Unlike the 400s and Vareos who were sailing windward/leewards under the trees, at least the 300s got to play on their own on other parts of the lake. Playing with himself better than most in race 1 was Andy Flitcroft (Bolton) who had rounded the windward mark and was off down the run before the majority of the fleet was more than halfway up the beat. Unluckily it all began to fall apart for him when he got caught up with a raft of 400s at the last mark. His subsequent 720 allowed in Tim Keen (Sheffield Viking), who had done well to extricate himself from the peleton and Merlin magician Matt Biggs (Blithfield), showing that he knows how to make another wide boat go fast.
Race 2 was run in similar conditions and a heavily port-biased line and a short beat made the start all important. Four boats arrived together at the first mark including Paul Allen (Leigh & Lowton). Paul Keeling (Blithfield) and Sam Sutton-Reid (L&L). This group pushed themselves a little high on the run allowing Steve Bolland (Bristol Corinthian), running in stealth mode, to nip round the outside to snatch the lead at the leeward mark. It was short-lived, however, as Sutton-Reid used his local knowledge up the next beat to build a comfortable lead. By the end of the final run during which the breeze had dropped to almost nothing Sutton-Reid, Bolland and Allen P were all overlapped with Bolland getting squeezed out early on up the last beat like the proverbial pip. Bolland dropped to fifth at one point but showed his tactical genius by eventually picking up a nice gust on the left to round first and hold the lead to the finish with Keeling coming through to 2nd followed by Paul Allen, Biggs and Luke Pepper (Hykenham) beginning to show some of the form he displayed at the Steve Nicholson.
With the wind going left the course was re-laid allowing a slightly longer beat in race 3. Neil Skellam (L&L) sailed a beautiful first beat to round ahead of Bolland and Mike Allen (L&L). Bolland took the lead towards the end of the run and retained this lead to the finish, followed by Allen M, Skellam, Keen and Keeling.
At the end of day one Bolland was leading from Keen and Biggs. Keeling was also showing well but had to depart on Saturday evening as he had organised his daughter’s christening on the Sunday. Schoolboy error.
Sunday saw a change in wind direction that allowed a beat along the length of the lake and an increase to 12 knots or so early on that allowed the fleet to stretch its legs. Races 4 and 5 followed a similar pattern with Bolland and Keen fighting it out at the front a little way ahead of the chasing pack. As they jostled for position at the front, often overlapped and never more than a few lengths apart Paul Allen, Biggs, Pepper, Flitcroft and Pepper were all putting in some useful results with Ian Smith (Craven) also beginning to make a showing following a year’s absence from the class.
The wind decided to have a rest for the sixth and final race of the weekend. Bolland’s brain also decided to have a rest as, leading at the first turn, he neglected to pass round the spreader mark before heading off dow the run. A cheery hail from behind alerted him to his error but he was back in the pack by the time he had made the correction. As the wind shifted, then died away completely before making a return just in time for the finish Smith read the conditions to perfection to take the final bullet ahead of Paul Allen, Sutton-Reid and a fast-moving Mark Newton (West Lancs).
A good start to the season, then, with a healthy turnout and several new faces in the fleet. Next up is a Gul circuit event at Oxford on 2/3 April.