Despite midweek forecasts of winds gusting over 40 kts putting off a few boats from launching, there were plenty of competitors out to enjoy the first of the Pwllheli Autumn Challenge weekends, although the wine tasting and tapas night at registration the night before meant that there were plenty of fuzzy heads.
Fridays strong winds had left quite a swell to negotiate with 14-22kts from SSE compounding the chop. Race officer Robin Evans set a course heading to Mark no 1 along the beach before heading up wind to mark no 5. Mojito and Jackknife got off to a good start and as the fleet rounded no 1, Andrew Hall's Jackknife lead the fleet offshore in precession. It wasn't until Jackknife were close to a mark that Mojito noticed that Jackknife and the whole fleet were heading to Mark no 4 instead of 5. Will Partington's Honey bee had been sailing slightly freer than most to head for the correct mark but as all the fleet were following Jackknife they also slotted in line.
When Mojito realised, they bore away to head to the correct mark while Jackknife, still unaware of the mistake, rounded no 4, hoisted their kite and were well on their way to the next mark before they took it down. Their mistake allowed Mojito to take an easy first at the line on handicap, 2 minutes ahead of Dave Hughes's Legless Again in 2nd place, who also took 1st in class 2 with Honey Bee taking 3rd overall and 2nd in class.
3rd in class 2 was taken by Mark Thompson's Jac y Do helmed by Stephen Tudor. Meanwhile in class 1, Jackknife had to settle for 2nd followed by Lewis Williams's Darling in 3rd place.
After losing a crew member overboard in the first race, Parabia decided to head in early and retired from the second. This time Robin set the remaining fleet a course starting in the opposite direction to no 7 before the upwind leg to no 5. Jac y Do were settling into the series racing and got a better start on the next race but at no 5 it was a Jackknife followed by Mojito at the windward mark. At the start it had looked like the next leg down to no 2 was going to be too tight to hold kites but eventually Jackknife launched theirs. Mojito held back till later, both allowing Jackknife to pull ahead and Jac y Do to make significant gain. Further back in the fleet Honey Bee were also making ground but not quite enough to secure 3rd overall. Jac y Do took 1st overall and in class 2, Mojito 2nd overall and 1st in class with Jackknife 2nd in Class and 3rd overall. Honey Bee finished 2nd in Class 2 followed by Legless Again and Darling took 3rd in class 1.
Day two and the forecast was to start much the same as day one but with the overnight heavier winds due to rapidly die off. As the fleet came to the start line the heavens opened and rain severely reduced visibility. With a shifty 14-16kts it was all very close at the start. Jebus managed to squeeze in at the pin end next to Mojito pushed up by Honey Bee who were being pushed up by Jackknife, while Jac y Do got a clear start at Gimlet rock.
Robin set a course similar to Saturday but this time everyone found the marks despite the very poor visibility. Mojito, being chased by both Jac y Do and Honey Bee were on fine form and finished almost two minutes ahead of the fleet on corrected time. Jackknife managed to hold on to 2nd place with Jac y Do having to settle for 3rd over all, taking 1st in their class. Darling took 3rd in class 1, while in Class 2 Honey Bee took 2nd behind Jac y Do followed by Jebus in 3rd.
As the fleet headed back to the starting area after the finish, the winds suddenly switched off to just 6-8 kts but with a large chop left from the earlier winds. This time the fleet headed out to mark no 7 where the chop was more evident. Mojito struggled to get going in the light airs but heavy chop and a 360 to burn time at the start resulted in the rest of the fleet heading out before them. The tack out from Gimlet rock saw many boat struggle to get any speed against the waves but Jebus and Jac y Do tacked back early followed by Honey Bee and all three managed to regain substantial speed ahead of the fleet ufollowing Jackknife around the first mark.
As the breeze dropped, code zeros were hoisted on the tight downwind leg but heading back up wind, wind holes appeared with 40degree wind shifts, stopping Mojito in their tracks at one point while Jac y Do were gaining rapidly upon them. Ahead of the fleet, the huge headers were making it difficult for Jackknife to round the last mark and get to the finish but after multiple tacks they made it, taking line honours and 2nd in Class. Overall 1st and 2nd positions were taken by Class 2 boats Jac y Do and Honey Bee with Legless Again taking 3rd in class but not enough to prevent Mojito from taking 3rd over all and 1st in their class. 3rd in class 1 was taken by Darling.
At the end of the first weekend Mojito lead the series closely followed by Jac y Do and Legless Again but it's early days in the four weekend series with plenty of discards, so ample time to get names on the score board.
Book your crew in and see if you can beat the other crews at the quiz night as well as on the water. The prize for the winning team - a Sunday carvery for up to 6 people at Plas Heli may we'll come in handy for refuelling after racing, before heading home.The next weekend, weekend 2 of the series, is on 7th&8th October with a charity quiz night Saturday night in aid of Welsh Air Ambulance and CHIPAC sailing.