by Vicky Cox 17 Sep 14:53 BST
The ever popular Pwllheli Challenge Series kicked off on Saturday. This year's challenge has had a bit of a shake up by popular demand, so as not to miss out on any good autumn weather and mild winter days. As a result the series now encompasses four weekends of the Autumn Series plus four further weekends which make up the new Winter series, altogether producing a possible 26 races over eight weekends and finishing mid-December. Those competitors not interested in the full challenge series can chose to compete in the Autumn Series or Winter series as stand-alone events.
The new format also saw the introduction of some extra races, so the schedule for the first day was for three races. The fleet saw between 10 and 15 kts SW on the course for the first race but wind gradually built throughout the day and by the third race winds between 15 and 20 kts were seen with the odd gust of 22kt on the instruments.
Two of this years top ISORA boats,Andrew Hall's J125 Jackknife and Peter Dunlop&Vicky Cox's J109 Mojito, lead the fleet round the course on all three races, followed closely by Harley Quinn and Jailbreak, two of Pwllheli's growing J80 and sportsboat fleet. Once handicaps we're applied the results showed just how close the racing was with just 30 seconds splitting the top four boats in the second race. After day 1 Mojito lead the series on count back, sharing equal points with Harley Quinn.
After the overnight storm with winds gusting over 40kts there was a reluctance to leave the pontoons but with the forecast wind set to plummet the race officer postponed racing by just half an hour. And plummet it did! On leaving the berthing the winds had dropped to 15kts but by the time the fleet reached the start it had dropped further to 8kts NW.
The race officer set a course which lapped a few of the marks twice. On the first lap Mojito struggled in the chop with little wind to punch through the waves, whilst the J80s where able to find good speed but on the beat back up for the second lap Mojito managed to pull away from the fleet.
However as Mojito approached the leeward mark on the second lap the rain came down so hard that visibility on the mark was completely lost, resulting in Mojito having to beat back up to the mark once visibility was restored. Both Harley Quinn and Jailbreak took the lead on the water with a very close battle to the finish. As the wind dropped further Mojito launched their code zero to try and protect their 3rd place and with wind dropping to just 2kts, Will Partington's Honey Bee where unable to take it from them. Meanwhile James Baldwin's Sigma 33 Sloe Gin, sailing white sails, were left in the transition zone, experiencing wind from all directions and finally filling in from the SW.
With the wind filled in the race officer was able to start a second race and with calmer conditions Mojito was able to find speed, winning the race, followed closely by James and Jonny Collin's Jailbreak who finished just 15 seconds behind on corrected. Dave Leather's Harley Quinn took third.
Mojito currently lead the series by one point, Harley Quinn second and Jailbreak just two point behind but in this eight week series, with discards kicking in, there is still plenty of opportunity left for other boats wanting to join the fleet. The next weekend in the series is 29th&30th September.
Full results and race information at www.pwllhelisailingclub.co.uk