SAILING: THE weather that greeted the sailors of the Chester Sailing and Canoeing Club on Sunday was rain, black clouds and a violent wind.
A few hardy sailors ventured on to the water in this last-of-the-season club race. The beat downstream provided some relief from the wind in the shadow of the trees, but on the return upstream on a run, the boats accelerated on to a plane which they held until the top bouy.
The pace was so fierce that on the plane upstream, the boats created a bow wave higher than their foredeck and the spray drenched the crew and helms, desperately trying to avoid the capsize.
Mike Maddocks and crew Reg Binnersley in an Enterprise were the first to go over, but they recovered quickly and soon the boat was free of water and sailing fast, but this lost them valuable time.
The next victim of the conditions was Andy Todd, who went over spectacularly in front of the officials' box for the benefit of the spectators, then again shortly after.
Despite these capsizes, Todd managed to stay in front of Phil Snewin in the other Laser. Wally Riley and crew Lesley Riley in an Enterprise and Dave Harrison and crew Hamish Collin were closely bunched at the start, but Riley, in a series of wild planes upstream in response to local gusts, pulled ahead and caught Snewin, who was sailing with more caution in the conditions.
Harrison, in the heavier GP, avoided the dangerous gybe and tack in strong gusts by choosing the opportune moment to make the move. Chris Bulgar, unaccustomed to rough conditions, chose to sail on mainsail only in his Mirror dinghy. He did well until the wind pushed him into the shore, but he was rescued from this and continued to sail.
The winner was Todd, second Riley, third Snewin, fourth Harrison, fifth Maddocks and sixth Chris Bulgar.
The last day of sailing for the 2003 season went out with a bang at Gresford Flash. Wind speeds were in excess of 20 miles per hour coming from the north west and it was bitterly cold.
Despite these adverse conditions, the top prizes in the Frostbite Series were still up for grabs and two boats did venture forth, giving all the spectators a thrilling exhibition of bravery and stamina.
The course set by race officer Charlie Jones was competitive and difficult, with two gybe marks making life hard for the sailors.
Nigel Bloor needed to get a first place in this race to win the series, but he capsized just before the start to give Nick Blore, who was late at the start line, an early lead.
Nick pulled out a substantial lead after Nigel experienced two more capsizes, and Nick seemed to be coping well with his Enterprise in the high wind. But on the third lap, the gybe at the number three marker buoy caught Nick out and he capsized. Nick, with his daughter Hannah as crew, managed to right the boat and carry on, but a sudden hole in the wind made him capsize again into the wind.
Nigel Blore was now on track to win the race, but he had lots of problems controlling the boat on the penultimate leg of the course, clinching victory in the race and the series.
Nick went on to finish the race in spite of the Enterprise constantly filling up with water, and his second place brought him up from fifth place to third in the series.
Members are reminded that the boats are being stored away at 10am on Sunday. Sailing starts again on Gresford Flash in mid-March.