SAILING: Prior loses his cap but records a hat-trick of victories
With the sun shining and a decent breeze, seven boats took to the start for the first race in Welland Yacht Club's Flag Officers Cup regatta.
With the wind speed as it was, a long course was set for two laps. All boats got away without incident with Tom Bell (Laser Radial) taking the early lead from Andy Prior (Laser), followed by Neal Tack with two crew Rebecca Slator and Katie Follington (Graduate), Alan Cox (Topper), Gail Follington (Topper), Samuel Willerton (Optimist) and Freya Willerton with crew Shelley Woolridge (RS Feva).
Before long, the faster full rig laser of Prior would take the lead, with Bell trying to keep close enough to have handicap advantage. However, at one point during tacking, Bell became stuck head to wind and was unable to give way to Prior’s right of way - he had to take a penalty turn which allowed Prior to break away.
Although the wind speed kept constant, the direction in the end proved less than favourable, making it hard work to complete the course so it was reduced to one lap.
Prior was first over the line, followed by Bell next on the run to the final mark. Tack and crew were slightly ahead of Follington, who, having right of way around the mark, had taken the lead, only for Tack to take it back again under right of way during the tack to the finish line. Once handicaps applied, Prior would retain the lead over Bell with third going to Follington.
Two additional boats made in nine competing in Race 2, with a shortened course of two laps. Prior made the most of the start, with Bell second, Tack and crew third, then Follington, followed by Cox, then Alistair Mitchell (Laser), Samuel, Freya and Shelley then Brian Cobb (Europe).
With Freya and Shelley taking a capsize and struggling to right the boat, the rescue boat had to help and their race was over.
At the end of the first lap, Prior misjudged a manoeuvre and clipped the final mark. He took a penalty turn which gave Bell the chance to close in. After handicaps applied, Prior took the win this time from Follington second and Bell third.
The final race saw the fleet back down to seven. In an unusual turn of events, probably the two most experienced sailors Prior and Bell capsized simultaneously just before the start. This allowed the toppers of Follington and Cox to take the early leads, closely followed by Tack and crew.
This also prompted the most important recovery mission of the season, looking for the now lost caps of Prior and Bell. Soon the pair would make their way back through the fleet. Prior completed a clean sweep after handicap, with Bell second and Follington third.
Overall results: 1st Andy Prior, 2nd Tom Bell, 3rd Gail Follington and highest placed junior Samuel Willerton.
Both Prior & Bell we’re safely reunited with their caps.
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