George Beevor writes: ‘With less than a week to go to the Royal Southampton Frostbite Series, Magic was joined at the Royal Southern’s training day with top coach Jim Saltonstall by the latest Impala to join the growing Hamble fleet, Too Frank.
When crews arrived at the club on Saturday morning it was howling over thirty knots of wind up the river but as the coach reminded everybody, in the Solent, rain before seven means it’ll be fine by eleven and after a class room session in which the key factors in race training and preparation were covered, the much reduced fleet (including both Impala’s) made their way out to the start area where boats were filmed doing windward/leeward circuits. With new crews getting used to each other as well as returning to competitive sailing after the winter, there were more errors than either would have liked to have been filmed.
By the time the first of the informal races started both boats were up to speed for a short beat and run followed by a hooked finish. Magic stole the start and managed to avoid being rolled by bigger boats. Covering Frank up the right hand side of the beat it was clear to see that the two boats were fairly matched for speed. At the windward the two diverged with Magic sailing deep in the light airs whilst Frank went hotter to sail for a good gybe angle into the hook. Magic dropped her kite late and gybed for a short white sail reach into the mark and harden up finish having opened out her advantage by going direct. Both Impala’s finished in touch with the J80s and SB20s which should have been a long way ahead.
The second race was the same course and this time the Impala’s declined to cover each other. Frank went for a classic conservative committee boat end start whilst Magic headed down the line to the pin arriving far too early and having to hook around the ODM to start four boat lengths behind her rival. Again speeds were matched up the beat and whilst Magic headed right out to the right in a slightly desperate bid for more air, Frank stuck to the middle ground and had retained the lion’s share of her lead when she rounded the mark. Magic on the other hand suffered a riding turn and was seemingly out of the running. As the wind built, a rocky and rolly run ensued and whilst Magic was able to make up some ground, it was only when Frank’s drop went horribly wrong that Magic was able to sneak around to gain the advantage just before the finish however both boats were a long way off the pace.
An intense period of rolling five minute starts followed which was great fun but tremendously hard work. Magic drew strong praise from Jim for their excellent starting on Starboard but derision for a number of rather courageous, if ill timed attempts at some port flyers.
The day finished with a slightly longer race, again with a short beat and run followed by a reach back to Hamble Point. Magic again run the start but was put about by the much faster (and seemingly aptly named) J97 Jeopardy when the latter attempted to force a nonexistent gap between Magic and an SB20. With the wind now solidly in excess of 20kts true, Magic’s big number one headsail was becoming more of a hindrance than a benefit, especially at a windward mark crowded with boats including Frank sporting a more suitable number 3 jib. Most boats opted for a white sails run, the planing J8-s sailing the angles whilst the older David Thomas designs went goosewinged, Magic hot on the tails of the far bigger Sigma 38 Degree of Latitude. At the leeward mark the leading boats hardened up for another beat and confusion reigned. George Beevor, skippering Magic will claim that he was covering the fleet in going back to windward but Frank leapt on the error to reduce the lead to five boatlengths. The gap remained right to Hamble point as broaching J’s were passed one after the other for both Impalas to conclude matters right in the thick of a fleet that they would have been well behind had IRC handicaps been in place.
The session concluded back in the club house with a video review of the day. As befits weekend sailors at the beginning of the season there were a number of red-face incidents as well as many positives, but all concerned were left with something to gain from the experience and hungry for more as both boats head for the Spring Series starting next Sunday in Southampton Water where hopefully they will be joined later in the series by Polly and Imptish.