First UK GP event kicks off the 18ft Skiff season

Friday, May 17, 2013

Jack Grogan, who was sailing Hyde Sails, tells the story of the recent Grand Prix event at Stone SC…

The 18ft skiff fleet rolled up at Stone sailing club, which is the normal location for first regatta of the year. It's usually a kind event with nice weather and allows teams to blow the cobwebs away. However, this year was different!

Day one

With the usual late start of 1400hrs that either helps the previous night's headaches to clear or allows the morning nerves to ease. In this instance it was the nerves, with the boats having not really been sailed since the last European event of the season back in September the sound of halyards singing in the dingy park and a menacing wind against tide sea state it was always going to be a day for the little number two rigs and good boat handling.

Most of the fleet launched for the short sail to the start area, all testing the water temperature with a little swim before they got there, unfortunately Hyde Sails missed the first race as their gooseneck snapped during rigging up.

Race one was taken by Pica fresh back from Sydney and the JJ Giltinan Trophy. This was a good start for the guys as the team were lucky even to make the start as they had capsized whist sailing a practice beat and were struggling to the get the boat up. It was also impressive, as they have had a major crew reshuffle. Stew Mears, usually at the pointy end, was now driving and Jamie Mears, the normal helm, had stepped off for family duties so they had a new member Conor Keohane at the bow, with regular Tristan in the middle. Following the Pica boys home was English Braids, still showing they have what it takes in the rough stuff. Steve McLean’s team LED ,with their new Hyde sails, were unfortunate not to win but a swim on the last run let the others through but a good recovery to third.

Race two saw the fleet back up to full capacity as Hyde Sails joined proceedings, unfortunately the Rutland boys soon went in with a batten failure and they did not want to occur any secondary problems like a sail possibly ripping. Race two started and it was breezy… The clubhouse had recorded 28 knot gusts, more than the first race so it was very unforgiving out there. Due the strong tide the committee boat took the unusual step of anchoring on the pin. This certainly threw the Hyde Sails team, who did not know that this was what was going on so started at completely the wrong end. Pica and Ronstan made good starts leaving Hyde Sails chasing. Pica capsized on their first tack leaving Ronstan in the lead and Hyde Sails now hot on their transom into the windward mark after making the most of a persistent lift off the clubhouse shore. Ronstan and Hyde Sails successfully bore away, but on the hoist Hyde Sails’ halyard jammed in the end of their spreader, which subsequently snapped off with the force of bowman pulling the kite up. This left Hyde with two DNFs for day one. The race continued at break neck pace with Ronstan eventually being hauled in Pica. In third place was the new team from Oxford, who showed that in the breeze, you can still be competitive with a pin top sail and staying upright. They were the real winners of the day in the fleet’s eyes.

With the fleet loving the Stone hospitality during the evening and holding their AGM, everybody was looking forward to the racing the next day in more sun and less wind!

Day two


Day two dawned with rain and more wind, also with the earlier start this meant more tide, it was a bad recipe for sailing boats that like a good nosedive. The Principal Race Officer, Neil Fulcher, wisely held the fleet ashore for an hour, which proved a great decision as the sun came out and the wind dropped to a steady and manageable 18-22 knots. Champagne sailing! 

For race three the pin end was favourite, so it was busy! Hyde Sails won the pin, but were over so gybed back round and took some transoms and headed out on port to the right-hand side. Steve McLean's LED was absolutely flying and they soon established a huge lead sailing higher and faster on the beats, certainly something that bodes well for the rest of the season. The team had purchased a new C-Tech mast and full set of Hyde Sails and it was proving a wise decision. Also showing a great turn of speed were the Rutland boys, sailing well and fast. By the end it was LED winning by a mile from Hyde Sails, who had worked back from being over but only just squeezed home in front of the Rutland boys.

Race four again saw the pin favoured and everybody wanted a piece of it. Pica had a bit too much too soon. They were being forced into the mark by the tide and in desperate move they went to pinch it but accidently tacked on the port causing a domino effect of everybody else trying to keep clear. Pica were called over and went back, which left the Rutland Boys and Hyde Sails now port tacking the fleet, which they just about managed. At the top first time it was Rutland from LED from Hyde. Hyde over-hauled them both down the run and sailed off, Pica managed to get through as well despite going back at the start, however on the final run Hyde Sails thought that they had done enough laps so dropped and rounded the bottom right-hand gate, and Pica followed suit. Funnily enough this was completely wrong and Ronstan cruised home to victory, Hyde managed a frantic bear away, which enable them to dip to the line just to pip Rutland. Pica trawled their kite on the quick hoist leaving them to get fourth.

Race five got away cleanly, with no boats over and good rule observance. The left was starting to pay with the wind swinging more southerly as the air warmed. Pica and the Rutland Boys made the most of it and the positions at the top were Pica, Rutland, Ronstan.

Pica managed to open up a good lead on the first run with Hyde Sails rolling Rutland on the hoist and Ronstan gybe-setting, which was a bad call. Hyde Sails set about closing in Pica and on the next run managed to gybe early into pressure and grab water on Pica, due to the late drop on Hyde, Pica was able to sail high and squeeze out Hyde Sails. Hyde not wanting to do more tacks than what was necessary decided to go into low mode and blast through Pica’s lee. This would prove a good move, by the time the boats tacked Hyde was five boat lengths back, but on the lay line, whereas Pica were struggling to make it. At the windward mark Hyde Sails managed to roll Pica, causing Pica to capsize, leaving the door open to Rutland and then Ronstan to make a charge for the final podium positions behind Hyde Sails.

Overall Results: 1st Pica 10pts, 2nd Ronstan 10pts, 3rd LED 11pts, 4th Hyde Sails 13pts, 5th Rutland 17pts

To find out more about Hyde’s 18ft Skiff sails sails, see

Hyde Sails Ltd, Harbour Building Office A, Hamble Point Marina, Hamble, Southampton SO31 4NB

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