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The forecast was looking good with 8 – 10kts gusting 15kts….well the last one I looked at. I was hoping for a rousing finish to the Midland Area series but with recent forecasts being the benchmark they haven’t been as accurate as I would have liked. The journey up the M40 was beautiful; autumn has started to reveal glimpses of itself, the colours of the leaves were a few weeks short of stunning but beautiful nonetheless.
"There is something so special in the early leaves drifting from the trees–as if we are all to be allowed a chance to peel, to refresh, to start again." – Ruth Ahmed
As I approached the club, a venue I knew I hadn’t sailed at previously, I had a feeling of deja vu which then made me think I’d put the wrong address into the sat nav. Whilst that wouldn’t be unlike me, recent weeks have been busy and everything does feel a little rushed so certainly not inconceivable. Light dawns on Marblehead……I’d picked the demo boat up from Tamworth a few months earlier of course it felt familiar!
The next issue I had was the most amazing smell of bacon coming from the clubhouse whilst setting up the Allen banners. There was no doubt what I was having for breakfast lovingly prepared by Rachel.
Some regular faces appearing in the car park for set up but most of the focus seemed to be on Mike Cossey, returning to club where he was previously a member, so it was great to see the warm welcome he received. However it did take him quite a while to get his boat rigged.
The PRO Nigel gave us a briefing in front of the map of the lake and explained the course. The wind wasn’t quite as forecast but it tended to not be at Tamworth, there is an island in the lake and I tried to glean a bit of local knowledge when I arrived, only to be told ‘we tend to make it up as we go along’.
The sailing instructions mentioned coming ashore after every race to sign off which after a few comments from the fleet about having back to back races in the afternoon seemed to become flexible.
A clean start and the first beat, and the wind shifts, were the tale of the tape for the rest of the day. Kev Hall held the committee boat end and was first to the windward mark followed by Neil Wilkinson and Mike Cossey. There was then a long run down to the next mark where the svelte sailors among the fleet would certainly benefit given the conditions.
Alan Bishop was making progress through the fleet and over the next few laps the top three of Hall, Wilkinson and Bishop would tussle for the lead. On one of the runs, which turned to a reach and almost a beat it was Neil Wilkinson that caught a breeze at the right time and from that point sailed immaculately to take the win. 1st Neil Wilkinson 2nd Alan Bishop 3rd Kev Hall
We came in for lunch and due to the water at Tamworth being considerably lower than normal we all supported each other with getting trollies and pulling boats up the shore. Typical of the Midland area fleet we had a bit of fun whilst doing this. A genuinely good bunch of people it’s a pleasure to spend time with.
A lovely soup was provided by Helen Elson for lunch which was really enjoyed by all.
The same course, given the wind direction, was set and given the changing wind strength was just as challenging.
Alan Bishop finding his form was first to the windward mark followed closely by Neil Wilkinson. Those two seemed to have a good battle for the rest of the race while still managing to pull out a gap on the rest of the fleet.
Further back the positions were changing on each leg of the course with Kev Hall eventually pulling clear and concentrated on chasing the leading two down.
1st Alan Bishop
2nd Neil Wilkinson
3rd Kev Hall
Race 3 The third race got away with a split of people starting at the committee boat and the pin end. The pin end was favoured, but how long would the shift in direction last? Not enough time to last the whole first beat, but just enough to keep them ahead at the windward mark. It was Alan Bishop who lead from Neil Wilkinson and Kev Hall. This time it was Alan Bishop and Kev Hall who made the break from the fleet to battle for a few laps until Kev Hall rounded a mark in zero wind and drifted onto the mark. The resulting 360˚ penalty turn meant Alan Bishop manged to get clear from the island, find some breeze, and was gone. Neil Wilkinson was catching the leaders as the race came to a close but it meant Alan Bishop took a well-deserved win in conditions even he admitted to find incredibly challenging. 1st Alan Bishop 2nd Kev Hall 3rd Neil Wilkinson
Overall Results: 1st Alan Bishop 2nd Neil Wilkinson 3rd Kev Hall 1st Tamworth SC boat - John Biggs 1st Lady – Maria E. Franco
Thanks to David Blakemore TSC fleet captain Safety Boat teams Matt & Ian Whitfield, Scott Keenan, Roy Wilson, Roy Brookes and Adrian Jennings. And a special thanks to Matt Whitfield for the photos.