UK 18 foot skiff Grand Prix 1: Team Pica
The Australian 18ft skiff season finished last weekend, whilst on the other side of the world the new skiff season starts. 6 UK teams including ourselves arrived at Stone Sailing Club in Essex for the first round of the UK Grand Prix. On Saturday a mixed forecast contributed to a difficult rig choice with 2 of the 6 teams opting for smaller rigs. Last year in one notable race in Poole we got our rig choice very wrong going for the go big or go home approach only to find ourselves heading down the mine and cart wheeling in traditional Awesome Aussie skiffs fashion. This time we were more cautious going for our No.2 rig, a decision that was spot on.
In the first race most teams had some time in the lead as others had a few swims, mainly due to the gusty conditions and rusty crew work. We led for most of the course only to capsize on the last downwind leg. Carsington took their opportunity for a race win only to choke on the final gybe through the gate leaving us to take line honors. The breeze continued to build up to 20kts for race 2 and teams, particularly those that had made the big rig choice, became fatigued. Hyde Sails managed to hook the windward mark resulting in some comical maneuvers leading to an inevitable dunking. As a result race 2 was an easier win for our team.
Although Sunday morning was forecast to have a fading light breeze the Stone SC Race Management team did a fantastic job to get a further 3 races away. Race 1 started with a shifty first beat with lots of tacking through the middle of the course. A long overdue but convincing win concluded race 1 for the ever improving Hyde team skippered by Jack Grogan with Sam Caslin and Mike Banks.
The second race was set in a more consistent westerly breeze. Young & Reckless reached the top mark in 3rd place, behind us and Hyde. The wind vanished, leaving them to the mercy of the tide which pushed them onto the mark allowing Carsington and HPF through. HPF sailed into a dead spot letting Young and Reckless through to fourth. We managed to take the bullet with Hyde Sails in 2nd and Carsington 3rd.
The Aftica team in their older B18 showed fantastic pace off the line after a perfect start in race 3. Good results will surely follow with their newer boat which is due to make an appearance this year. But it was Young & Reckless that finally showed their form to post a 2nd place with our team taking another bullet.
We ended up with a great start to the season taking the overall win at the first GP with a 1, 1,2,1,1. We have just gone through a full boat overhaul in the winter putting on some new kit in key areas with Allen Brothers providing the vital hardware that will ensure reliability and performance around the race course. With a very encouraging start to the year we are keen to see how the season will progress.