Great North Asymmetric Challenge – Sponsored by Ronstan

The members of Bassenthwaite SC must, surprisingly, be more righteous than most, because their collective prayers for wind, in the run up to this year’s Great North Asymmetric Challenge, were rewarded in abundance. Forecasts during the week preceding the event, suggesting winds of up to 50mph, persuaded many not to travel. Some who made the journey decided to let discretion be the better part of valour, as they watched the white horses galloping across the lake towards the clubhouse. Despite the conditions the entry still exceeded that of last year’s inaugural event, with 29 boats, representing 9 classes, opting to sail.

Defending champion, Paul Allen, was unimpressed to find that he would not have an opportunity to avenge his recent defeat at the hands of fellow RS 400 sailor, Wayne Fletcher, who was third in last year’s event, when Wayne failed to emerge from his camper van. This, however, was only the first of the vicissitudes which Paul was to experience during the weekend.

As the boats took to the water, the RS 800 of Robin and Pat Shellcock was the first casualty. During a capsize the crew took an inadvertent dive through the main sail, dividing it neatly into two pieces.

The race was sailed in cold, blustery conditions, with patches of relative calm giving respite between the overpowering gusts. Paul and Jude Allen’s second disappointment of the weekend came when their bowsprit gave up the unequal struggle and collapsed, preventing them from completing the course.

Angus Winchester, sailing a Vortex, justified his journey from Castle Semple by taking the gun, with Joe Pester and Paul Murphy from Ullswater, sailing a Laser 3000 in second place, and Mark Somerville from the home club, sailing an RS Vareo, in third.

As the fleet prepared for the second race the wind eased slightly, and some pleasant sunshine gave competitors some welcome warmth. Paul Allen managed to borrow the bowsprit from Wayne’s unused boat and returned to the fray. However, at the first hoist, he discovered that the pole was incorrectly rigged and that the ‘wing wangs’ couldn’t be adjusted. He struggled with the pole during the race and could only finish eighth. Joe Pester and Paul Murphy proved that their 3000 was a flying machine in strong breeze, showing breathtaking off wind pace to take a comfortable victory. Mike Hart and Sally Kilpatrick from Port Dinorwic, sailing an RS 400, were second, with Phil and Naomi Smith from Bass SC the first of the fleet of eight RS 200s, and third overall.

The fleet took a short break ashore to refuel, treat injuries and recover. PRO, Steve Hunt, decided that with the wind forecast to increase to Force stupid on the Sabbath it would be sensible to get five of the scheduled eight races sailed while conditions, although taxing, were not impossible – and the sun was shining.

In the three races sailed after lunch an enthralling battle ensued within the RS 200 fleet with extremely close and competitive racing between Phil and Naomi Smith, Robin Dawson and Phil Hodgkins (also from Bass) and last year’s runners up, Chris and Laura Pickles from Yorkshire Dales. These three were seldom separated by more than a couple of boat lengths, with positions changing constantly.

The 3000 of Joe Pester and Paul Murphy, however, continued to show the way, winning both the third and fourth races. Paul and Jude Allen had managed to rig their pole correctly whilst ashore, only to have one of the ‘wing wang’ lines break during the third race. They still managed to finish in second place, with Mike Saul and Meg Fletcher from Yorkshire Dales, sailing an RS 500, in third. The close competition in the 200s propelled them up the overall rankings and in the fourth race, Robin Dawson was joint second with Paul Allen, and Chris and Laura Pickles were fourth.

The demanding conditions took their inevitable toll and only fourteen boats contested the final race of the day. Paul and Jude Allen finally had an incident free race and took the gun from Joe Pester and Paul Murphy, who were joint second with Mike Saul and Meg Fletcher in the RS 500. Many competitors were wondering if they would have sufficient energy left to do justice to the evening festivities, but for most the Italian meal and accompanying libations proved quite sufficiently restorative.

When Sunday came (all too soon for some) the wind had failed to build to the extremes that had been forecast, so PRO Steve Hunt started racing on time, aiming to sail the remaining three races back to back, before conditions became untenable.

Seventeen boats took to the water under leaden, threatening skies, as the wind whistled through the rigging. Mike Saul and Meg Fletcher revelled in the increasing breeze, winning both Race 6 and Race 7. Paul Allen took a third and a second, whilst Joe Pester and Paul Murphy finally succumbed to the conditions and fell to fifth and seventh. Mike Hart took second and fourth to improve his overnight standing, before remembering that his mast sheared off at deck level in the opening race of last year’s event and deciding to quit whilst he was ahead. Chris Pickles took a fourth and a third to give himself a very good chance of being the leading RS 200.

The wind continued to build, with vicious gusts causing problems for many in the final race. Paul and Jude Allen needed to win the final race, with Joe Pester and Paul Murphy no better than third, to successfully defend their title. They showed complete mastery of the conditions to take the gun but Joe and Paul, recovering their earlier form, finished second and so won the event. Mike Saul and Meg Fletcher were fourth in the final race, giving them third place overall and Chris and Laura Pickles were again third, ensuring that they were the first RS 200 and fourth overall.

At the Prize Giving the generous sponsorship of lead Sponsor, Ronstan, was much appreciated by the competitors, with winning helms and crews in both double and single handers receiving £50 vouchers for Ronstan chandlery and one lucky competitor winning a Ronstan kit bag.