June 2019 Report: Ben Willett and Aled Llewellyn-Jones

It’s been exam time for both of us so our sailing and social media updates have been a bit light recently. Unlike the weather! We’d heard of “blowing the dogs off chains”. You know – when it’s so breezy you postpone racing and tie the boat down? 

cartoon of dog being blown away by wind

At Largs last month we also learnt what “dogs in the air” weather is. When the dogs on chains are in the air, but the chain’s not broken...  And what do you do when the wind is top-end and becoming marginal? You go racing of course!  So it was on day one of the Harken Grand Prix at Largs.

Our weekend began with a road-trip setting off from Wales on Friday and an overnight stop on the way, arriving at Largs for a quick shakedown sail on Saturday lunchtime. With some good teams entered we were keen to get afloat and get some time in. It had been a month since we’d sailed due to our GCSEs but after an hour or so things felt good so we retired to shore and prepared for the racing on Sunday / Monday. 

The forecasts showed the sort of weekend where if you spread the wind out over two days you’d have two perfect days of racing. As it was it looked like most of it would arrive on Saturday… We weren’t disappointed. We launched in 20 knots and it built through the day. 

The race committee and teams afloat were superb giving us five races back to back in amazing conditions. We wanted to work on some process stuff and certainly got the challenge we wanted. Race one was safe and solid for us, banking 3rd place. Race two we found we were getting more dialled into the downwind work and pulled up into 2nd place for that one. Race three felt equally strong but we crossed the finish line in silence… UFD at the start.  That was a tough one, but no complaints. It put us under a little bit more pressure; all of which is good preparation for our summer. Then in race four we were pushing really hard going into the last leeward rounding having moved up into 2nd place again by the skin of our teeth. It was close though, and full-on. 

With a lot of work going into the gate in 25 knots of breeze it was asking a lot of us and we made a crucial error with our angles, forcing a reach-to-reach move in tons of wind. Splash… We dropped three boats there scoring 5th which would prove costly. And in the final race of the day we rounded off a truly heavy-weather “dogs in the air” day of racing, pulling through into 2nd at the finish.

Sunday dawned with a reasonable breeze but the forecast showing it getting lighter and lighter…  The race team did their best and we all got afloat but after one race abandoned, things never improved. It was all decided on Saturday’s racing. 12 points gave us 4th overall and one point off 2nd and yet again, lots learnt.  We were the highest placed junior team and gave our overall series a healthy boost.

It was a great weekend and a much needed interruption to exams!  Great racing in superb conditions, with our friends and rivals. Full credit to all the other teams and the brilliant Scottish hospitality. The Harken Grand Prix series is superb fun and really giving us some great experiences. We’re busy preparing for our summer campaign now with exams just about behind us now. Hoping for more “dogs in the air” weather this summer.

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