A record number of sixty five 29ers turned up to the Rutland GP, no doubt attracted as much by the promise of another great 29er Christmas party (sponsored by HARKEN!) as by the opportunity for some quality big fleet racing. Indeed many old faces found themselves a spot on a boat so that they could join in the craic.
However Saturday was plagued by a dense fog that would tentatively ease and then as soon as it did would roll back in and consume everything again, making sailing impossible. A long morning wait allowed for several boats and crews to bring out the traditional tinsel and Santa hats to raise the festive spirits. As the fog ebbed with the low but just present midday sun, the race committee made a call to launch just after lunch. The first of the two flights got away on a start but as soon as they did the fog rolled back in so heavily that all racing was abandoned for the day.
The focus then turned to the Christmas festivities and the Christmas jumpers and reindeer antlers came out in full force. Full marks to the club catering who served up 180 hearty Christmas dinners in 19 minutes flat; a dinner that was followed by a lively disco session.
Sunday brought a much better day with blue skies and a lovely 15kt breeze. The only challenge was the temperature which barely rose above 3C making bobble hats and extra layers essential. The fleet launched on time and the race committee efficiently delivered 8 races across the two flights back to back in under 4 hours. A fifth was planned but the PRO wisely stopped at four as the cold temperature was beginning to take its toll.
In Race 1 yellow flight 2905 Elodie Edwards and Ewan Wilson started with a win, followed by Juniors 2700 Leo Wilkinson and Sam Jones in second. The Race 1 blue flight bullet was taken by 2811 Ollie Evans and Louis Johnson with 2661 Monique Vennis-Ozanne and John Mather in 2nd.
The wind dropped to ~10kts for the subsequent races but the boat on boat competition remained fierce with the left side of the beat providing fairly reliable gains. Race 2 yellow fleet was won neatly by 2340 Sophie Dennis and Emma Wells while Elodie and Ewan in 2905 snatched a close 2nd from 2292 Maddie Bristow and Sian Talbot on the reach into the finish. In the blue flight 2661 Monique and John took the win while 2822 with Leah Rickard from Ireland and Seb Gotto took 2nd.
Race 3 yellow flight saw 2292 Maddie and Sian turned on the heat with great boat speed giving them their first of two wins, while 2340 Sophie and Emma posted another high score in 2nd. In the blue fleet 2898 Aled Llewellyn-Jones and Ben Bradley sailed a great race with 2822 Leah and Seb taking another 2nd.
The final race of the day saw Maddie and Sian lead the yellow fleet again across the line with 2816 Rupert and Henry Jameson in 2nd. Monique and John took another win in Blue fleet Race 4 where Sam and Michael Dyer finished off their weekend in style taking 2nd place.
Overall the points at the top of the leader board ended up very tight with only 2 points separating 1st and 4th; the overall leaders Monique and John on 4 points, Maddie and Sian on 5 points (and first girls) in 2nd, Elodie and Ewan on 6 points in 3rd and Sophie Dennis and Emma Wells on 6 points in 4th (and 2nd girls).
First Junior went to Leo Wilkinson and Sam Jones in eighth. And the most important Gold prize for the most festive boat went to 2046 Gruff Green and George Sellwood with 2700 Sam Jones and Leo Wilkinson winning Silver.
Overall an excellent weekend of festivities and quality racing. Dear Mr Ibbotson, our cherished events manager, the 29er fleet now want to know when is the next 29er event party?