OSPREY OPEN AT ISLE OF SHEPPEY

Report by Lee Whitehead and photographs copyright and courtesy of Chas Bedford

It’s a windy weekend, with boats and crews tested to the limit. But you’re performing well, and hope to add a third race win to your tally. You’re charging up the last beat, the finish line is in sight, and disaster strikes. Bang - your crew’s in the water, and your rig is collapsing. Incredibly, Race Officer and photographer Chas Bedford has captured this remarkable photo sequence for posterity.

Look for the recoiling snapped jib halliard, a little below the Osprey logo on the mainsail.

This was the culmination of the Isle of Sheppey Osprey open meeting, sailed in windy conditions throughout the weekend of June 15/16. In that final race, it was only two old wooden Ospreys which survived, with Ros and David Downs taking the win from Fireball converts Keith McDonald and Andy Brittain.

But the luckless mast breakers Russ Wheeler and Mark Mawhinney claimed a pair of wins and a pair of second places to at least gave them first place overall in a punishing open meeting.

The Osprey class arrived at Costa Del Sheppey on Saturday June 15, ready for champagne sailing conditions and the usual enthusiastic social to follow.

Sunshine, 15/20kts of breeze and flat water greeted the competitors. Richard Marshall & Steve Watson in 1373 set a blistering pace, rounding the windward mark first closely followed by 1372 (Mick Greenland & Lee Marriott) and the rest of the fleet. On the reach, the wind was really too tight for the spinnaker, but nearly all boats hoisted it anyway.

Greenland and Marriott promptly capsized allowing Russ Wheeler & Mark Mawhinney to chase Marshall and Watson. It then became a procession and positions didn’t change, except one boat! Local boys Kenny Brown & Chris Butters (1338) clearly didn’t read the SI’s and sailed straight through the start/finish line on the downwind leg. Kenny was quoted saying “I don’t know why I’m the only one sailing the correct course, all those have got it wrong...

Race 2 was even closer, the wind was building and the strong Ebb tide caught out many who tried to round the mark close. No. 1 (Wheeler & Mawhinney) took the bullet after a tussle with 1372, 1373, 1338 & 1245, but after this exciting race we spotted 1373 sailing in, after its genoa turning blocks parted company. 1338 also sailed off with what we thought was a problem and was heading home, but.....!

In Race 3, the wind had built further and the gusts were strong and came from all angles. The PRO did a great job setting a course in incredibly challenging but fast conditions. All competitors went for the committee boat end and set off as a pack. As we raced we heard what sounded like barking noises coming from above to see 1338 (Brown & Butters) pull off a port flyer from absolutely nowhere. They rounded the windward mark first but were caught by No. 1 & 1372 on the spinnaker runs. 1372 took the lead and held onto it for the next beat. 1372 rounded the windward mark and set course for the leeward mark, avoiding the start line while Brown/ Butters sailed straight through the line again and overtook 1372. Hails of protest did not deter 1338 and he rounded the leeward mark ahead. But Wheeler and Mawhinney in No.1 sneaked past to take a second win, followed by Brown/ Butters and Greenland/ Marriott.

The PRO had spotted the infringement, but with humour and good sportsmanship, Kenny Brown offered to buy all the drinks that night rather than be disqualified. The thirsty competitors decided the drinks were well worth it.

After a good night’s free drink, competititors on the Sunday had another very windy day to face. Fearing another night of severe damage to his wallet, this time Kenny Brown was a reformed character, and sailed the course not only correctly, but in first place ahead of Wheeler and Mawhinney in second and Ros and David Downs in third.

And so it was on to the last race, when leaders Russ Wheeler/ Mark Mawhinney suffered their cruel fate, joining the various other boats in the repair yard after a snapped jib halliard. But Downs/ Downs and McDonald/ Brittain kept it together to take first and second in that race. Overall, Wheeler/ Mawhinney took first, with Brown/ Butters second and the Downs team third.

  1. Russ Wheeler/ Mark Mawhinney, Isle of Sheppey SC, 6pts
  2. Kenny Brown/ Chris Butters, Isle of Sheppey SC, 11pts
  3. Ros and David Downs, Tata SC, 13pts

Full results at www.iossc.org.uk.