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Robbie Hirst Takes 2007 Drake’s Challenge by One Point

Eleven IC24s rigged up on a very grey and gusty Saturday morning to do battle at the end of October. With tropical storm Noel winding up off to the east, bands of squalls were going to make things interesting.

Race officers Tom and Barbara Farquhar, who have been officiating at the BEYC for over 20 years, got the first race underway after a short delay getting the course squared up.  During the pre-start the wind went right and it became a drag race to the windward gate followed by a reach back to the leeward gate.

Plenty of spinnakers flogged out of control with poles saluting the skies.  The second downwind leg saw B Mobile (Colin Rathbun) nearly get up on the plane in a particularly strong gust.  The race was won by Latitude 19 (Chris Haycraft) who narrowly beat Mio Broadband to the line, with Rathbun third.

For the remainder of the morning conditions stayed ‘fresh to frightening’ and the race committee decided to continue racing without spinnakers.  At the front of the fleet, a pattern emerged with Rathbun, Haycraft, and Hirst rarely out of the top three.  The large fleet meant that being over early produced big scores. Andrew Waters found this out the hard way posting two ninths in the morning session.

Lunch was called and it was Rathbun and Haycraft locked on six points with Hirst on nine after three races.  Waters and his crew licked their wounds and sought refreshments.  This made all the difference in the world as they convincingly won the first race of the afternoon.  Waters, second last year, with a scoreline good enough to win any regatta was the pre regatta co-top seed… Was Andrew Waters now back on track? I’m afraid not, another pair of ninths rounded off Mio Broadband’s miserable day.

The weather conditions improved with the wind moderating and settling down, blowing out of Gun Creek.  Haycraft, Rathbun, and Hirst continued to show the way with the exception of an OCS (and a whopping 12 points) for Robbie Hirst in race six.  Best of the improvers for the day were Chris Curreri sailing racinginparadise and James Woods sailing INTAC.

Over half of the competitors slogged back down the Sir Francis Drake Channel to hear Ben Ainslie speak at the RBVIYC.  After the nasty trip back up to the BEYC the following morning most were heard to say, “That’s the last time I commute to the BEYC!"

Sunday sees a bit of sunshine poking through the clouds and a steady breeze from the Southeast.  The final morning’s racing gets underway.  Lat 19 looked to be in control with a four point lead over Hirst even after the discard which hooked in after race seven.  That all changed in a heartbeat, as Haycraft got buried at the start in the first race and posted an eighth.  Rathbun won with Hirst second.

Haycraft bounces back with a bullet in race eight, Rathbun third and Hirst fourth. The improvers are now mixing it up at the front with Curreri and Woods going especially well.  Robbie Hirst sails a blinder to win race nine, Rathbun fourth, Haycraft fifth.  At this point Rathbun is sailing back to the dock; he’s done the math and thinks he has the regatta in his pocket.  However, enough boats hover around the committee boat looking for more and Tom declares race ten is on. 

It’s down to the wire.  This race decides the regatta. Rathbun’s vang has exploded off the mast and he’s struggling. After a tense affair Hirst posts a second, Haycraft a third, and Rathbun a sixth—and none of us know who has won overall.  Back at the BEYC lunch is ordered and everyone waits for Tom to bring the results. 

Hirst has done it by one point, totaling 24 points from nine races.  Rathbun and Haycraft tied up on 25, with Haycraft taking second with his three bullets over Rathbun’s two.  If Hirst had scored just one more lonely point, Haycraft would have sealed the regatta with a three-way tie.  Hirst would have been third with only one bullet!

A few other “what ifs” are explored, but it is team Robbie Hirst and Mio Broadband who accept the perpetual trophy from BEYC supremos Mikhail Shamkin and John Glynn.  The competitors thank Tom and Barbara for a great job in very tricky conditions.  The IC24s sit at their moorings ready for the Pro Am.

The match racing between Peter Holmberg and Robbie Hirst’s team was cancelled as more line squalls rolled in with over 40kts of wind and horizontal rain.

Reported submitted by Richard Wooldridge, racinginparadise.com

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