Report from South Staffs Open…
OK Open at South Staffordshire Sailing Club – 10/10/20
By Ben Pickering
Following swiftly after the recent Inland Championships, 13 eager OK sailors arrived last Saturday at South Staffs SC ready for their annual OK open. In classic South Staffs style, the day would prove to be a game of exceptionally run snakes and ladders, with shifty wind, the occasional downpour and some nice sunshine in-between. Fortunately, we’ve all got used to things being unsettled recently!
The first race commenced with a typical OK sight, a tightly packed line of keen boats all jostling for position. Unfortunately, some were a little too keen, with a general recall called and the black flag swiftly raised. Slap on the wrist number one.
On the second attempt the race got away cleanly, with Ben Pickering (Chase SC) and Andy Davis (SSSC) pushing hard in front around the windward mark. Fortunately for them, Nick Craig (Burghfield / Frensham SC) had been heading for the wrong mark taking Ed Bradburn (SSSC) with him. Don’t worry – it didn’t take long for them to rectify their error!
Next up were two reaches followed by another short beat up into some severe wind shadows where the postcode lottery decided your fortunes. Despite this, positions remained much the same for the first lap, with Craig and Bradburn then getting back into the mix on the next. The four then consistently battled for the remainder, eventually with Craig pulling out a small lead to take the win, followed by Taxi second and Pickering just pipping Bradburn to the line for 3rd and 4th respectively. Neil Goodhead (SSSC) followed to round out the top five.
The second race got away cleanly with an altered course, this time incorporating a different second beat navigating to the right of the island. This time the first lap incorporated some new faces near the front with Will Croxford (SSSC), Keith Byers (Morecambe SC) and Keith Macaulay (SSSC) well up. The first two laps ensured a thorough mix-up with multiple place changes with big wind shadows and travellator gusts for those that knew where to find them.
The island provided a particular challenge – fight for position and you could find yourself under the island’s wind shadow at the end of the run, or alternatively stay low and retain the strongest breeze. It was Croxford that made the most of this. Having spotted an unwise group formation, he held his nerve low and reaped the rewards, sailing comfortably beneath a group of Bradburn, Pickering, Taxi and Craig. Continuing with a healthy helping of friendly banter – ‘If you sail to leeward of me again, I’m going home’ – the next lap would again see much place changing, eventually with Craig pressing into the lead to take the win, again followed by Taxi, Pickering and Bradburn with Croxford rounding out the top five this time.
Followed by a COVID-style seated lunch, race three again got away cleanly with a heightened breeze and a tightly packed group around the windward mark. This time it would be Pickering who led for much of the race having climbed the ladders and avoided the snakes. This would prove not to hold though, with Bradburn overhauling him into the lead whilst Craig and Taxi gained.
It would wait until the 3rd lap however for Craig and Taxi to jump Bradburn and Pickering, having held left up the beat whilst the others jostled heading right. Finally, it would be Pickering to master the art of soaking low, this time under and out from Bradburn, with a familiar final finishing order; Craig took the win with Taxi second, Pickering third and Bradburn fourth.
Overall, this gave Craig a well-deserved victory after three hard fought and unpredictable races. As ever, the fleet enjoyed some challenging racing and a big thank you must go to South Staffs for again holding an excellent day with all necessary COVID precautions in place. Another testament that we can – and should – continue sailing!