Two Vago’s were in attendance for the Langstone Harbour Race Weekend, held over the early May bank holiday. The event is a general handicap open, hosted by Tudor, Locks and Langstone Sailing Clubs, featuring 5 races spread over 3 days.
The Vago’s were the fastest boats within the Medium handicap fleet, which included some strong competition from Wayfarer’s, Solo’s and Lasers. The wind was very light as the competitors prepared their craft on day 1, with the light easterly dropping off just as the sailors launched from the Tudor SC slipway. Concerns of making the start line in time soon evaporated, as a good sea breeze built from the south.
Race 1 saw a simple windward/leeward course, just off the eastern shore of Portsmouth. The start went off without incident for the local Vago 200 of Richard & Hannah Barnes, who got into clear air early to lead the visiting Vago 164 of Ed Deacon and Jeannette Chin. Local knowledge played dividends in the early stages of the race, as the Barnes’ boat tacked off to the Western side of the course upwind to avoid the incoming tide. At the windward mark, the Vago’s hoisted their kites and sailed out through the moorings into the strong tide to capitalise on the current. The race finished with the Barnes Vago in 5th place, while the Hunts SC Vago of Ed Deacon and Jeannette Chin finished 12th as they got to grips with the local tides.
The second race of the day saw a course change as the wind settled down to a nice 8-9 knots. The Race Officer opted for a triangle/sausage course which favoured the asymmetric boats in the fleet. The tide was yet to turn as the second race got underway, and any tidal advantages to be gained had been lost as the visitors were now well aware of the favourable side of the course. The local Vago got bogged down off of the line, avoiding a wayward Wanderer who was 5 seconds adrift of the pre-start countdown. The pin end of the line was put under considerable strain, with several boats being pushed over the line. However, the Hunts Vago sailed clear to a well-deserved lead, which was too much for the local boat to chase down. The race finished with the Deacon Vago in 7th and the Barnes Vago in 10th place. With one race a piece it was level in the Vago battle at the end of day 1.
On Day 2 the slightly later tide allowed the fleets to sail to the start line with an already established sea breeze from the south, holding steady at 8-9 knots. The race officer had moved the course east to the centre of the harbour, avoiding the moorings and changing the relationship between course and tide. The start line was positioned just south of Sword Sands, where the Langstone and Broom channels divide, with sailors battling against the tide to cross the start line. This added another dimension to the pre-start antics, as the sailors had to adjust their normal start routines to suit the conditions. The course was again a triangle/sausage arrangement, which would hopefully benefit the asymmetric boats. The race got away with the Barnes Vago breaking left on the course to sail across the strong tide in the Langstone channel which turned out to be the way to go, while the Deacon Vago stayed central. The Deacon Vago fought hard to chase down the local boat, but to no avail. The Barnes Vago finished 7th in the fleet, with the Deacon boat in 11th. It was 2-1 to the local boat at the end of race 3.
The course was reset for race 4 to a trapezoid – the perfect asymmetric course, as the reaching legs would allow the Vago’s to take full advantage of their extra sail area. The tide eased as the race got underway, with both Vago’s getting good start’s for the first time all weekend – the race was truly on! The Barnes Vago narrowly avoided contact at the windward mark, coming in on Port tack and tacking under a Wayfarer. The Deacon Vago was only a few boat lengths behind as the boats hoisted their spinnakers for the first time. The Deacon boat soon overhauled the Barnes’ sailing higher and faster towards the 2nd mark, with both boats choosing to bear away as they rounded the mark and sail deep further up the channel. The Barnes boat gybed off first (and maybe a little too early) which allowed the Deacon Vago to come into the third mark at a better angle, while the Barnes Vago was compromised by a local Solo. As both boats rounded the third mark Deacon was ahead of Barnes, tightening onto a fast reach, kites flying and crews out on the wire as they headed towards the leeward mark. Both Vago’s rounded within a few boat lengths of each other, sailing upwind towards the line and back up to the windward mark. The Barnes’ had a favourable upwind leg and managed to overhaul the Deacon Vago by the time they reached the windward mark. The two Vago’s hoisted to head downwind to mark 2, although this time the Barnes boat stayed high to prevent Deacon from sailing over the top. As the boats rounded the 2nd mark, the Barnes’ bore away to sail deeper up the channel than the previous lap, to ensure they could gybe off and get a good angle into the third mark. The Deacon Vago gybed off almost immediately around mark 2, seeking better winds and hoping to come in on the Barnes boat on starboard at the third mark. However, the Barnes boat managed to find more speed downwind and were well ahead by the third mark, leaving the Deacon boat with work to do. The final upwind leg, again saw the Barnes Vago gain ground, although this was soon lost as they round the windward mark and hoisted the kite with an hourglass! Quick thinking saw them gybe to remove the twist, before quickly gybing back to head towards mark 2 – by this time the Deacon boat had again closed the gap. Sailing downwind the Barnes’ maintained the small lead that they had, with both boats sailing similar courses. The Barnes’ rounded the leeward mark just ahead to the Deacon Vago and went on to take line honours – in what was to become the best battle of the Vago’s all regatta. The Barnes Vago finished the second day 3-1 up, although both teams were just glad to have had the opportunity to have a good clean scrap.
The third and final day was an around the cans race with strong winds building from the south. Boats launched into 15 knots of breeze with gusts of 20 knots. The start line was a little more roomy than usual, as some of the competitors had either gone home early due to long journeys home, or were exhausted after two days of competitive sailing. The race got underway cleanly, with both Vago’s going well with the stronger winds. The Deacon boat had a great start and had the upper hand by the windward mark at Sinah Ski, with the Barnes’ trailing behind. As boats bore away towards the second mark, it was apparent the reach was far too tight to fly the asymmetric. The next leg reached towards north-west Sinah and the harbour entrance, but the close angle and strong breeze scared many asymmetrics into keeping their kites stowed. As the boats approached the harbour entrance the wind veered to the east a little, and the Vago’s became more confident and launched their spinnakers. At North-West Sinah, the Vago’s gybed away to run deep towards Salterns buoy, well up the Broom Channel. The Deacon boat held onto the lead, as the Barnes’ had to gybe off to avoid getting squeezed by a Supernova and a Laser. At Salterns the boats sailed back across the Broom Channel and over Sword Sands, to return to the start line. The Barnes’ tacked off far later than the Deacon boat, avoiding the incoming tide up the channel and helping their upwind speed. By the time the Vago’s reached the windward mark, the Barnes’ had recovered their lost ground and were right on the transom of the Deacon Vago again. However, the over-enthusiastic helm of the Barnes boat pushed their Vago into a tack around Sinah Ski without ensuring his crew was unclipped from the wire and all the made up ground was lost. The capsize recovery was relatively fast, but Deacon had capitalised on the opportunity and was off… as Richard righted the boat, he could almost see the Deacon boat bouncing up and down as their occupants chuckled! With the Deacon Vago extending their lead, the Barnes crew discarded any fear for the tight reach on leg 3 and flew the spinnaker anyway – they screamed back down the harbour (still battered from their capsize) but with massive grins as the Vago planed back through the fleet. The valiant recovery was not good enough as the Deacon Boat sailed a perfect race to take line honours. This brought the Vago battle to 3-2, with the Barnes’ just clinging onto the top spot.
Both boats bore away quickly off the finish line – hoisted their kites and screamed off up the harbour back to the Tudor SC slip. The perfect end, to a perfect weekends sailing. Thanks to Ed and Jeanette for making the long journey south to Portsmouth – they were fantastic sparing partners over the weekend and were heavily disadvantaged by the local tidal conditions. The two Vago’s finished a very respectable 4th and 6th in class, only separated by a Laser 2000. Many happy, but tired sailors left following prize giving determined to spread the word and make for an even better 2015 event.
Photos by H2O Photos http://www.h2ophotos.org.uk