The B14 Flying Circus rocked up to Whitstable, with several arriving on Friday night to explore the micro brewery pubs and curry houses in the town and get in tune for a 6 race series.

A weekend of mixed (to say the least) conditions was in store for the fleet!

GBR788 Whitstable 2015. Credit: Alex Cheshire

GBR 788: Seavolution/North Sails - Mark Barnes & Charlotte Jones

Saturday dawned to a nice force 4, only to see it turn off as the breezes opposed each other. The fleet finally launched after 1 hours delay. To engage in some real snakes and ladders, light airs racing as the 2 breezes fought for supremacy.

Race 1 and the fleet progressed slowly into the light breeze. Up the first beat, it was finally Team Marlow (Dan Cowin/Dan Hollands) that came out on top, chased by the Yippie Yai Yay (Christian Wilms/Daneila Alt). However, Seavolution/North Sails (Mark Barnes/Charlotte Jones) finally found the new pressure and over the two laps hauled them in to win with Flying Donkey (Mark Watts/Clare Stubbs) chasing hard. At the finish it was Seavolution/North Sails from Team Marlow who both broke away on the last run as the fleet was becalmed. Flying Donkey third. Big losers were Troublegum who went from third to last!

Race 2 was to be a repeat of the conditions, with Flying Donkey breaking out and building a commanding lead. The chase group was led by Torq (Gerry Fermor/Chris Fermor) who throughout the race were hounded by Troublegum (Alan Davis/Kathy Sherratt) and GBR 783 (Henry Wells/Stafford Glover). As it progressed Seavolution and Team Marlow came into play, with Seavolution/North Sails passing Torq, only to lose out at the finish by a whisker to come in 3rd. Torq not getting a gun then proceeded to head back upwind to go through the gate and re-finish causing some confusion.. They had been right the first time and the race officer duly set about fixing the defective finish horn...

GBR769 Whitstable 2015. Credit: Alex Cheshire

GBR 769: Team Marlow - Dan Cowin & Dan Hollands

Race 3 and whacky races prevailed as the breeze switched off several times, but closed the fleet up with many playing their joker. Flying Donkey hooked into new pressure up the first beat and reached into the top mark to lead by a margin.. only to sail into the hole downwind as the fleet all regrouped. The beat then became the run and the vice versa with Flying Donkey holding on from Seavolution/North Sails and Team Marlow. The final run then became a tight 3 sail downwind leg with sudden gusts into the 20 knot range and big shifts. Flying Donkey looked set to lose the lead as they hit a squall and had to drop the kite. Seavolution and Team Marlow held to the top mark but a quick rehoist to get round the spreader leg saw Flying Donkey hold the lead. It was then a nervous final beat to the finish but these 3 held station to firm the podium.

That evening, there was a superb barbeque with Turbo Pimms watching the famous sunset, followed by a micro pub visit. With the forecast for fairly light winds tomorrow many teams made the most of the socials.

Sunday dawned with a building breeze and gusts over 25 knots at times.. those that had enjoyed the social were now looking rather nervous!

The fleet hit the course but some headed for home as the breeze increased pre start and the whitstable chop began to kick in. The B14s, that stayed out would be unleashed today with occasional speeds over 20 knots experienced.

GBR757 (791) Whitstable 2015. Credit: Alex Cheshire

GBR 791 (757): Flying Donkey - Mark Watts & Clare Stubbs

Two boats would spend the day jousting with little to choose between them. Flying Donkey and Seavolution/North Sails were to give little with both crossing to swap the lead on each lap. With little to chose between them, and each team pushing very hard, Flying Donkey took out race 4, only to have Seavolution/North Sails to return the favour in race 5.

GBR787 Whitstable 2015. Credit: Alex Cheshire

GBR 787: Troublegum - Alan Davis & Kathy Sherratt

Going into the last race with reduced fleet after 3 full on hours in the 20+knot breeze, Flying Donkey came out on starboard and Seavolution on port. These 2 locked in with Seavolution ducking and taking the favoured right. However, the fat lady had a laugh and brought in a left shift on the beat and Flying Donkey rounded first followed by Seavolution/North Sails. With less than 8 boat lengths between them, they charged full bore downwind. With increasing wind, Flying Donkey gybed and hit the tide, Seavolution/North Sails, hit the throttle and hung on, gybing full bore down the run chased by Troublegum. Flying Donkey was down but not out hoping for the others to make a mistake. They chased hard but the gap was to great, and after hitting the tide on the next lap’s hoist after a mysterious halyard round the spreader incident called it a day whilst still in one piece. Seavolution/North Sails took out the win, and with it a close fought win from Flying Donkey, Troublegum taking second.

Special mention to the Char and Clare. The girls showing the boys once again how it’s done in the front of a B14.

With Richard Ledger/Abby Ledger leading the race team, we had fast turnaround on racing and great courses. Next event is the 4 day Europeans in Rock on 5 – 8th September which should be a close fought series with no clear favourite.

1. Seavolution/North Sails – Mark Barnes/Charlotte Jones - 1,3,2,2,1,1 = 7
2. Flying Donkey – Mark Watts/Clare Stubbs - 3,1,1,1,2,DNF = 8
3. Team Marlow – Dan Cowin/Dan Hollands - 2,4,3,3,3,DNF = 15

All photos: Alex Cheshire