Back to the popular date of May Bank Holiday, the three day long 42nd Bala Cat Open, sponsored by Planar Heaters UK, attracted eighteen entries, including the local Bala Sailing Club fleet and visitors from as far away as Weston and Portsmouth.
Prior to the event word on the street was virtually all the floatable Unicorns in the UK were turning up, as were four Nacra F20 Carbons and three Formula 18s so a good mixed handicap racing with some good class racing within the fleet. The forecast was looking funky, with three days of north west breezes blowing over the mountain as apposed to down the long 4 mile Bala lake.
Race one got underway in a building breeze. Superstar visitors Grant Piggot and Jon Cotgreave sailing an F20 Carbon from Weston SC took advantage of the port bias and tacked early and blasted off into the distance. Mike Allen’s A Class raised a few eyebrows when he rounded the windward mark with the lead F20s, unfortunately they hoisted huge spinnakers and blasted downwind whilst Mike had to sit and watch the action! The local F20 team of Peter Findlay and Steve Tellwright slowly reeled in Grant and Jon, who were nursing a broken jib car. In the end the two F20s finished first and second on handicap, just twenty seconds separating them. Bala SC commodore Steve Pooley claimed third overall and first Unicorn. Race two and the breeze continued to build, and to shift! With gusts now in the 20 knot range, the flying machines with spinnakers were lapping the single sail catamarans. The three Carbon F20s excelled in the conditions, completing three laps, one more than the rest of the fleet. This time it was the local team of John Tuckwell and Will Smith who lead the charge at the front, following a spinnaker pole break which forced them to retire from race one. John and Will finished first on the water and first on handicap, with second and third claimed by two other F20s, Grant Piggott and Jon Cotgreave and Peter Findlay and Steve Tellwright.
With fatigue starting to kick in with three races back to back, the third race kicked off in a solid force four sometimes gusting much more. This allowed the Formula 18s to mix it up on the podium. John Tuckwell and Will Smith finished first on the water and first on handicap. Newbies Paul and Jude Allen and Peter Jones and Frazer from Tresaith had a race long F18 ding-dong with a photo finish resulting in Peter and Frazer claiming second and Paul and Jude third on handicap.
Saturday night was curry night, with many a Snowdonia Pale Ale consumed thanks to event sponsors Planar Heaters UK. The bar banter was flowing, with tales of aches and pains and near misses before the tunes were turned up and party animals from Team Tresaith regaled many a funny ‘Desert Island Discs‘ tale!
More sunshine and a lighter breeze greeted visitors on Sunday morning. Following a small postponement the fleet launched into a gentle WSW breeze which slowly turned NW and built in strength. The conditions suited the Unicorns who claimed the first four places in race four. Gary Piper lead the way, with Steve Pooley second and Richard Beke third. The breeze was building in race five and the F20s shot off the start line. Grant Piggott and Jon Cotgreave finished first following some pressure from Peter Findlay and Steve Tellwright. The F18 of Paul and Jude Allen managed to split the top three F20s finishing third. Race six and the breeze dropped and shifted to the North, and back again, and…. The F20s continued moving when others were parked, completing four laps, a lap more than the rest of the fleet along with the lead F18 of Paul and Jude Allen. In the end the F20s claimed the top three places, with Grant Piggott and Jon Cotgreave adding another first to their score card, with John Tuckwell and Will Smith roughly a minute behind in second and Peter Findlay and Steve Tellwright third.
Sunday night was BBQ and live band night and the party animals from Tresaith celebrated a 4th birthday on the dance floor!
Bank Holiday Monday was slow to start, with many a sailor thankful to see the 30 minute postponement flag raised. The fleet launched into a very light breeze that quickly built and by the end of the day offered some of the best conditions of the weekend. Paul Allen now crewed by brother Mike, won race seven with the F20s of Grant Piggott and Jon Cotgreave second and Peter Findlay and Steve Tellwright third. The Unicorn race within the race was hotting up with Steve Pooley and Owen Cox both in the running going into the final race. The breeze was now both consistent in direction and steady in strength, offering flat out trapezing conditions for everyone upwind. John Tuckwell and Will Smith’s F20 Carbon won by a full minute from Grant Piggott and Jon Cotgreave with Paul and Mike Allen’s F18 third. Steve Pooley finished fourth and first Unicorn.
After 8 races the scores on the doors with a harsh single discard counted the visiting Nacra F20 Carbon of Grant Piggott and Jon Cotgreave clear overall winners counting fourteen points. Second to fourth was tight on points. The next F20 Carbon was Peter Findlay and Steve Tellwright in second place on twenty five points. John Tuckwell and Will Smith beat Paul and Jude/Mike Allen into third on count back on twenty seven points.
Drama followed in the Unicorn fleet. In the overalls Bala SC commodore Steve Pooley was first Unicorn, ahead of event sponsor Owen Cox by 1.5 points. However when the results were split into a separate fleet Owen was ahead and finished first Unicorn!
In his winners speech Grant thanked Bala SC for a well run event. Bala SC sailing manager Mike Allen thanked event sponsors Planar Heaters UK, volunteers and visitors. Next up is the Bala Long Distance, June 22/23, now part of the Great British Sailing Challenge. Further details can be found at balasc.org.uk