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Too much of a...

Bewl Water - August Bank Holiday 2000
Mike (Over Easy) Baker

I nearly made it, but Richard caught me on the way to the showers early Monday morning. Would I do a write-up on the weekend for the SigneT and or AQSC newsletters? Oh well! here goes.
Lyn and I were amongst the last to arrive at Bewl on Saturday afternoon. We found a large number of tents already pitched with a number of SigneTs and two Fleetwinds either already out on the water or in advanced stages of rigging. Saturday is very much a settle-in and cruising day. At about 6pm the water closed and thoughts turned to food. General opinion seemed to favour either The Elephant or The Brown Trout. In the event they both were well patronised.
Sunday things started to get a little more serious. Three races counting toward the SigneT/Fleetwind open series were scheduled. We had our own start at 11:18am following departure of BVSC's numerous fleets. The course pretty well covered the lake, with all points of sailing being called for several times eduring each of the 2 laps. The prevailing wind was force 3 to 4 from the West that made for a great sail.

The second race started at 2pm. The wind was about the same but the course had been changed to a flattened figure eight using the full width of the lake. Everything started fine but during the second lap the wind increased dramatically to a good 5 gusting 6. When this happened, and it happened very quickly, many of the boats were caught with their spinnakers up. The next few minutes were 'interesting' too say the least. I can only relate what I saw while fighting to stay upright.
I was following Keith and Madeline Hatton in ST858 who were lying 3rd behind Lawrie Bridges and Clare Baldwin in ST856, and Richard Cannon and Robert Britton in ST386. Madeline, on the helm of 'Saint' instructed Keith to take the kite down (easier said than done!). As Keith went forward Saint turned into wind while Madeline tried to balance the boat. Just at the crucial moment an extremely strong gust hit them. Madeline had no chance. Saint screwed up into wind, dug her bows in and half rolled, half jumped to port, throwing them both out of the boat and then rolling on top of them. It was spectacular and over in an instant! All around other boats were going over. Somehow I managed to keep Over Easy from colliding with the now inverted 'Saint' and Abby managed to get our kite down in time to round the next mark. The following reach across the lake, towards the dam, was exhilarating bordering on suicidal. I think we where airborne most of the way! We heard later that Keith and Madeline managed to get the sails down, right the boat and get to the nearest beach.
ST368 came in 1st followed by ST856 2nd and ST369 3rd. The second and third races were meant to be raced back-to-back but it soon became apparent that the rescue boats were totally overwhelmed. People were being brought in from abandoned boats, some obviously in distress. Even one of the rescue boat crews had to be left on the beach suffering from concussion. It was carnage culminating with the third race being abandoned. The Brown Trout offered a peaceful evening after all that.
Monday was taken up by a series of short course races. Not to everybody's liking and at times it got a bit like bumper cars! Some opted for a cruising day and enjoyed some spectacular sailing in the afternoon as the wind increased again. The day ended with a downpour making for a very soggy packing up session. The short course racing results did provide some 'pots' for the visitors.

Many thanks to Richard for organising the weekend and collecting the camping fees on behalf of Southern Water. Bewl Water provided a great weekend's sailing. If you've never been there I thoroughly recommend you give it a try. Sailing on the river doesn't ev