Nineteen boats jostled on the line in a brisk SW wind, awaiting the start of the annual BSA Bart’s Bash handicap race.
Some competitors were regular and hardened racers, others were visitors sailing in the Wanderer Inlands at Bewl, one boat was helmed by a disabled sailor and a couple were just joining in the fun of the day. It was the maiden voyage at Bewl for Simon and Al Cooper’s newly acquired Flying Fifteen 4041.
A triangular course with a long beat was set and a time limit of about an hour and a quarter for the first boat was given. The race was under way at 11:00 sharp.
The start was impressive, no one over the line yet no one very far behind it. The Flying Fifteens and a Laser pulled ahead quickly towards the windward mark. John Wardrop and Mark Munday in FF 3911 closely followed by Dan Kingston and Paddy McFarlan in FF 3746 rounded the windward mark first with Martin Dennant in Laser 207753 in hot pursuit. These early boats were somewhat fooled by the run to the leeward mark as a huge wind shadow left them floundering. Phil Meadowcroft and Adam Wickenden in Wanderer 1541 noticed their predicament so pulled out towards the middle of the lake as soon as possible, gaining on them well. However, John kept just ahead of Dan for the remainder of the first lap. Martin did not relax and kept on their tail. For the first lap most boats were in close contention with each other and many place changes occurred.
The wind increased during the race making the second beat challenging, and exhilarating gusts allowed the Lasers to plane periodically. Boats flying spinnakers not only looked striking but the extra sail enabled them to sail fast. The long formidable beat separated the fleet. Phil Meadowcroft gradually pulled further and further ahead of the other Wanderers.
By the third lap the leading Fifteens had overtaken the slower classes of boat. Keith Bromhead and Jennie Humm had led the other Flying Fifteens for two laps but gradually Simon and Al Cooper overhauled them. Finally about half of the fleet sailed five laps and the remainder four. A couple of boats retired.
The Race Officer shorted the course at 11:12, and John Wardrop crewed by Mark Munday crossed the line first, 1 hour and 14 minutes from the start. But was he far enough ahead of Martin Dennant and Phil Meadowcroft to win Bart’s Bash? On corrected time he was in fact 76 seconds ahead of Martin Dennant who was just 16 seconds ahead of the next Flying Fifteen sailed by Dan Kingston. Phil Meadowcroft in his Wanderer was fourth, 19 seconds behind the Fifteen.
Phil Barber sailing his F1 catamaran Felix with novice crew Mikhail Yakuba finished last but never sailed through the gate without a cheery wave to the race team; the true atmosphere of the race – serious but fun.
A barbecue was served as the prizes were awarded, and no one seemed to be complaining about the course or the wind!
£350 was collected in donations and a cake sale, which will go towards refurbishing a pontoon at Bewl and adding a hoist so sailing becomes more accessible to all.
More information regarding sailing at Bewl can be found here.