Perfect weather window for 188 entries at the Grafham Grand Prix

Laser sailor Jack Wetherell repeats his victory from last year

30 December 2013

Jack Wetherell successfully fended off his brother Henry to defend his Slow Handicap title on Sunday at the Grafham Grand Prix, the latest event in the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series. 

A total of 188 entries competed on three different courses spread across the breadth of Grafham Water near Huntingdon. After all the crazy weather of recent times in the UK, the weather smiled on Grafham, with bright sunshine and a pleasant breeze of about 10 knots, and none of the nasty gusts that were predicted in the forecast.

Grafham clearly suits Jack Wetherell who repeated his Slow Handicap win from a year ago. Recently returned from the Laser World Championships in Oman, the former National Champion won the first race by just 2 seconds from fellow Laser sailor Craig Williamson. The other Wetherell, Henry, won the second race but Jack’s 3d place was sufficient to give him the overall win, with Henry getting the better of a tiebreak with Thomas Scott on 6 points. 

Jack commented: “Out on Charlie course the wind was very shifty and gusty - and with a long start line and short first beat it was very tricky. Because of the conditions I decided that taking the bias was important but being able to tack when I wanted on the shifts was king. There are so many opportunities to gain here at Grafham, I knew if I was in the top 6 at the windward mark I would be in a position to strike later in the race. It's always good to beat your brother but he sailed a fantastic second race to take the win."

And so it was a 1-2 for the Wetherell posse from Beaver. Recently crowned Laser Radial Masters World Champion Jon Emmett was 6th in the 57-boat fleet, just ahead of first non-Laser in 7th, Michael Sims in a Solo. 

In the Fast Handicap fleet of 66 entries, Andy Davis and Norman Byrd sailed their 505 to victory with scores 5,2, ahead of two Fireballs - Nathan Batchelor/ Sam Pascoe and Dave Hall/ Paul Constable. Davis is also a Merlin Rocket National Champion but today left it to Stu Bithell and Ed Clayson to lead the way for the Merlins, the 470 Olympic silver medallist coming in 4th overall and ahead of reigning Merlin National Champions Nick Craig and Alan Roberts in 9th overall. 

Top Merlin couple Ben & Roz McGrane were not far behind in 12th overall, all the more impressive for the fact that Roz is heavy with child. “First race at an open in our Merlin since the Nationals,” said Ben. “Pretty rusty but pleased to still be racing in the front pack. Proud of Roz who while 4.5 months pregnant was still doing a top job crewing. Shame her helm wasn't a bit more on it!”

Andy Davis was delighted with the win, and the day generally: “Cracking sail today, finally Grafham pulled out all the stops with the weather, couldn't have asked for better day at this time of year. On the water the racing was run superbly by the race team and the high level of competition throughout all the different classes made for a great day’s racing." 

In the 14-strong Multihull fleet on the windward/leeward Course A, Phil Neal’s A-Class cat dominated both races, with fellow A-Classers Ian Smith and Bob Fletcher completing the podium. Val Millward won both heats in the four-boat Challenger fleet. 

A trio of Datchet mates raced their Musto Skiffs into the top three of the 45-boat Asymmetric fleet. Dave Poston won both heats ahead of Jamie Hilton and Ben Schooling, who won the first event of the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series back in November, the Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash. 

Poston commented: “I was lucky enough to get two good starts which is important to avoid getting slowed down by slower boats. Upwind seemed to have better shifts on the right whereas the other side of the course had more breeze and was better downwind. Other than that it was a matter of keeping clear of other boats and a bit of covering of the opposition to keep in front.

“The event was well organised and conditions were near perfect, with sun and 10-15 knots of breeze. The only issue was the near-freezing temperature! Racing was tight too - the other Mustos didn't let me win easily. Thanks very much Grafham!”

Grafham Grand Prix 2013
© Tim Olin: Grafham Grand Prix 2013

With a record 149 boats entering online in advance via, and 188 entries in total, this was one of the strongest turnouts ever at Grafham. SailRacer, who run the online entry and results system for the Series, report that entries are up around 20% from the same period last year, with some events selling out. The next event in the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series is this Saturday, 4 January 2014, when the first ever Oxford Blue will take place at Farmoor Reservoir. Online entry closes at 11.59pm this Thursday, 2 January 2014.

Grafham Grand Prix - The Winners:

Fast Handicap: Andy Davis & Norman Byrd (Northampton), 505

Slow Handicap: Jack Wetherell (Beaver), Laser

Asymmetric: Dave Poston (Datchet Water), Musto Skiff

Fast Multihull: Phil Neal (Rutland), A-Class

Challenger: Val Millward (Rutland)

For full results from the Grafham Grand Prix, go here:

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