Sam Pascoe defied heinous conditions to win an impossibly windy Datchet Flyer, the second event in this season’s Seldén SailJuice Winter Series. With 92 entries from 41 classes braving an apocalyptic weather forecast, this was either going to be a humdinger of an event, or not happen at all.
Despite heavy rain and gusts nearing 40 knots on Saturday, principal race officer Seb Camisuli and the Datchet team did a great job of delivering four races across a hectic weekend. Challenging didn’t even begin to describe it.
Of the 92 entries, 76 boats made it onto the water across the weekend, although the high rate of attrition meant only 23 boats completed all four races. Virtually every boat capsized at some point, and there was quite a bit of damage to boats and some stitches in the head for Musto Skiff sailor Mark Cooper.
At arrival time on Saturday morning, the fleet was greeted with torrential rain and not much wind, although this cleared on cue for launching and a pleasant 13 knots of breeze. However the breeze had built to 20 knots by the end of Race 1, which was a close battle between the Musto Skiffs, Contenders, and 505s, with Pascoe (Castle Cove SC) winning.
As Race 2 was going into sequence, the wind was gusting nearly 40 knots, and more boats upside down than sailing, so the decision was taken to briefly postpone. The squall soon passed, and Race 2 went ahead in winds in the upper 20s with gusts to 35 knots. Despite the big winds, the fast boats starting second were pushing the line hard, resulting in a general recall, meaning a nine minute delay between the slow and fast starts, instead of the intended four-minute difference.
The Race was shortened after about 30 minutes with the wind again building towards 40 knots gusts, but for some of the slower boats it took another 30 minutes to complete their lap. Fourteen-year-old Finlay Cochrane (ILCA 6 / Laser Radial) who had travelled all the way from Yorkshire Dales SC, soldiered on to complete the race, taking over an hour and earning a 23rd place on corrected from 26 finishers.
The 420 of Imogen Wade and Hugo Valentine (Draycote Water), made the most of the epic conditions to take a big win from hard hiking Ben Flower (ILCA 7 - Paignton SC ), and Sam Pascoe (Musto Skiff) third.
With the wind not showing much chance of easing, the race officer decided to AP/A and send the fleet home for an early shower and beer. This gave the overnight lead, to Sam Pascoe (Musto Skiff), followed by Imogen Wade and Hugo Valentine (420) and Ben Flower (ILCA 7), 3rd - and the honour of wearing Selden rash vests on Day 2.
The schedule for day 2 was brought forward to 10:30, to start with the average laps Race 3, followed by the double points non-discardable Pursuit Race 4.
Day 2 (Sunday) brought almost tropical conditions and a pleasant breeze. Race 3 was raced in a much more gentle 12 knots, seeing another close win for Pascoe (Musto Skiff), from Tom Morris and James Curtis (RS800 - HISC), and Sam Barker (Musto Skiff - Castle Cove SC), third.
Going into the pursuit race Sam Pascoe had a clear lead, with 2 points (after discard), but with the next four boats tying on 8 points things were very close. With the pursuit race being non-discardable and counting for double points (split slow and fast fleets), the overall results were still wide open.
After losing last year's Tiger Trophy in the Pursuit race, Pascoe put in a stunning performance to complete ten laps, and pushed fellow Skiff racer Barker who initially led the Musto Skiffs on what had become mainly a reaching course with the wind shifting. With Barker capsizing, Sam Pascoe was able to take the lead and finished nearly half a mile ahead of Rob Richardson in another Musto Skiff.
In the slow fleet the 420s of Imogen Wade and Hugo Valentine, and 15-year-old Harry George and Ralph Cawthorne (Lymington Town SC), had a close battle earlier on, regularly trading places. With 50 minutes to go, Wade and Valentine managed to take the lead from the Topper of Clive Jackson (Dorchester SC) and hold on to the finish.
Overall the top two remained the same, with Pascoe (Musto Skiff) taking another win to go with his victory at the Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash, followed by Imogen Wade and Hugo Valentine (420) in 2nd. Ed Presley (Contender - Castle Cove SC), took 3rd overall, knocking last year’s Datchet Flyer winner Ben Flower (ILCA 7) off the podium and down to 4th overall.
The weekend’s racing was a credit to the race management and the courage of the competitors to head out into really hard conditions. It really was the best of British boat racing.
THE STATS FROM THE TRACKERS
The SailRacer GPS trackers recorded some impressive top speeds, with many boats seeing sustained speeds well into double digits, and some maximum burst speeds over 20 knots.
SailRacer GPS Tracking
Adam Raeburn-James, Waszp - 17.62 knots
Daniel Goodman, Waszp - 17.55 knots
Sam Pascoe, Musto Skiff - 15.86 knots
Ian Stone, Phantom
Stuart Jones, Contender
Simon Mussell, Contender
Harry George and Ralph Cawthorne ( Lymington Town SC)
Next events on the schedule are the Yorkshire Dales Brass Monkey and Gill Grafham Grand Prix at the end of this month. To enter these and the other events, go to
The following events are in the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series 2023/24:
Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash, Draycote Water Sailing Club
18 & 19 November 2023
Datchet Flyer, Datchet Water Sailing Club
9 & 10 December 2023
Yorkshire Dales Brass Monkey, Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club
27 December 2023
Gill Grafham Grand Prix, Grafham Water Sailing Club
30 December 2023
GJW Direct Bloody Mary, Queen Mary Sailing Club
6 January 2024
King George Gallop, King George Sailing Club
20 January 2024
John Merricks Tiger Trophy, Rutland Sailing Club
3 & 4 February 2024
Oxford Blue, Oxford Sailing Club
17 February 2024
Prizegiving at RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show, Farnborough
24 February 2024
Previous winners of the Seldén Sailjuice Winter Series
2022/23 Peter Gray & Geoff Edwards (Osprey)
2021/22 Roger Gilbert & Ben McGrane (505)
2020/21 Simon Horsfield & Katie Burridge/ Natalie Johnson (2000)
2019/20 Simon Horsfield & Katie Burridge (2000)
2018/19 Simon Horsfield & Katie Burridge (2000)
2017/18 Alistair Goodwin (Laser)
2016/17 Matt Mee & Emma Norris (RS200)
2015/16 Ian Dobson & Andy Tunnicliffe (GP14)
2014/15 Nick Craig & various crews (Merlin Rocket)
2013/14 Michael Sims (Solo)
2012/13 Tom Gillard & Simon Potts (Fireball)
2011/12 Peter Gray & Rachael Rhodes (Scorpion)
2010/11 Andy Peake (Musto Skiff)
2009/10 Olly Turner & Richard Whitworth (Merlin Rocket)
SailJuice.com is the ‘how to sail and race faster’ website, with hundreds of articles and exclusive interviews with National, World and Olympic Champions. Professional sailing journalist and editor of SailJuice.com, Andy Rice, came up with the concept of the SailJuice Winter Series (originally known as the SailJuice Global Warm-Up) as a way of increasing participation levels in dinghy racing during the off-season in the UK.
SailRacer manages event websites and processes online entry for major National, International, Youth and training events, providing online scoring, analysis and advanced sports presentation including GPS tracking and live video.
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