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Going North with no guarantees - this is sailing!

The first targeted event to take the Wētā to for the 2024 season was the Kielder Water SC Dam to Dam weekend.

Anyone heading to an event generally keeps an eye on the forecasts and they were all over the place leading up to this event. It seemed to be changing from light to moderate breezes every few hours, and even the night before the long drive north I couldn’t make up my mind whether to go or not.

Having loaded the car just in case, a late decision around 1030 or 11pm meant I was going to go regardless. It was looking ok for Sundays race but still a gamble if Bank Holiday Monday would give us any wind at all.

The format for the weekend is simple - one long distance race each day starting from the start/finish line off the club flagstaff, around a couple of marks within view of the club and then head to the dam at the far end of the lake and before heading back and rounding a bottom mark at the dam nearest to the club and sailing through the finish line.

Getting ready on the boat ramp
Weta trimaran dinghy at Kielder Water

Sunday’s Race

It was a lovely morning and as I sat in the club house having breakfast there was a clearly building breeze to blow away the early mist and take in the magnificent views of the lower end of Kielder Water.

There a was a mix of boats taking part - the usual Lasers (or ILCA for the new school crew), an Aero, Solo, a couple of Ospreys, a Tempest (which looks like a larger Flying Fifteen with trapeze) and a few other classes.

After the long drive the day before it was great to get out on the water. The start was a simple affair although I didn’t time it well. Despite the mistiming I somehow managed to position myself on starboard to windward of most of the fleet who were mid-line and heading for the shoreline. “Did they know something about that which I didn’t?” The Ospreys and Tempest being chased by an lone RS400 were well ahead at the first mark and I followed around in a little pack a short time later with the Aero 9 and a couple of other boats in procession.

It was time to unfurl the gennaker and looking ahead I could see that none of the boats up front were able to carry their kites (either Symetrical or Assymetrical) to the next mark as they were all heading well below that course. The Weta liked this leg and definitely clawed back some time on the leaders and broke away from the followers, carrying the gennaker all the way to the second mark. Then began the long task of working to the far end of Kielder Water. With a nice dog leg in the middle the screecher was again deployed which was a nice feeling before having to pinch up again to make the top of the course.

At the top of the course I could see the lead boats were all struggling to make progress in what can only be described as a lottery of light breeze in the shelter of hills and forest. There were definitely different approach lanes and none appeared to offer any certainty. It felt like a substantial time to cover that 200 metres and that Aero9 was always right there on the upwind legs, ready to pounce and simply inching his way closer all the time.

Once around that top mark the screecher was once again unfurled and the hunt was on to find enough breeze to keep it full. After a couple of gybes I picked up a nice angle which meant carrying a starboard course all the way down, through the dogleg (where the screecher allowed me to get a good break on the always present Aero9) and sail to the bottom dam before furling it up and pinching to the finish line, before the wind swung causing all boats behind me to tack to the line.

Bank Holiday Monday

Bacon roll breakfast from the galley and a wonderful view of the lake, but no wind. In fact the only movement on the water was from the rain hitting the surface and some Sups out for a paddle.

A calm day perfect for Supping
Kielder Water Sailing Club

So that was it, one race in a fabulous location, before the wind dropped completely and racing the following day was abandoned late morning with no sign of it breeze before late afternoon.

In the end I managed to navigate the Weta to 1st Single-hander and 5th overall in what was testing Weta conditions at the light end of the scale.

2024 Dam To Dam Results
2024 Kielder Water SC Dam to Dam Results

It was a great to have travelled up to take part despite the forecasts and what was a relatively low turnout of boats (most likely due to the expected light wind).

I got to relive a bygone era of travelling to events before we all had forecasts in our pockets and you went to not only sail but to meet up with old friends, make some new ones, tell tall tales of regattas attended and support the host club for putting in the effort to arrange the event, simply by being present.

With that in mind I offer a huge thanks to everyone from Kielder Water SC for their efforts - the race team (who must have had the heads in their hands watching those forecasts), the members who welcomed me upon arrival and showed me around, the fantastic galley team who served up a wonderful meal on Sunday night and bacon butties on Monday morning in testing conditions (who needs power huh?), and of course the locals who took part on the water.

I hope to see you again next year


Weta 1324


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