After attempting to run the Harbour Dash the previous weekend and not getting a whiff of wind (albeit breaking the record temperature for October!), the OTC Weymouth made the decision was made to re-run the 2011 Harbour Dash on Sunday the 9th October.
Arriving at Overcombe corner at 9.00am, the beach was already a hive of activity, with people rigging up and others running around contemplating what size to rig. Paul from Café Oasis had kindly cordoned off the front part of the car park specifically for the event participants, giving them as much room as possible to rig – many thanks Paul. It’s always good to have a guinea-pig to test the conditions, so willing to oblige, Nick Dempsey was one of the first to hit the water. With many looking on, he wobbled out to the wind line on his 90L slalom board before exploding onto the plane and looking fully lit on his 6.2m Neil Pryde race sail. It was on … and what is more, the wind looked perfect in both strength and direction. Nick continued on to run the full course on a practice run, providing those that watched the first true impression of the task ahead. He powered on into the distance, only to be dwarfed by the harbour wall and the backdrop of Portland – it is deceptively far!
History Behind Event
The Harbour Dash, whilst stuff of legend, is a low-key local event that has been running since the nineties, and has been nurtured by Norman Petty for the last decade. It was founded inmemory of Brian Matthews – a local windsurfing enthusiast who was always the first for a bit of a seafaring adventure and regularly sailed from the harbour to Overcombe or Ringstead. Passing away just after his 60th birthday in January 1986, the Brian Matthews Memorial Cup was established to celebrate his life. This year, Norman asked the OTC’s director, Tris Best to help organise the event, and it seemed a fitting way to raise some money for a local charity – The Will Mackaness Trust – formed in memory of another local windsurfing enthusiast who inspired many into the sport, but sadly lost his fight against a brain tumour at the age of 16.
The format of the event is quite simple. It’s a race from Overcombe to the harbour, where you dip inside the wall via the north shipping channel, and back out into the bay via the east shipping channel. It’s then a quick zip back to the beach, finishing at the same point as you started. In principle it is an easy event to organise. However, when you throw into the mix the fact that the east shipping channel is the main entrance used for all of Portland port’s traffic, and you have a bit more of an issue. Ships and tankers create a bit of a wind shadow! Tris provided a risk assessment to Portland’s Harbour Master in the week leading up to the event, and liaised with them throughout the morning to ensure the timing of the race didn’t conflict with any shipping movement. There was a cargo ship being loaded and due to leave port at 11.30am, so time was pressing. With Jock from ribrescue.com providing two RIBs for rescue cover and also liaising with the harbour master, the green light was given for a prompt 11.00am start.
Good to Go!
Lined up on the beach just upwind of the Café Oasis to avoid the inside reef at Overcombe, Tris gave the countdown and the 24 entrants were off. BSA pro fleet sailor Sam Latham wasted no time and was on the plane before most had even considered hooking into their harness. Nick was hot on his heels though, whilst the crowd gathered on the beach were treated to an awesome sight of a mass of colourful sails racing away into the distance. With three timekeepers on the beach checking the time constantly, the feeling was that the conditions could be right for a serious assault on the title of 18mins 35secs, which had been set by Adie Bugler in 1994. The wind was more W than the supposedly favoured NW, but this had allowed the competitors to blast away from the beach. The question was how easy the wall would be to negotiate and what the wind shadows close to it would be like? Would everyone need to tack to get through the wall? Would the tidal stream through the entrances hinder progress?
Our questions were answered when over the horizon, in front of the east entrance emerge a solitary sail. As it screamed across the water back to the beach, the familiar colours of the Neil Pryde race sail gave the rider’s identity away. Nick was on course to pinch the record; question was, would the wind hold out on the inside? Well, put simply, it did! Nick punched his way through the lulls, right into the beach in front of Café Oasis to the applause of the onlookers. The timekeepers stopped the watch, recording a staggering time of 16:40 – knocking almost 2mins off the 17 year old record! Fantastic stuff. What is more, the second and third placed sailors – Sam Latham and Andy Chandler also beat the old record!
Talking to Nick later, he said: “I’ve wanted to do the Harbour Dash for years but have never been around when it’s on. It was great to have the conditions we had. It was a great day and racing your mates is much more fun than racing on the World Tour!”
It was great to have undoubtedly the most dedicated and professional windsurfer we have in the UK today involved in the event, helping to raise the profiles of both the event and charity, and show just what is possible. Thanks Nick! The PB (personal best) records kept falling with event mentor Norm Petty coming in at 22min 42sec: “Great event and a very well done to Nick Dempsey for beating the old record! Thanks to Tris Best for putting it all together.”
The Future Looks Bright!
Special mention must go to two local hotshots of the future Tom Wells and Emma Stephenson, who are both 14 and showed the mettle of people twice their age. They are sure to be names to watch in the future. As time marched on, the wind decided to ease, making us realise we were all the more fortunate in starting the race when we did. Jock and his RIB crews we on the case, marshalling all the remaining competitors back to shore, whilst informing the harbour master the competitors were clear as they exited the east entrance.
So there you have it – the Harbour Dash is well and truly reignited, with the record smashed and over £300.00 raised for the Will Mackaness Trust in the process. Many many thanks to all those that made it possible this year. To Norm Petty for mentoring us throughout the organisation of the event; Paul from Café Oasis for being so accommodating; to Jock and all at ribrescue.com for their professionalism and providing the RIB and personnel for free, and to Portland’s Harbour Master for being so flexible and supportive of the event. Thanks also to Lea Spencer of redsurfbus.com for the images and Mark Steen of Bustinskin for putting this video of the event together. The plan for 2012 is to run the event around the same time of year, but make it bigger and better. For now, the new standings for the event are:
Rank Name Time (min, sec) Date
1 Nick Dempsey 16:40 09/10/11
2 Sam Latham 17:57 09/10/11
3 Andy Chandler 18:32 09/10/11
4 Adrian Bugler 18:35 1994
5 Simon Petiffer 19:25 09/10/11
6 Nick Deverell 20:50 27/08/06
7 Simon Todd 22:34 09/10/11
8 Norman Petty 22:42 09/10/11
9 Steve Corps 23:15 09/10/11
10 Martin Carter (kite) 23:25 09/10/11
11 Kevin Greenslade 23:43 27/08/06
12 Tom Wells 25:14 09/10/11
13 Callum Edge 25:53 27/08/06
14 Joel Petty 30:15 27/08/06
15 John Kennedy 30:15 09/10/11
16 Andrew Petty 30:16 27/08/06
17 James Hampson 31:13 27/08/06
18 Steve Howlett 32:02 27/08/06
19 Pete Meacham 35:04 27/08/06
20 Pete Oberauer 43:48 27/08/06
21 Mark Jonkergoun 45:08 27/08/06
22 Chris Timlin 46:27 27/08/06
23 Emma Stephenson 49:56 09/10/11
24 Helen Bramah 52:07 27/08/06
25 Gavin Nicholson 52:51 09/10/11
26 Steve Griffith 53:23 09/10/11
27 Keith Walton 54:32 09/10/11
28 Clive Blass 56:34 09/10/11
29 Mark Lee 1:09:42 09/10/11
30 Jan Chadaj 1:19:42 09/10/11
31 Frank Denham 1:21:00 09/10/11
32 Matthew Pye 1:22:47 09/10/11
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