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Blithfield DF TT: Sailors Trade Sea Legs for Joystick Fingers, and Mother Nature Joins the Fun

Blithfield Reservoir emerged as the spirited host for a captivating weekend long DragonForce (DF) TT on the 24th and 25th of February 2024. The Midlands Area Club, known for its welcoming Clubhouse and expansive waterways perfect for wind-powered activities, enthusiastically welcomed the challenge.

A relatively new series in the UK, the DF TT Series it has built on the global success of the DF racing boats, and brought radio sailing to the wider sailing community, the Model Yachting Association has been organising events for over 110 years, but for many it was an unknown gem in the world of competitive sailing. The introduction of the DF racing yachts has changed that. With over 40,000 boats now on the water globally the sport of radio sailing is now firmly on the sailing map!

The DF yachts, 65 and 95, are now sailed at many sailing clubs across the country and whether attracting new skippers to a club, or extending the competitive sailing of existing members, radio sailing is now seen as another offering for watersport venues, and the appeal of the DF yachts is a key factor in this.

The DF TT Series is the pre-eminent one make series in the UK and travels around the clubs of the MYA throughout the year giving skippers old and new the chance to pit their skills against fellow enthusiasts.

As participants gathered on a brisk Friday night, a chilly wind from the Southwest set the scene. A select few took the opportunity for a quick test sail, while others parked their motorhomes, signalling the beginning of an exciting weekend.

Saturday morning brought mist and a predicted 1-2 knots of wind, with 35 eager skippers filling the car park. The Race Team, led by Darin Ballington, demonstrated patience as they waited for the elusive breeze. Eventually, a whisper of wind graced the reservoir, marking the commencement of racing with A+ Rigs universally adopted. The sun broke through, lifting the mist and setting the stage for a vibrant day of competition. Well, that was the plan… The weather gods had decided differently, and the race team of Darin, Alastair Reid and John Smith were kept busy gazing at the skies and the water to find breeze. They never really managed to get the timing right, with the little breeze always switching off just as the countdown went on. A frustration for skippers and race teams alike. The basic lack of breeze led to constant changes of direction and large holes which even the small lightweight DF65’s could not deal with. The thoughtful inclusion of free hot drinks and the beautiful weather kept everyone’s frustrations at bay on what can only be described as a very testing day. With only 4 heats completed giving 2 completed races in the day the results were always going to be tight, and Nigel Brown, John Tushingham and Olly Murray came out at the end of the day as the top 3, although a quick look at the results show places were tight all the way down the fleet.

At the prize giving Alastair was comforted by the fact that the weather had been exactly as forecast and with this he confidently predicted that this would be the same on Sunday with a nice Easterly of around 10knots for those racing.

Photos Day 1 (76)

Sunday saw over 40 competitors gearing up for DF95 racing with winds ranging from 5 to 9 knots from the East, just as promised the evening before.

The larger dimensions of the DF95 boats added an element of spectacle to the races. The wind, steady in an Easterly direction by lunchtime, presented challenges at the leeward gate due to the foreshortening effect. With the wind intensifying to a steady 9 gusting 21 knots, skippers showcased strategic acumen, opting to stick with A Rigs for all 21 heats. John Tushingham claimed victory, followed by Derek Priestley and Peter Baldwin, showcasing the serious competitive spirit of the sailors.

Photos Day 2 (84)

In the realm of competitive RC sailing, the Blithfield DF TT carved its own niche, blending elements of challenge, camaraderie, and skill.

At the prize giving Darin thanked the club and its volunteers for giving of their time and reminded everyone that without these kind people on the water, in the galley or just helping with parking none of us would be able to go sailing.

A big thanks to all at Blithfield.

There are 3 ladies who we need to mention, they kept the fleet board running, kept the score sheets flowing and got the PRO out of trouble a few times with the concentration and dedicated to the task. Every race was timed, start and finished noted, and when the course went to 3 laps they even counted the leaders around each lap. Thanks to the stars of the scoring; Judith Baldwin, Tracey Ballington and Penelope Ballington without you the PRO would have been lost.

The success of an event can only truly be known when the next event comes around, well I think we can say that the entry for the 2024 DF TT Series answered any questions and after only two events the club is on the circuit. Blithfield SC is a fantastic place to sail with a very friendly atmosphere and welcoming hosts but if you are a full-size dinghy sailor you probably already know this.

Hopefully see you again in 2025.

Report by Nick Woodhead

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