SAILING: Grantham’s Millward wins annual pursuit race for first time

Val Millward battles The Exmoor Beastie.
Val Millward battles The Exmoor Beastie.
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Grantham sailor Val Millward made her annual pilgrimage to Somerset to take part in ‘The Exmoor Beastie’ pursuit race last Sunday.

There was some debate about holding the event as the weather forecast gave gusts of up to 40mph. However, the race officer decided to go ahead as 37 competitors had arrived to take part.

He set a course that avoided the windiest part of the lake and at 12 noon the first boat set off. Val, starting on her Challenger boat’s handicap set off eight minutes later.

The boats that had already started headed south towards the dam. The rest of the fleet followed at intervals, depending on their handicap.

During the course of the three hour race, 40 per cent of the original fleet retired. The boats still making progress were those who had capsized the least or had not suffered gear failure.

In the end, the stability of the three hulls of the Challenger paid off and Val led almost from start to finish. Tim Moss, commodore of Wimbleball Sailing Club, said he did not think Val had lost any of her initial lead, in fact he thought she had increased it.

Val, who sails at Rutland Sailing Club and is currently chief instructor for Rutland Sailability, has taken part in this event for the last seven years. Her previous highest finish was third.

This year, she was delighted to come first, giving credit to the boat, the strength and direction of the wind and the course set.

Val said: “It could be some years before this particular combination arises again.”

As for the prize giving, Val said that she was only there for the beer – Exmoor Beast donated by Exmoor Ales.