See David Harding's stunning pictures of an unexpected occurrence up the last beat of a Poole winter series race

PBO’s David Harding was on the water on Sunday – and his account below is a good advert for being in the right place at the right time! Read on and visit his Sailing Scenes website for the full gallery of pictures.

 He writes: “Sunday 21st November started grey and uninviting – at least as far
as going out on the water was concerned. But the Poole Winter Series yacht
racing was taking place in the bay and I hadn’t been out photographing the
yachts as often as I’d have liked over the previous weeks, so I decided to jump
in my photo boat and grab a few shots. The forecast had hinted that the weather
might brighten up a little during the day and I had a feeling there was going
to be more wind than promised.

“Nothing out of ordinary happened – apart from a few fluffed
spinnaker drops and messy mark-roundings – until towards the end of the race
for Class 1. One of the leading boats was rounding the last mark, East Hook
buoy, when I noticed something big and dark splashing around in the water by
the bow. I pointed my lens in that direction and, lo and behold, there was a
pair of dolphins. The weather-rail crew had clearly lost all interest in the
race and were busy leaning over the rail as the dolphins darted from side to
side. The finish line wasn’t far away, so when they had crossed it and got
their gun the crew reached back towards where the dolphins had been and sailed
around for 20 minutes. The dolphins seemed to have other preoccupations but did
oblige once or twice.

“A couple of other boats also attracted them and reached back and
forth after finishing. One in particular, the Pacer 27, was of particular
interest and the dolphins put on by far the best show for this lucky crew as
the sun came out for the first time in the day.

“Photographing them was a real challenge, because they only broke the
surface for a second at a time. Then they would disappear and it was impossible
to know where they would surface next. By the time I had pointed my lens in
what had been the right direction there would be nothing left but a splash, a
hole in the water or a hint of a fin disappearing beneath the waves. Driving
the boat, keeping clear of the yachts, spotting the dolphins, framing,
composing, focussing and shooting all at the same time left me completely
uncertain as to whether I had actually managed to capture anything worth
having, but on getting back ashore and downloading the images I was pleased to
find a few that recorded some memorable moments. I still don’t know how many
dolphins were out there. I only saw two together at any one time, but I think
there were at least another two. Some of the crews on the yachts reckon there
might have been up to half-a-dozen.

“I have been sailing, racing and photographing in Poole Bay for over
20 years and have still only seen dolphins on a handful of occasions – and
never having as much fun as they were evidently having on Sunday.”