Class Coach Phil Walker and Jon Mather are popular winners
Royal Torbay Yacht Club were the hosts for the 2011 Zhik 29er National and Open Championships which concluded last Friday. It was the second biggest such Championships for the class with 57 boats entered, and it will certainly be remembered as one of the best. The English Riviera may not have given us wall to wall sunshine, but it made up for it with a tricky week of racing, and a full series completed, with especially shifty conditions when the wind was coming from the SW off Paignton Beach. A six race flighted qualifying series with only one discard left little room for error, and concluded with James Bollingbroke / Tim Walton (West Mersea SC) in first, followed by Phil Walker / Jon Mather (Draycote SC), and Callum Ellis / Will Harris (Queen Mary SC) in 3rd. Vicki Payne / Stephi Orton (Emsworth SC / Chichester YC) led the ladies in 9th, with first Juniors being Owen Bowerman / Alice Masterman (Hayling Island SC) in 16th.
For the final three days the fleet was split into 25 Gold and 32 Silver, aiming to sail 11 further races.
Wednesday dawned with a gentle north easterly, which built a little during the day, allowing four races to be completed, and similar, slightly stronger conditions prevailed on Thursday – four more races completed. By this point things had got very tight at the top with any one of six boats having a chance of glory. Phil and Jon held the lead on 29 points, Art / Ed Romano (Lymington) were now second on 32, Lily Carlisle / Fin Anderson 3rd (Draycote SC / Brighlingsea SC) on 35, James / Tim 4th tied with Ollie Cooper / James Poyner (Hayling Island SC), and first ladies Vicki and Stephi in 6th on 42. There was little room for error with all the top teams now carrying at least one discard, except for Ollie and James, who had made a great recovery from a broken Jib Halyard on the Monday of the qualifying series, discarding a 6 and 7 at this point.
The wind for Friday was back to the SW, forecast to build from 5 knots to maybe 12 – there was even a promise of some sun, as the fleet launched from the harbour for the last time. Excellent work by the safety fleet and beach team allowed the boats out in a very controlled fashion one last time alongside the busy pleasure boat trips and local yachts.
Consistency was going to be key on this last day, and when Ollie and James capsized gybing for the line lying 6th in the first race of the day, their chance was gone. Phil Walker and Jon Mather had the best of the day with a 2, 4, 4 to be crowned UK National Champions and Adult National Champions 2011, whilst Vicki and Stephi climbed to 4th overall, winning the Ladies title with a 3, 3, 7. Top Juniors were now Rob / Emma Loveridge who finished strongly ending 11th overall.
Art / Ed Romano held on for Silver, winning Race 1 of the day, whilst James Bolingbroke / Tim Walton took the Bronze on count back. In the ladies, Ruth & Tess Allan (Emsworth SC / Emsworth Slipper) won Silver by 2 points from Joan Furness / Abbie Page (Draycote SC / Chichester YC). Silver in the Juniors went to Luke Burywood / Chris Brewer (Lymington Town SC / Parkstone YC), and Bronze was won by Owen Bowerman / Alice Masterman (Hayling Island SC).
Silver Fleet was very tight with the final nod going to the two adult boats that had missed the cut for Gold and Silver, Jean Furness / Henry Collinson (Draycote SC) winning by 2 points from Emma Pearson / Dave Conlan (Draycote SC / Brightlingsea SC), with Ben Binmore / Jacob Barnett (Royal Torbay YC) safely in third.
So concluded a fantastic weeks very close racing; errors proved costly across what is becoming a very strong and competitive UK fleet. An evening Gala Dinner followed ending with prize giving, and a standing ovation for very popular winners in Class Coach, Phil Walker, and Jon Mather, winning at the 7th attempt.
Royal Torbay YC, as host club, delivered a brilliant week, both on shore and on the water, with special thanks going to Race Officer Bill Butcher, and local organiser, Adrian Peach. The class are certainly looking to re-visiting in the future. Huge thanks too to sponsors, Zhik, for fantastic support and a huge selection of prizes. For those not there, special mention too to the bloggers, who kept up an almost running commentary from the water, with close to 70 followers at various times during the week.
Things don't stop here though, as the class goes from strength to strength. A membership of over 225 (as reported at the AGM during the week), and more new entrants coming in this autumn from Toppers, Mirrors and Cadets (and a few converting from 420's) makes the 29er the youth class to watch and be seen in. The Grand Prix Series continues at Lymington in early September, RYA Volvo Youth Squad and Transition Squad places are up for grabs in the next few months, Eurocup events in Garda, and an Inlands at Grafham Water in November, not to mention the growing Open Training circuit.
Full results available at www.royaltorbayyc.org.uk
More information on the UK 29er Class Association at www.29er.org.uk