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Osprey Welsh and Midlands Championships at Blithfield Sailing Club

by Nick Broomhall on 4 Apr 1-2 April 2017
Osprey Welsh and Midlands Championships at Blithfield © Alastair Barrie

The Osprey Welsh and Midlands Championship held at Blithfield S.C. on the 1st and 2nd April 2017 attracted 18 entrants, including three new Hartley Mark V's, with competitors travelling from as far as Prestwick SC in the North to Poole YC in the South. Seven of the competitors had arrived at the club as early as Thursday evening and blew any winter cobwebs away by attending an excellent race training day on Friday run by Tim Rush.

Saturday morning brought a pleasant westerly force 2/3 so the scene was set for some great early spring racing. Race Officer Bill Watson briefed the competitors on the recent RYA initiative of changing to the use of the U flag instead of the dreaded "Black Flag" following a general recall, but he needn't have worried as usual the Osprey sailors were generally well behaved and timed their starts pretty well and so the U flag stayed well-hidden all day.

Sailing was extremely competitive throughout the fleet in all three races sailed on Saturday with various boats getting in the top five during the course of the day, but one team stood out from the crowd. Gareth Caldwell and Jon Gibbons sailing at their home club in their Mark IV sailed superbly all day and returned to the clubhouse with three bullets so were clear overnight leaders. However, they didn't have it all their own way on the water and were pushed hard by various teams including Terry Curtis and Peter Greig (Castle Cove SC) who sat in second overnight, and father and son team George and Harry Odling (Plymouth Uni) in third, both sailing wooden Mark III's showing the longevity of the Osprey fleet.

After a great day sailing the competitors joined club members in the club house to sing to "Birthday Boy" Terry Curtis, who apparently was born on 1st April, half a century ago! Then everyone tucked in to the legendary Blithfield Hog Roast, washed down with copious quantities of Black Country draught ales – it was a late finish for some!

Competitors awoke on Sunday to find a beautiful spring morning with a light F2 breeze from the North. With a kick off at 10:00 some of the competitors were perhaps regretting their late night revelling as Bill Watson was forced to bring out the U flag for the first time following the first general recall of the weekend! However another father and son team, Simon and Ben Hawkes were wide awake from the off and took a port flyer on the line, successfully crossing the entire fleet. Ben had not been seen in the clubhouse all evening on Saturday as he had apparently decided to have an early night but rumours were rife that he may not have been alone! Unfortunately at the windward mark it became apparent that although they had initially crossed in front of the fleet, the tactic had not paid off and they eventually finished 5th in race 4. The front two boats of Curtis/Greig and Caldwell/Gibbons broke away to have a great battle with places changing several times, with Curtis/Greig eventually holding on for their first win of the series. However, a 2nd for Caldwell/Gibbons was enough to seal the overall victory and so they headed back to the clubhouse after race 4 to refresh themselves with tea and home-made cakes from the galley.

The wind was reducing in strength and so Bill Watson got race 5 underway quickly whilst there was still enough breeze for good racing. Clearly the early night for Ben Hawkes paid off as they led from the off and pulled out a healthy lead to record a win, with Odling/Odling finshing 2nd and father and daughter team Alex and Nick Willis finishing their campaign with an excellent 3rd place in race 5.

So the deserved winners of the Osprey Welsh and Midlands Championship 2017 are Gareth Cauldwell and Jon Gibbons sailing Odeline at their home club. The general verdict of the sailors was that they had a great weekend of sailing and some super socialising and great food. Hope you can all make it back to Blithfield next year!

Overall Results: (top five)

1st Gareth Caldwell and Jon Gibbons (Blithfield SC) 5pts 2nd Terry Curtis and Pete Greig (Castle Cove SC) 12pts 3rd George and Harry Odling (Plymouth Uni SC) 13pts 4th Simon and Ben Hawkes (Wimbleball SC) 15pts 5th Alexandra and Nick Willis (Hayling Island SC) 20pts

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