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Topper GJW Direct National Series 1 at Poole Yacht Club

by Chris Woodard 22 Sep 2017 17:40 BST 16-17 September 2017
Topper GJW Direct National Series 1 at Poole © Mike Millard

The 2017-18 GJW Direct Topper National Series got under way last weekend at Poole YC – and what a great venue!

Not blessed with a huge site, it was all a bit cosy in the dinghy park, car parking was some distance away in the Ferry Terminal, and launching was a fairly lengthy process from a small seaweed-covered beach, but it was wall to wall smiles from competitors and volunteers alike, the club could not have been more friendly and welcoming, the clubhouse facilities were magnificent, and there was a great view of the racing from the marina breakwater for all the Topper Twitchers with their high powered binoculars!

This is a slightly quieter time of the year for the travelling Topper community, many of the familiar faces from the front of the fleet have moved on up the RYA Pathway and transitioned to their new classes, whilst the new intake through the RYA Zones are not really tuned into the National scene yet and will probably start appearing after the New Year, so it was great to see a healthy entry of 163 boats across the two fleets, significantly up on the corresponding event last year, and boding well for the rest of the series.

Unfortunately the weather didn’t really play ball, and Saturday in particular was a frustrating day for competitors and race officials alike. The forecast was for a light breeze, with a big swing from north to south west in the early afternoon, but in the event the wind tested every conceivable point of the compass at some point, the rain and hail came and went, and with it the wind. The 5.3 fleet made a gallant attempt at racing, in the “top triangle” of Poole Harbour, and at one point racing for both flights was underway, but after about 15 minutes of racing a 50 degree shift to the left meant that the race had to be abandoned. After much course relaying and every effort to get some racing, the fleet were sent ashore with a blank score-card after nearly 4 hours on the water! As usual the 4.2 fleet fared slightly better, and managed to squeeze in one short race between the shifts, but eventually they too had to accept the inevitable and call it a day.

Sunday had always looked more promising, a bit more breeze was forecast, maybe 8 knots if we were lucky, and that was what we had! There were lots of small to medium shifts, and some pressure changes, but the good guys (and girls!) managed to be remarkably consistent and worked their way to the front of the fleet. In the 5.3 fleet there were a few general recalls, as usual, as the tide pushed boats over the line, but relatively few boats were black-flagged, and by the 15.00 cut-off time 4 races had been completed, allowing the first discard to apply – quite a relief for some of the front runners! Again the 4.2s outdid the 5.3s, aided by their slightly shorter courses, no flights, and less tendency towards general recalls, and they completed their full 5-race schedule, getting ashore, showered, and packed away before the 5.3s appeared!

Results wise it was a fantastic event for Sonia Evans, just 2 years after turning up at her first event in a borrowed broken old Topper, she took her first National Series victory in convincing style, testament to the great coaching and support within the Topper community, and to her personal dedication and relentless practice. Some distance adrift from her the next 5 boats were separated by just 5 points, with Hamilton Roaf taking 2nd, and George Vincent and Finlay Swanton tied on 10 points, with George completing the podium on count-back.

In the 4.2 fleet it was very nearly a remarkable double for the Evans family, with Sonia’s brother Tim winning 3 of the 6 races, and missing out on overall victory by just one point, pipped by the ever consistent Tom Thwaites, with fleet newcomer Chloe Mills completing the podium and winning first girl.

Thanks as always to the host club and our event sponsors GJW Direct, Rooster and Harken, and to the hoards of volunteers who enable these big events to run so smoothly. We now have a long break before NS2 at Weymouth on 24-25 February, although for many the time will be filled as they embark on a gruelling winter Squad programme – fingers crossed for all those still awaiting their selection emails. Have a great winter!

Overall Results: