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DF65 National Championship at Eastbourne & District Model Yacht Club

by Tim Long on 26 Sep 23-24 September 2017
DF65 Nationals at Eastbourne © Sue Brown

The 23rd & 24th September saw the 2017 DF65 Nationals take place at Eastbourne MYC and with the promise of a good weekend both weather wise and sailing wise an entry of 41 boats appeared lakeside for the skippers briefing on Saturday morning under blue skies and A+ conditions.

Jes Collier, our OD for the weekend, was most welcoming to the skippers, giving plenty of useful info about the sailing water, control areas and he generally set the tone for how he would be running the weekend. With plenty of South in the breeze the three seeding heats kicked off proceedings with bullets being taken by Chris Durant, Jonas Samson and Peter Baldwin, who set his stall out early on to be a serious contender for the title.

With a heat board re schedule we settled in to the heats which saw racing from the Western bank of the lake under the watchful eye of other competitors and members of the public. There was lots of opportunity up the beats to gain or lose positions as skippers began to get the measure of both the conditions and the A plus rig which many skippers hadn't used before in anger. The morning followed a familiar pattern with John Tushingham taking all of the wins, leaving the rest of us to fight it out for the lower spots. Visitors Martin Gray and Jonas Samson along with Peter Baldwin, "Uncle" Derek Priestley and Tim Long were all pretty evenly matched through the morning session and second spot could have been anyones.

After a lunch break the wind had backed a little, putting more East into it which required the first of several trips out in the dinghy for OD Jes. The afternoon course was a super tricky affair, sailed at almost 90 degrees to the bank which caused limited visibility at the top marks which inevitably led to some "bunching" at the windward mark throughout all the fleets and it seemed the way to approach the afternoon session was to sail wide and clean at the top of the course and invariably you'd pop out pointing in the right direction sailing fast towards the wing mark. This tactic proved it's worth for Martin, Tim and Derek who stayed consistent until the end of the session. Peter had a couple of bad races towards the end of the day which would see him start Sunday in B fleet.

The end of day one saw John Tush in the lead with Martin in second, Peter in third, tied on points with Derek, Tim in fifth spot just a point behind and Jonas in sixth spot. From second to sixth there were just five points in it meaning that day two really could see a bit of a battle out on the racecourse.

There were those of course who should have been in the mix at the top end but somehow weren't, Mike Weston (he's a real funny guy you know) was suffering from wine head and just couldn't get himself into gear and ended day one in 17th spot a spot ahead of John Brierley who just couldn't seem to get going for some reason. DF65 legend "Uncle" Ken Binks was having a similarly torrid time on day one and finished the day in an uncharacteristic 13th spot with plenty to do on the Sunday.

Saturday evenings social involved eating as much Chinese food as you possibly could, a feat that many of our UK radio sailors are well equipped for.

Sunday dawned bright and somewhat breezier, or so I thought, and I foolishly wound back on nearly all the rig tension I had removed yesterday only to find that the breeze wasn't quite so... well... breezy I suppose. Another day and another trip out in the dinghy for Jes, this time along the North bank of the lake which although not ideal it was the lesser of several evils.

With the course set and the skippers briefing completed, including a peachy magic trick from a somewhat revitalised Mike Weston, the C fleet assembled on the start line for what was to be another great day of well mannered competitive racing in tricky conditions.

Of the top guys it was Peter Baldwin who made the worst possible start to his day, having got buried on the start line he couldn't do enough to recover and took a 24th place finish in race 7, the other guys scored well enough to keep the dream alive with Ken Binks looking like he could recover from yesterdays problematic sailing. Mike Weston couldn't seem to get his head around the event and continued to struggle whilst Nigel Brown began a bit of a charge up the board.

Race eight saw the saw Peter recover to A fleet, Nigel carry on his charge with a second place finish and the other top contenders keep in the mix. It also saw the wind come round a little more and caused the comedy start of the regatta with A fleet being recalled four or five times before they finally sailed a cleanish black flag start. Mats Hansson was deemed over the line on the final black flag start and was excluded from the race, however in race nine he really couldn't have done better and it was the race that Tushy was beaten by Mats who took the bullet from a C fleet start with a hard charging Nigel in third. Derek and Tim had a poor show after clearly having crew issues, finishing 11th and 12th both of them making race nine one of their discards.

Race ten saw Tushy back at the top but in second we had a new class skipper Chris Nichols who was clearly getting the measure of the boat, conditions and the racing he was starting to string some results together in his first DF65 regatta.

At the lunch break we got a copy of the results to race 9 which included the two discards, what was apparent was that any one of five or six skippers could quite easily take the lower two podium spots with a gaggle of them all tied on 34 points, a true reflection of the tough fleet racing we had seen throughout the event.

Whilst we enjoyed a superb hot dog lunch OD Jes was, once again dealing with the breeze which had backed even more East, requiring a course reset to the South Western end of the lake for the afternoons racing.

After lunch everyone buckled up for the final three races. Race 11 saw Tushy beaten once more, this time by Nigel, intent on stamping his mark on the results sheet, Swede Jonas Samson took third spot with Wayne Stobbs in fourth, Mats in fifth and Chris Nichols posting another good finish in sixth spot.

Tushy wasn't to win another race, being beaten from start to finish by an unusually consistent Tim Long in race 12 with recovering John Brierley in third, Mats in fourth and Ken in fifth. Ken went on to take a well deserved win in the final race from Derek, Wayne, David Brown and Nigel in fifth.

It's easy to see who the winner was, but what of those gaggle of skippers tied on points, well the USA's Martin Gray had seen his challenge slowed during his day two racing to finish 7th, Sweden's Jonas Samson took sixth spot, Peter Baldwin couldn't replicate his day one performance and counted some double figure scores to finish fifth. Tim long showed a level of consistency we've not seen from him before, counting just one double figure points score he climbed a place on his day one finish and completed the regatta in fourth spot.

The top three were held up by Nigel Brown who charged so hard on Sunday he made six places during Sunday to finish in third spot, three points ahead of Tim. The top two spots were occupied by two of the canniest skippers we know, MYA President Derek Priestley showed well on Sunday to finish in second spot, however at the top of the pile once more was Project Leader Tushingham, taking just 14 points from the weekend's racing and once again showing that he is really quite good.

Some prizes were handed out, hugs were had and away everyone went. Keighley is the next event on the calendar, mid October, 14th and 15th up on the moors. Lots of details on the events page.

Massive thanks to all those at the Eastbourne club who gave their time over the weekend to allow the 41 skippers to enjoy a well run and well managed event and special thanks to Jes Collier the OD for the event who did sterling work in making sure that the courses we sailed were as good as they could be given the less than ideal wind direction we encountered.

Special mentions for our two Junior competitors, Joshua Nichols and Tom Wharmby who both sailed exceptionally well at their first regatta and were both rewarded with some very cool prizes to further their sailing.

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