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National Solo Season round-up and look ahead to the End of Seasons

by Will Loy on 9 Oct 9 October 2017
Andy Davis ahead of Martin Frary during the Noble Marine Solo Winter Championship at Draycote Water © Will Loy

Saturday sees the conclusion to the 2017 National Solo "Majors" calendar with the final event, The End of Season Championship at Graham Water. 44 qualifiers with another 21 who need the EOS result to be included in the North Sails Super Series.

Before I scribe my thoughts on the pre-event build up, which incidentally has my fingers tingling with anticipation, I will do my best to sum up the season in a nutshell.

The Noble Marine Winter Championship went ahead at Draycote Water despite some fruity forecasts and the 33 helms enjoyed a proper blast. The decision to hold the event was founded on a rich history of similar heavy weather battles against the elements and served as a reminder that the Solo is a great boat to race in a howler, providing a "stable" base and enough high adrenaline downwind action for everyone. Who said the Solo is slow? Charlie Cumbley took the win, despite a swim in race 1 with Mike Sims and Andy Davis, unsurprisingly filling the podium.

The RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show - Another outstanding display of all things Solo. Winder and P&B/Poulson FRP hulls and a beautiful 8 year old Gosling composite. The modern Solo is a far cry from the stereotypical notion of a bathtub for old men. Our rules allow flexibility in rig choice to suit young, old, fat, thin, tall and short, and believe me, we have all of them in the top twenty.

The Spring Championship at Oxford attracted 63 helms with many new builds and some new faces. The winds were light, it seems to have been that way at Oxford for a good few years, and Tom Lonsdale took the win from Ewan Birkin Walls in the new P&B Poulson hull. Sims and Davis completed a talented top four.

There were some heated roundings at the windward mark, duel leeward marks have reduced aggro so maybe duel windward marks for the future? More work for the race team but it's all about the competitors.

There were a whopping 65 entries for the generously sponsored Magic marine Nation's Cup in Medemblik. The Dutch fleet have grown in size and talent and the Committee and media man Marc Dieben must be congratulated in igniting the Solo class in Holland. The winds were fresh, the IJsselmeer was lumpy and the temperature chilly, all conducive for a hard regatta. Mike Sims set the pace but was overhauled on day 2 by Davis who went on to defend his title. Sims and new P&B boy Oliver Davenport completed the top 3. The Dutch will be hosting the 2018 event in Garda and with Magic Marine sponsoring, should be an unmissable Championship.

There were Area Championships in the South at Felpham (25 entries won by Andy Davis), the North at Leigh and Lowton (28 entries won by Steve Denison, the East at Leigh on Sea (28 entries, won by Ewan Birkin Walls), in the Midlands at Draycote (39 entries won by Oliver Davenport) and in Scotland at Largo Bay (16 entries won by Andy Hutchinson).

The Western Championship will take place on 28-29 October at Salcombe. These events highlight the popularity of the class across the UK and undoubtably are as a result of active area reps and fleet captains which must never be underestimated.

The Welsh Sea Championship attracted a lower than usual entry, Abersoch is a beautiful spot and the 16 entries enjoyed some close racing with Mike Sims claiming his first major of the season from Patrick Hamilton and Rob Cook. Sadly day 2 was canned due to no wind, possibly the event numbers were a casualty of Windguru's prediction.

The Nigel Pusinelli Trophy lived up to the hype and the 63 entries reflected both the popularity of the venue, Hayling Island, and the prestigiousness (it is a word) surrounding this 3rd most popular major event of the year. The weather also played it's part with wall to wall sunshine and body braking conditions. Cumbley sealed his second win of the year and with the Nationals at this venue in 12 months, must be rubbing his hands with relish. Oliver Davenport served notice to all that he is a major contender with Chris Brown completing the podium.

HISC laid on a great event and if the 2013 Nationals there is a gauge on numbers, we should have no problem hitting 120 in 2018.

Mid-July and the 2017 Noble Marine Nationals took place with 90 entries, including 10 from Holland. I could easily name another 20 usual suspects who were elsewhere but hitting the 100 ark will have to wait another year. Charlie Cumbley won from Andy Davis and Mike Sims. No surprise but honestly it was far from a done deal midway through the week. Special mentions to Peerke Kortekaas in 6th overall and Marleen Gaillard in 21st, the Dutch fleet is getting strong. We had daily sponsorship from Rooster, Allen, P&B, Lennon Race Wear, HISC and Milanes Foils which made the evening prize givings very popular!

Salcombe Week was included this year as the Western Area Championship is being held post EOS so could not serve as a qualifier. Tim Law took the win at his home club from Phil King and Iain Mcgregor in a star studded 32 boat fleet.

The Harken Inlands is always well supported and though the forecast reduced the entry figure to just 76 and the topography of Rutland resulted in some screwed courses and screwed up minds, a worthy champion was crowned. Andy Davis put one hand on the North Sails Super Series trophy with the win, Sims was once again second from a surprise package in Dave Winder. Dave built pretty much 70% of the fleet (with the help of his team of course) so it must have been a sweet taste to be on the podium.

So as the dust settles and with just one event to complete, the EOS at Graham Water this Saturday 14 October, Andy Davis with 5 points seems in pole position to collect a third consecutive Super Series title. Mike Sims is second overall with 7 points from Oliver Davenport with 10 points then Chris Brown, completing the top five with 16 points. Everything could change on Saturday as Charlie Cumbley, freed from the shackles of OK sailing for a week is set to attend and currently holds 3 bullets.

Will Davis do an Italian job (aka Andy Couch in Garda 2014) and employ some pre-start match race tactics? Will Cumbley be able wrestle the North Super Series trophy away from the HD Sails jockey?

Will Mike Sims get one over on the pair of them, he has shown some tremendous pace this year or will Oliver Davenport put the cherry on his already successful season. Will I put the commentators curse on the event and mention the forecast?

The North Sails Super Series Draw will take place following racing and with a new North Sail on offer, £250 worth of Rooster kit and other prizes in the pipeline, it should be a boisterous affair. There are currently 44 qualifiers, many with multiple chances of a win and another 20+ who can qualify if they attend. I predict north of 60 entries so get your Solo on the trailer and get to Grafham Water next Saturday. I will be there to film all the action.

As we look forward to 2018 there is much to savour. We have a revised website launch imminent, Area Facebook groups across the UK so communication and bragging can reach young and less young, venues including Lake Garda and Hayling Island and a new editor who will have some fresh ideas on how to excite all the members. Why not come and join the party!

Thanks to North Sails who so generously sponsor the Super Series, thanks also to Noble Marine who support the Solo class 365 days a year.

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