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Topper SE Traveller at Newhaven & Seaford Sailing Club

by Ian Lambert 19 Jul 2011 08:04 BST 16 July 2011
Hamish Streeter (46702) and Harriet Ward (46996) in the lead during the Topper South East Traveller at Newhaven & Seaford SC © Mike Bovington

After a week of glorious sailing conditions on the South East Coast, the weather matched the forecast on Saturday to give constant rain and blustery wind conditions that meant Topper Traveller sailors were faced with a mass of rolling breakers with the force of a powerful onshore wind behind them on Seaford Beach.

In these conditions experienced sailors supported by a strong beach crew could have launched and enjoyed some exhilarating sailing, however one of the strengths of the Topper Traveller series is that it introduces many younger sailors into competitive sailing, and the risks when coming ashore were too high to contemplate running the event on the sea.

However, Newhaven and Seaford Sailing Club is one of the few club’s on the South East coast with both a beach and an inland lake venue, and in line with the Notice of Race, the event was re-located on the day to the Club’s ‘Piddinghoe Pond’ training facility only three miles away.

The 23 boats that did compete was a smaller fleet than the forty to fifty who would probably have attended with better weather, but it undoubtedly included the cream of the South East Topper sailors who are fighting it out for the Topper Traveller Series prize, and the wind – 17 gusting 30 knots, ensured that even the most competent sailors were getting plenty of practice righting after capsizes.

Three races of 30 minutes each were run before lunch and one after, with one discard to calculate the race winners. The course was the traditional Topper Series triangle and sausage, which gives competitors two demanding legs beating into the wind, two exhilarating reaches across the wind and two - hair-raising for many – runs with the wind directly behind the boat.

Race 1

All twenty three competitors, including a number of NSSC’s local Cadet sailors who would have only just started sailing Toppers this year, made it to the start line, however the conditions for three proved just too challenging and after numerous capsizes they were assisted to retire to shore.

Alistair Smith (Island Barn) had a terrific first lap in 7 minutes 33 seconds, but was being strongly challenged by Elliot Marks (Broadstairs) and Hamish Streeter (Hayling Island / Bewl Valley), with Harriet Ward (Queen Mary) only a few seconds behind at this point. This leading group had gained a 30 second lead on a determined pack of 8 boats which were fighting it out together as they passed the committee boat en-masse. The remaining boats followed, strung out over a further 15 minutes, demonstrating the range of skills and experience in the fleet with the fastest boat lapping in one third of the time of the slowest.

By lap two, Hamish Streeter, who was to go on and win the event overall , had taken over and held onto the leaders slot, with Harriet Ward pushing him hard in second position, and Alistair Smith in third, a sequence which they maintained for the further two laps to the finish. Clive Jackson came through in 4th place having had a tussle with Louis Gorringe (Newhaven and Seaford) on lap three and Alice Smith (Newhaven and Seaford) on the final lap.

Races 2

With the wind gusts and overall speed increasing, the rain hammering down and many competitors spending increasing amounts of time righting their boats, the race committee determined to reduce the length of the successive races with a view to getting the fleet back ashore for a hot lunch at 12.30.

Race two was run for 20 minutes over three laps. Hamish Streeter led the race from start to finish, and his first lap time of 7 minutes 8 seconds, and overall average lap time of 7 minutes 20 seconds, some ten seconds faster than race 1 showed that the competitors were handling the increasing wind speeds well.

Alistair Smith, Elliot Marks and Louis Gorringe were again in contention, joined now by Clive Jackson (Papercourt) who had been late arriving and missed the start of race 1, but was now demonstrating that having by far the oldest hull in the event was no handicap. However it was Harriet Ward, pushing herself from 4th position in lap one to take and retain 2nd position on laps two and three, who was to challenge Hamish throughout the day. It was clear to see when Harriet inadvertently missed her footing and briefly visited the water as she was passing the committee boat in hot pursuit of Hamish that she was not only an expert sailor – but someone who has the rare quality of being able to laugh at the odd mistake when under pressure but still quickly recover the focus on winning.

Race 3

Race three still saw 18 boats on the start line, a credit to the determination of the less experienced sailors like local club members Alice Smith and Daniel Ford, both in their first Topper Open.

The experience and determination of the fleet leaders had been demonstrated from race 1 with a number of individual recalls called at the start of each race and demonstration of start line techniques that augur well for these sailors when they compete in the big fleet National and Worlds competitions.

Hamish Streeter led the race throughout, taking 7minutes 28 on his first lap and reducing this to just under 7 minutes on the second and final lap. Harriet Ward pulled back from 8th on the first lap to take 2nd and William Birchall (Papercourt / Hayling Island) made a strong showing being 2nd in lap one and taking 4th position at the end.

Race 4

Following ninety minutes lunch break, 17 of the original competitors returned refreshed to the fray with one parent, Rupert Smith, a one-time Fireball Classic Nationals winner taking over an abandoned Topper to try his hand at some serious racing.

After a first lap of 7 minutes 50 it seemed that Hamish would be taking first on this race as well, however Harriet came through strongly from having been 17 seconds behind in position two after lap one, to taking and retaining the lead in laps three and four to finish 13 seconds ahead at the end. The race once again saw many capsizes and it was clear that many competitors like Toby Wood (Downs) who went from 11th to 15th to 5th to 8th were seeing their position in the fleet vary considerable as the conditions took some competitors out whilst they righted their boats. Rupert Smith, sailing at his home club, demonstrated that being a champion on the sea doesn’t necessarily guarantee a result on Piddinghoe Pond, and after running aground on the island, to an ironic cheer from the shore watchers, finished in 11thplace.

Sailing Solutions ‘Endeavour’ Trophy

As well as competing for the NSSC prizes including the NSSC Topper Shield, sailors attending this event will see their results being taken into account together with the results from the Crawley Mariner’s Open on 9th September, for the award of the “Endeavor Trophy” kindly donated by Dave Cockerill, the Topper National Coach.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4Pts
146702Hamish StreeterHISC/BVSC11123
246969Harriet WardQueen Mary SC22215
347080Alistair SmithIBRSC33639
417501Clive JacksonPapercourt2453412
546468Elliot MarksBroadstairs445513
646288William BirchallPSC / HISC1374617
78Louis GorringeNewhaven & Seaford SC (NSSC)667919
828352Bob DoddsCrawley Mariners YC888723
924831Thomas ChapmanCrawley Mariners YC79101226
1046794Callum DixonDocklands911151030
1144242Alice SmithNewhaven & Seaford SC (NSSC)513142432
1244375Matthew HodgesPapercourt1110121333
1346791Iona DixonDocklands121491535
1446877Toby WoodDown SC141618838
1545976Daniel MartinQueen Mary SC1015191439
1536720Michael O'DriscollCrawley Mariners YC1612111639
177Laura BlackhollyNewhaven & Seaford SC (NSSC)1717132447
1846790Grace Bradley-ShankarDocklands1818161751
1946919Michael SmithQueen Mary SC1523172355
2044242bRupert SmithNewhaven & Seaford SC (NSSC)2424241159
2114Daniel FordNSSC (sea cadets)2319232465
2211Roisin McElroyNSSC (sea cadets)2324242471
225Maria McCollochNSSC (sea cadets)2324242471
226Nia HallNewhaven & Seaford SC (NSSC)2324242471

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