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Unicorn National Championships at Stone Sailing Club

by Julius Mach 10 Aug 2014 20:00 BST 4-8 August 2014

The 2014 Unicorn Nationals were held between the 4th and 8th August at Stone Sailing Club. The forecast was for light winds, which with the strong tidal streams meant that the local sailors would have to be watched carefully. There was much interest in Steve Pooley's boat which had been refurbished to exclude the central beam thereby necessitating a single span trampoline; a slightly flatter cut sail; the omission of a kicker; Dotan rudder stocks; more powerful adjustable lower shrouds; a curved traveller and a very bright yellow/green paint finish to the hulls were the other noticeable changes. Iain Rogers had also repainted his boat and generally tidied it up. Unfortunately it seemed that he had used anti-vandal gold paint on the spars and beams as anyone touching his boat came away with gold hands. The dark green hulls with gold trimmings and varnished decks did, however, look splendid.

The morning race on Monday in light winds saw Julius Mach make a good start closely followed by Gary Piper and Bob Dorks. Mach then chose to sail the wrong course, Bob Dorks capsized after encountering a mud bank, leaving Piper (last year's champion) to record an easy win with Peter Toft claiming second place and Arthur Brooks taking third. The second race in the afternoon saw Brooks make the best start closely followed by Mach with Piper in pursuit. Brooks headed for the wrong windward mark drawing Piper to follow him and allowing Mach to draw well clear. Piper then followed Mach round the course but was unable to close the gap on the second lap allowing Mach to win with Piper second, Toft eventually closed down Brooks to take third place.

Tuesday's races were held in the bay starting from a committee boat. Just before the start of the first race an abrupt drop in wind strength saw Mach get away with a good lead with Piper and Toft in pursuit. A the start of the second beat it was obvious that the correct way to sail was to go out of the tide on the starboard side of course. The first boats all did that and all was well until the wind became lighter. Bob Dorks swept downwind on the outgoing tide and as he arrived at the leeward mark the wind picked up, changed direction and Dorks was able to sail straight to the windward mark passing all the boats now well down to leeward of him and go on to hold his lead to win the race. Mach and Piper having suffered the most in the wind change fought their way back through the fleet to enable Piper to take second place and Mach to take third. The second race was held in stronger winds with good wiring and hull flying conditions. Again a windshift churned the positions but these were mostly recovered. Piper made best use of the conditions to finish first followed by Steve Pooley with Mach third.

Wednesday was a rest day with optional long distance (in the rain) and pursuit races provided as part of Stone Week.

Thursday was warm, sunny and windless until late afternoon ten minutes after racing had been abandoned for the day.

The first race on Friday saw Toft take a huge lead off the start line by spotting the wind and starting in the right place. He held that lead all round the course with only Piper being able to get close to him. Mach was third. The second race on Friday starting upwind on an ebbing tide saw Toft and Mach both over the line at the start and having to return. The first six boats were all very close together at the end of the beat. Indeed David Taylor arrived at the mark in fourth place but left it in sixth place as Piper went round the outside with Mach tacking inside. Toft encountered weed and fell away before he could clear his rudders and the remaining sailors were all watching local sailor Dorks to see when he would gybe to cross the ebbing tide. Pooley had at last found how to set his boat for downwind speed and led round the leeward mark with Piper behind followed by Mach. Piper managed to get ahead but got entangled with the mooring line of a buoy which slowed him down. Pooley was laughing so much as he swept by that he failed to hook on before launching himself over the side and it was Piper's turn to laugh as he regained the lead. Meanwhile Toft was making progress through the fleet. It was Mach's turn to encounter serious weed just before the last rounding mark and with Toft closing rapidly, lost Mach his place as his boat slowed dramatically and he failed to clear the mark. The subsequent penalty turn saw Toft sweep past and take third place.

Congratulations go to Gary Piper, 7 points, (Stokes Bay SC) the 2014 UK National Champion, winning 3 out of 6 races. His self built tortured plywood constructed boat, with Caws sail number 1100, was once again sailed expertly in mainly light wind conditions. Peter Toft, 13 points, (Stone SC) sailing 1074 with a Caws sail was second sailing a Condor built boat. Julius Mach, 14 points, (Netley SC) sailing 1095 was third using a GP sail and sailing a Piper boat. Bob Dorks (Stone SC) was 4th, Steve Pooley (Queensmead) was 5th, Arthur Brooks (Stone SC) was 6th, David Taylor (Stone SC) was 7th, Iain Rogers (Weston SC) was 8th.

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