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Vortex National Championships at Stokes Bay Sailing Club

by Alex Benfield 18 Sep 2014 14:20 BST 30-31 August 2014
Vortex Nationals at Stokes Bay 2014 © Vortex Class Association

The 2014 Vortex Nationals were held over the weekend 30th/31st August at Stokes Bay Sailing Club. The competitors, some who travelled from the far reaches of Scotland and Yorkshire, arrived on the Friday night to be greeted by the sight of a very windy and choppy Solent. Saturday morning dawned bright, sunny and warm, the 10 strong fleet launching into a brisk 16-18 knot South Westerly wind.

Race 1 - The fleet got away at the first time of asking, with most favouring the committee boat end. Tilbrook was quickest upwind, closely shadowed by Lister and Winchester. Problems with Tilbrook's halyard dropped him back allowing Lister to record his first bullet of the event with Winchester second and Tilbrook third. Further down the fleet, the building wind and short steep waves caused by wind and tide resulted in some retirements.

Race 2 - The wind was now a more sprightly 23 knots making the waves something to negotiate downwind. The OCS sounds at the start, heard ashore but not by all the offending competitors signalled potential disaster for some. Local sailor Varley led at the top mark only for the race to be abandoned due to a mix up with the recall signals on the committee boat. Winchester won the restart leading most of the first beat only to be overhauled by Lister who was showing good speed. With the wind now up around 30 knots (clubhouse windex showed 29.6kts) and the steep waves caused by wind against tide, the fleet became somewhat decimated, with Lister taking his second bullet followed by Winchester and a recovering Benfield whose all out approach with the kite downwind proved a step too far. Down the fleet Varley lost a hatch cover and nearly his boat, whilst Tilbrook became separated from his boat. With only three finishers, the conditions had won round two.

Race 3 – Only 5 boats lined up for the last race of the day, with the wind moderating back towards 23 knots. Varley's boat was drained of a gazillion gallons of sea water and sent back afloat. With less tide the left side of the course, out to sea in more breeze but larger waves, proved favourable and Lister showed the way around, even a jammed kite on the last downwind leg not allowing Tilbrook to quite overhaul him at the finish. Benfield was third until another rush of blood with the kite on the final downwind leg proved his undoing, with Winchester taking third, Varley without the ballast fourth and Benfield a soggy tired fifth.

The heroes of the day came ashore to be greeted by the mildly embarrassed retirees before the class AGM followed by curry, beer (courtesy of the association), music and sleep. 6 time National Champion Phil Whitehead, injured this year, supported the class from the committee boat and must have been peeved at not being able to compete for the top prize once more.

Sunday dawned with much calmer conditions and bright sun. Sadly the anticipated wind did not materialise with strong tides and a 6-9 knot westerly wind, making trapezing a rare sight during the day. Looking ahead it was unclear who, if anyone could stop the march of the Yorkshire Dales sailor Lister towards the title.

Race 4 – With the tide making pin end favourite Palmer, Ireland and Lister started close together with Carter, in the new 2014 Vortex, just below. Carter judged the long port tack to perfection, followed closely by Ireland and Lister. Palmer in fourth decided to go left and this reaped dividends as he closed up. Downwind Jonathan Lister found offwind pace to take second at the bottom mark but up the next beat Jim Trice sailed fast and free into second place which he held almost to the finish before Jonathan Lister just found a lucky gust and sneaked inside at the last mark. At the hooter Palmer took his first bullet showing incredible light wind speed, Lister snatching second from Trice and Ireland fourth just ahead of Carter. Benfield rolled Winchester at the finish to claw up to fifth.

Race 5 – Similar conditions and the same long port hand beat off the line bought the same protagonists into play, with Tilbrook joining in the fray. Palmer's light wind speed made for a lonely but satisfying race with the bullet sewn on for a second time. Behind, Lister and Tilbrook traded places, their private battle continuing until the last downwind leg. At the finish Lister pulled ahead to finish second with Tilbrook third and Trice fourth. This result meant that the deserving Lister had won the title with a race to spare and ensured that the title would remain in Yorkshire for (yet) another year (14 years now apparently).

Race 6 – The final race which started in a freshening breeze with all but Ireland and Carter opting for a starboard tack start into the tide. The semi trapezing Ireland led at the first mark closely followed by Carter and Palmer who had regained ground after splitting from the main group. Palmer went left again and was never headed whilst Ireland lost time in the dying breeze. At the finish, when the wind completely evaporated were Palmer, Carter, Tilbrook and Ireland in that order, with Benfield gaining ground to finish fifth.

Overall Lister is our new champion showing great speed in all conditions, with Winchester the runner up courtesy of consistent sailing on both days albeit on equal points with Tilbrook who came third on count back. Palmer came fourth due to blistering light wind speed on the Sunday, with Benfield fifth and first Stokes Bay boat. Carter, Ireland, Varley and Trice were next up in the standings followed by Yates who made the long trip from Yorkshire having only owned the boat for a couple of months prior.

A great appreciation for Stokes Bay, who ran the event concurrent with an F18 catamaran open, the class enjoying a superb series of races in quite differing conditions and showing their appreciation with a desire to return again for a repeat.

Footnote: The visitors from Yorkshire would like to compliment the club for the help and support provided on Sunday evening and Monday. A broken down car, and a recovery company that refused to take the boat trailer, caused an enforced extra 24 hour stay; club members and staff rallied around to help, going above and beyond the call of duty.

Overall Results:

Pos SailNo  Helm NameClubR1R2R3 R4   R5  R6Net
11164Jonathan ListerYorkshire Dales11122(DNC)7
21181Angus WinchesterCastle Semple SC223‑76619
31203Chris TilbrookPaignton SC3(DNF)283319
41149Iain PalmerHayling Island SC6(DNF)DNF11120
51089Alex BenfieldStokes Bay‑73567526
62014Jonathan CarterRickmansworth SC4(DNF)DNC59231
71177Nick IrelandStokes Bay(DNF)DNCDNC45435
81222Peter VarleyStokes Bay5(DNF)4108835
91152Jim TriceLympstone SC(DNF)DNCDNC34736
101046Malcolm YatesYorkshire Dales(DNF)DNC 11/DNC910950

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