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Wanderer National & Inland Championship at Bewl Valley Sailing Club

by Tim Robertson 6 Oct 2014 20:51 BST 4-5 October 2014

The postponed Wanderer Nationals 2014 event, combined with the Inland Championships, were held at Bewl Valley Sailing Club near Lamberhurst in Kent over the weekend of the 4th/5th October, after the original National event at Whitstable had to be abandoned due to lack of wind...

13 boats gathered at Bewl Valley Sailing Club on Saturday morning with a forecast of brisk winds and showers for Saturday and lighter airs with sunshine on the Sunday. For once the weather people were spot on.

Having greeted each other, rigged and drunk mugs of tea on Saturday morning the crews were gathered together by the stalwart race office for this event, Jeff Warley, who laid out plans for the weekend. Three races on Saturday, two on Sunday, sailed on trapezoidal courses for as many laps as took between 45 and 60 minutes per race, with 4 to count if we sailed all 5.

As forecast the wind was lively on the 1st morning so various steps were taken to depower, with lighter crews taking the shrouds down a hole or two to cant the rig aft and rig tensions set higher than usual.

With the first signal scheduled for 11:00 the fleet took to the water in a fresh SW'ly breeze and were able to plane freely down to the starting area to prepare for the first start. One crew took an early opportunity to sample the waters of the reservoir and then we were ready for the off.

Race one got away cleanly with the fresh breeze still blowing in strongly from the SW. The fleet stayed largely together through the race and close encounters were frequent and quite high speed in the windy conditions. W1038 got very close to windward of a higher pointing W318 on the beat and was forced to tack away, only to immediately elect to try and sail over the top of a non-spinnaker wielding W1684 on the following spinnaker run. W1684 rightly luffed hard and W1038 found they had nowhere to go encumbered by the spinnaker, touched W1684's bow with her boom and had to do turns once round the leeward mark and in clear water on the beat... putting them back amongst the closely fought midfield. A leading group of Paul Yeadon and Liz North in W1626, Philip Meadowcroft and Adam Wickendon in W1541 (despite their main pulling out of the boom), Dave Bardwell and Ian Simpson in W1004 and Gavin Barr and Mark Skipper in W1282 were all sailing hard under spinnakers for the well laid reach, run, reach downwind legs and were able to break free after around 45 minutes racing. Paul and Liz looked set for a first race win until they were spectacularly undone leading at a gybe mark and found themselves swimming with the rudder detached from the boat, which pushed them back to finish a recovering 12th. 5 times Inland Championship winners Gavin and Mark were able to pounce and take advantage of Paul and Liz's swim, taking the win in the first race, pursued by last year's winners Philip and Adam, with David and Ian taking a very strong 3rd.

The fleet then returned to the club house for lunch before re-joining the fray for two planned races in the afternoon.

Over lunch the breeze appeared to ease as forecast and heavy weather settings were taken off some boats in preparation for a calmer afternoon. This initially turned out to be a mistake, as once out on the water the earlier fresh breeze returned with a vengeance accompanied by the forecast heavy rain. The breeze was so strong that the committee boat was unable to set its anchor and constantly dragged towards the lee shore. 45 minutes later, with the fleet roaring backwards and forwards on screaming beam reaches and with the race committee and safety boats unable to get the committee boat anchor to hold, a decision was taken to try and get the fleet away despite the moving committee boat, before sailors began to fall victim to the conditions and retire before the start. The one minute signal found W1626 Paul and Liz hovering nicely just below the line with a group of boats steaming in on starboard. W1038 was the first to arrive at W1626's nicely placed roadblock, forcing the boats above her (W1004 and the rapidly advancing W318) in turn up and over the line before w1038 was able to duck close and fast under W1626 into clear air at the gun. Individual recalls saw W1626 among others OCS and having to return and re-cross the line.

At the top of the first beat the breeze died fitfully away as the rain set in properly and huge shifts saw many changes in position right down the field with W318 David Davies / Jack Downton and W1684 Jonathon Taft / Nigel Stevens eventually making it round the windward mark first after some confusion about what was the actual windward mark. Some braved spinnakers immediately on the easy reaches and run on lap one while others remained to be convinced that the heavy air was gone for good and kept the spinnakers in the bag for the first lap. On the second beat the wind continued to fall lighter in the heavy rain and flukey shifts played havoc with race positions. A port starboard incident between W992 and W1626 saw Mike Hamilton and Saffron Gallagher doing turns and Paul and Liz's beat spoilt. W1451 Philip and Adam, with W1038 in close company emerged onto the second reach, run, reach ahead and both went for spinnakers. Getting a set proved tricky in the heavy rain and flukey light air, with the kite 'sticking' to the genoa and constant gybing across the first reach, but it was W1541 that managed to get it to fly eventually on the run and as a result had put a good 15 boat lengths on W1038 by the leeward mark. Their prayers for a finish on that lap weren't answered with only 38 minutes of a minimum 45 having being sailed, so W1451 set off once again up the flukey beat in ever lighter breeze in the lead. By now everyone was into light airs mode, heeling the boat slightly to leeward to keep the sails in shape and sitting well forward to lift the stern. W1038 had dropped the highfield down the rack to loosen the rig and was able to take advantage of his light crew weight to find a groove and overhaul W1451 up the beat. W1004 also caught W1451 before the windward mark and both were able to make good their escape on the reach and run before a bunch of pursuing boats including the recovering W1626 were able to catch a zephyr and follow them round. W1451's position not being helped by getting 'involved' with the windward mark in the light airs. The shorten course signal finally marked the end of the race with W1038 having sailed a leg clear, pursued by W1004, with a further gap to W1626 and W1451. With the light poor and all competitors feeling the cold it was decided to wrap up for the day and try to fit in three races the following day, so everyone headed for the clubhouse to warm up and dry out, with W1038 managing to T-bone the club weather buoy in the middle of the lake on the way in.

Plans for three further races in the glorious autumn sunshine on Sunday we stymied by a complete lack of wind. Arriving at the club around 9 the crews found the last of the morning mists burning off but no breeze to speak of at all. The race officer posted a delay from 10:30 'til 11:30 but to no avail and after a couple of Wanderers had taken to the water and drifted around aimlessly at 11:30 any further proceedings were cancelled, with the two races from Saturday constituting the series.

W1004 (Dave Bardwell and Ian Simpson) with a 3rd and a 2nd were tied with W1038 (Tim and Niamh Robertson) with a 4th and a 1st, but W1038 took it by a whisker on countback, with W1451 (Philip Meadowcroft and Adam Wickenden) with a 2nd and a 4th one point behind in 3rd place overall.

Prize giving was ably hosted by organiser Bob Grainger and Bewl Valley SC Rear Commodore and the trophies and glassware (Kindly sponsored for the National Championships by Hartley Boats - the current builders of the Wanderer dinghy) were dispensed to the top 4 finishers, as well as awards for the highest placed non-spinnaker boat (W1684 Jon Taft and Nigel Stevens), highest placed Bewl Valley SC boat (W1041 Bob Grainger and Julian Brown) and the Ted Shepherd Cup, normally awarded to the most improved crew from day 1 to day 2, which on this occasion was awarded to Paul Yeadon and Liz North for their spectacular capsize under spinnaker whilst leading Race #1.

Photos and videos can be found on Facebook here.

Overall Results:
If you finished in the top ten at the Wanderer nationals then enter your Gear Guide information here

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2Pts
11038Tim RobertsonNiamh RobertsonSutton Bingham SC415
21004Ian SimpsonDavid BardwellHawley Lake SC325
31541Philip MeadowcroftAdam WickendenSalcombe SC / Henley SC246
41282Gavin BarrMark SkipperWhitstable YC178
51684Jon TaftNigel StevensWhitstable YC5510
61041Bob GraingerJulian BrownBewl Valley SC6612
71626Paul YeadonLiz NorthWhitstable YC12315
8318David DaviesJack Downton 7916
91079David ClausenManjit RekhiGravesend SC11819
10992Mike HamiltonSaffron GallagherHurst Castle SC91019
111243Mike NairnKevin AgutterBewl Valley SC81220
12900Ray TennantSue HumphriesBewl Valley SC10DNS24
131099Paul CrossJeff LeyshonWhitstable YCDNF1125

The 2015 Inland Championships are already scheduled for the weekend of the 10th / 11th October at Bewl Valley SC so make sure you have made a note in your diaries so as not to miss this great annual celebration of Wanderer racing at a friendly and well organised club in beautiful surroundings.

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