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Wanderer National Championship at Langstone Harbour Race Weekend

by Tim Robertson 11 May 2015 08:24 BST 2-4 May 2015
Wanderer nationals during Langstone Harbour Race Weekend © Richard Callas

"The one when the wind blew..."

An enthusiastic fleet of 8 Wanderer's congregated at Tudor Sailing Club for three days of racing as part of the Langstone Harbour Race Weekend. With two races scheduled for each day, the Wanderer's had their own start, following the combined handicap or individual fleets of some 52 other boats. It was to be a crowded time on the water and dodging capsized hulls or rapidly approaching asymmetric kites added to the fun.

Two new and race prepared Hartley Boats sailed by Adam & Lucy Hart (Ogston S.C.) and Paul & Matt Kelly (Hardway S.C.), had made the long trip south to join a number of regular faces. As had Frank Atherton and David Gascoigne from St Helens (Pilkington S.C) and all were warmly welcomed.

Race 1

An early start and briefing saw the combined fleets tackling strong south easterly winds, which were reportedly blowing c 17 knots, gusting 24 at the start. As with all of the eventual 5 races, the fleet got away cleanly. Unfortunately, the Kellys were awash to the gunwales following a bodged last tack, somewhat slowing their advance up the first beat.

The fleet split with the Hart's following Paul Yeadon & Liz North (this year, sailing Gavin Barr's excellently prepared 'Surprise') up the right hand side of the course, taking advantage of a slight lee bow from a flooding Spring Tide. The 'magic carpet' did its work and these two rounded the windward mark comfortably in front of the chasing pack. Spinnaker's came out for the first time and it became rapidly clear that the greatest challenge was to stay upright on this windward/leeward course.

Paul & Liz managed to ease away to a comfortable win with the ever threatening Hart's coming in a promising second, having shown impressive form up-wind Veteran campaigner's, Philip Meadowcroft & Adam Wickenden were having their own battles in the chasing herd, with the local entry of David Bardwell&Ian Simpson giving them a run for their money to the finish. They were followed in by Mike Hamilton and Amanda Shakir, sailing serenely without a kite (and wondering what all the fuss was about) albeit being chase down by the Kellys and the boys from St Helens.

Race 2

Conditions were getting more hazardous as wind and tide combined, whipping up a nasty chop in places.

The second race followed a similar pattern to the first, although the fleet was now augmented by reigning National and Inland champions, Tim & Niamh Robertson. The Harts and Yeadon/North combo powered away again up the first beat, with the two boats neck and neck around the first triangle of an Olympic course. The Kellys had also got into their stride and were pushing for the lead, changing positions within the chasing pack of Simpson/Bardwell and Meadowcroft/Wickenden.

There was competition between crews as to who would be first in checking out the water temperature with an unscheduled dip. The Robertsons recovered rapidly (in an elegantly synchronised fashion) to finish a battling 6th, after a botched spinnaker hoist. Ever the gentleman, Mike Hamilton headed home early, thus ensuring hot water for Amanda Shakir.

Up at the front, Yeadon/North sailed to a second comfortable victory having mastered the art of not attempting a gybe with a spinnaker up. They were followed over the line by a rampant Kelly boat, followed in closely by the Hart's. Meanwhile and finishing 4th, Phil Meadowcroft was discussing the finer points of spinnaker line knitting with his crew whilst being pressed by Bardwell/ Simpson and Atherton/Gascogine.

Race 3

The Sunday dawned grey and very windy. There was an air of trepidation at Tudor S.C., with all boats held ashore until the Race Committee had stuck its collective nose out of harbour, raised a wetted finger and tested the breeze. Fearing that the committee boat would not be able to hold station and anticipating a slight respite in the southerly 20+ knots, a postponement of 1 hour was announced.

After a protracted period of 'shall we- shan't we' and far too much tea than is good to take to sea in a dry suit, we were eventually called to the start line. Good-bye notes for loved ones were written, life jackets donned and boats rapidly launched. It was going to be a sail-flogging, bruising day for all with the start in winds of c.18 knots but gusts of considerably more - probably topping 30 knots by the finish.

All of the fleets were depleted and although the Wanderer's were down to 6, they all managed to stay upright throughout the race, just. The Yeadon/North squad again took the lead and always looked comfortable (just going to show that looks can deceive), recording their third straight victory. Whilst they had to be aware of the ever present Harts, they were never really under threat once the spinnaker was up, the new Hartley boat suffering teething problems with its pole controls.

Revelling in the conditions, Bardwell/Simpson secured a third, their best result of the series, followed in 4th by the Kellys. Tim Robertson and the ever slender Niamh found the conditions taxing, coming in 5th followed to the line by a deeply reefed but comfortable Hamilton/Shakir.

The day was finished with a Wanderer team sealing victory in the Langstone S.C. Quiz Night, much to the chagrin of established local teams.

Race 4

Aeolus had just about had his fun and much lighter conditions were to play their hand on the final day. Although, Paul Yeadon and Liz North had already and finally secured their first National Championships (thank the Lord !), there was everything to play for in filling the other podium slots.

The first beat of the day was held across an even stronger flooding tide in south westerly winds of c.10 knots which increased during the course of the first race, topping c 15 knots at times. There were many changes in the running order with all playing their roles.

After an unfortunate spinnaker incident at the last gybe mark, Meadowcroft/Wickenden snatched what was to prove a vital first place from the Robertsons, who to their credit, battled to the finish only to be pipped on the line by the closest of margins. Having made a complete Horlicks of the first beat, Yeadon/North had managed to overtake four boats on the first spinnaker gybe mark and wriggle through to third, followed to the line by the Harts, Bardwell, Kelly, Hamilton and Atherton boats.

Race 5

The course was becoming complicated. Holes were appearing in the wind and the tide had just about finished its inward rush, being paused for an equally rapid exit from this particular nautical stage.

Those who got it right on the latter legs of the race headed to the right hand side of the course and made big gains in extra pressure and ebbing water. Weight and boat set-up was starting to tell and the Robertsons sailed to a just and comfortable victory over Phil Meadowcroft and Adam Wickendon. Their second place confirmed an improbable 2nd overall in the Championship by just one point (having missed the second day entirely - but that's regatta racing for you).

The young, Adam and Lucy Hart came in a pleasing 3rd place overall – being an excellent result for a 'rooky' entry in a relatively untested boat. Frank Atherton and David Gascoigne were rightly awarded the 'Ted Shepherd Trophy' for their undying persistence and enthusiasm.

Thanks are due to Tudor Sailing Club, Locks Sailing Club and Langstone Sailing Club for their combined efforts and hospitality, as well as to the principal sponsors, Rooster. The race committee were exemplary in managing so many fleets in difficult conditions, readily making sensible decisions when required to do so.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1st1626Paul YeadonElizabeth NorthWhitstable Yacht Club111‑3‑53
2nd1541Philip MeadowcroftAdam WickendenSalcombe YC / Henley SC3‑4(DNC)126
3rd1730Adam HartLucy HartOgston Sailing Club232‑4‑77
4th1038Tim RobertsonNiamh RobertsonSutton Bingham Sailing Club(DNS)‑65218
5th1729Paul KellyMatt KellyHardway Sailing Club‑624‑639
6th1004Ian SimpsonDave BardwellTudor Sailing Club4‑53‑5411
7th992Michael HamiltonAmanda ShakirHurst Castle Sailing Club5(DNF)6‑7617
8th1404Frank AthertonDavid GascoignePilkington Sailing Club (St Helens)77(DNC)8(DNC)22

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