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Minisail Class Championship at Whitefriars Sailing Club

by Rupert Whelan 8 Jul 2015 11:34 BST 4-5 July 2015
Minisail Class Championship at Whitefriars © Ivor Keates

Just 2 days before the Minisail Class Championship, we had some sad news from Belgium and the Netherlands. The blockade of the port of Calais was going to prevent our European members from travelling to Whitefriars Sailing Club. In the words of Ronny De Gruyter:

"With the Calais strike disrupting cross-Channel travel for a third day, a fourth one announced for tomorrow, I think we won't be able to travel to Whitefriars this weekend. Thousands of lorries are now stranded within a 40km perimeter of Calais, Dunkirk and Dover.

I work in the area, the highway is simply closed, travellers and lorries are everywhere and it's weird. With the weather playing along, people make the best of it and camp wild near trees, under bridges or simply where space available.

With the queue now growing even bigger it's fair to assume the situation will have an effect on Friday Ferry crossing, followed by a Dover-Swindon travel."

Undeterred, the British contingent showed a stiff upper lip and carried on regardless. Saturday, the play day was attended by 8 sailors and 8 Minisails. It is a pretty rare occurrence to get the same number of sailors and boats in the fleet. 7 of the boats even made it afloat, with much testing of wings, sliding seats and the water temperature by some in the brisk, planing conditions.

John Banks, however, saw it as a chance to fit out a re-built wooden boat from scratch, finishing just in time for tea, and therefore missing the best day of sailing so far this year. There was a smile on his face most of the day, though, so we have to assume he was happy bimbling.

Saturday night's AGM was lengthened to a full 22 minutes due to chips having to be swallowed before questions were answered, but once that was out of the way, the White Hart in Ashton Keynes proved to be a pleasant walk away, and so the evening was spent in the beer garden sampling local brews.

Sunday morning. Has there ever been less wind?

Unbothered, the sailors sat down for a nice chat and to stare out of the window. By the time the start of the 1st race approached, there still wasn't enough wind to work out what a decent course might be, so race officer Kathryn Whelan decided something was better than nothing and sent us out into the unknown. By skill and good fortune, the course actually ended up containing rather an interesting beat once the wind finally filled in, so all was well.

The first race was sailed in a mixed bag of conditions. Just when you thought "great, here we go", it would all switch off again. By the end, though, it had settled down, and everyone made it to the finish line – an unusual occurrence in Minisail racing, where expenses are often measured by the penny. Race 2 was sailed in slightly more testing conditions, and the first casualty was Rob Baker's tiller, snapping under the strain of the added righting moment of his unique wings. Paul Rogers also retired, his rope traveller giving out, having only been fitted that morning. Stu Dymond made it round, but his boat had twice tried to sail the course without him. Comments were overhead suggesting that maybe, just maybe, he should learn to tie a knot or 2.

This left John Banks, in his newly kitted out boat to battle it out with Matt Rutter for second place, first having gone to Rupert Whelan. With John leading by the odd boat length in the first race, and Matt by similar in the second, the third race would have been the decider. However, at five to 2, just when the race team were preparing themselves for the off, a squall blew up creating instant white horses and lily livers. In the end, only Rupert decided to brave the conditions, starting with the club boats. A course with 4 gybes saw the Minisail at its absolute best, with screaming reaches and turning like it's on rails. Just immense fun.

It was decide therefore to ignore the RYA scoring system and award joint second place to John and Matt. Both are keen to maybe upgrade their sails a little and have a go at knocking Rupert off his perch next year.

As a postscript, I'm glad to say that the European Minisail sailors did manage to get together, at Wormer in the Netherlands, where they had an equally good time.

Overall Results:
If you took part in the Minisail nationals then enter your Gear Guide information here

1 Rupert Whelan, (Whitefriars SC) 1,1,1
2 John Banks (Welton SC) 3,2 DNS
2 Matt Rutter (In search of a home) 2,3 DNS
4 Stu Diamond (Severn SC) 6,4, DNS
5 Rob Baker (Sandwell Valley SC) 4, DNF, DNS
6 Paul Rogers (Sandwell Valley SC) 5, DNF, DNS

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