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British Moth National Championship at Northampton Sailing Club

by Jenni Heward-Craig 18 Aug 2016 17:18 BST 10-13 August 2016

The forecasts had been read. The tradition was quoted, 'Strong, strong, light'. All the twenty-four competitors of the Moth Nationals 2016, held at Pitsford Reservoir, Northampton, on August 10 – 13, knew the score – it was going to be a little windy on the water.

Understatement.

Epic battles. Mass casualties. Death of shrouds. Bomber flypasts. Wild winds. White horse waves. Fear. Bravery. Exhaustion. Elation.

The Nationals started gently, manageable. The first race of the meet – the practice race – provided a casual sail to familiarise the competitors with the layout and conditions of the lake. Hinting at the duel to come, the two-lap race, with its triangular course, was easily won by Tim Davison (Medley), ahead of Toby Cooper (Broxbourne) and Roger Witts (FOSSC), with the rest of the fleet close behind.

After lunch, the sailors headed back up the lake for Race 1. In a gentle norwesterly, the fleet again sailed the morning's course, quickly separating into three distinct groups: Davison and Cooper charging to the front; third through to eighth; and the rest strung out across the course. After a hard-fought battle between the two leaders, Cooper took first. Davison was close behind in second, with Richard Keefe (Hunts) a distant third.

Thursday (three races)

Overnight, the wind had increased to 11-12 mph, gusting 18 (a veritable gale for a boat designed for light winds), and the sky was overcast, dropping temperatures. Race 2's start was tight but clean, with most of the fleet on a starboard tack towards the first windward mark. By the first mark, Cooper and Davison were well ahead. Behind them, strong-wind-handling skills made all the difference to race position. Places were swapped as sailors found extra speed downwind, or hesitated on the gybe. At the front, Cooper pushed Davison hard, but was unable to get ahead, with Davison coming in first. Witts' heavy wind skills prevailed, giving him third. Race 3 was more of the same, but this time Cooper managed to get ahead of Davison, while the flypasts of a Spitfire and a Lancaster were barely noticed by the Moth sailors battling below.

The wind increased by Race 4. Despite the Moth-unfriendly conditions, the fleet started cleanly, with Davison and Cooper again quickly getting away from the rest. The wind, however, took its first victims: Tony Latham (FOSSC) took an early dip on the first windward leg, and Elaine Laverty (MWYC) capsized at the first gybe mark. A screaming reach across the course saw the fleet fly into the next gybe mark, with some sailors opting for safety and retirement rather than concussion or capsize. On the second lap, the wind's fury took out Ian Heywood (FOSSC) and Abby Freeley (Hunts) when they capsized at the first gybe mark, and Gary Tompkin's (Hunts) attempt to continue sailing after his capsize at the leeward mark came to grief when he broke his centreboard on righting. Davison, however, kept head and control to take first ahead of Cooper, with Witts third.

Friday (two races)

The nor-westerly wind had increased again. The waves on the water had gone from white horses to peaks and troughs. Boats creaked from the strain of sheeting in against the wind. There was discussion about postponing the racing, but despite the wind easily being a Swatter of Moths (rumour had it other classes abandoning racing for the day), most of the competitors decided to go ahead.

Race 5 went ahead with twenty-two boats. Another clean start, and the fleet took the first windward mark at speed. Davison and Cooper were well ahead of the fleet by the gybe mark, but some sailors found the run followed by the gybe too much, with a number coming a cropper, and five boats forced to retire. Cooper took first, Davison second, and Robert Paynter (Medley) a distant third.

Race 6 was a race of attrition. Davison found himself in trouble on the pinend of the line, forcing him around (and possibly into) the ODM and behind everyone else. It did not take him long, however, to catch and pass the fleet, and resume his battle for the championship with Cooper. Battle it was – Davison took advantage of Cooper's capsize, but Cooper made up the distance and passed Davison on the reach. Conditions were not so kind to the rest. Of the remaining competitors, the run and first gybe mark combined to winnow the fleet, with Jonathan Twite's (Sutton-in-Ashfield) shroud snapping and forcing his retirement from the race. Another six sailors joined him on shore, which left only thirteen to finish (of which, only a handful did not capsize). Davison finished ahead of Cooper, but his troublesome start caused him to retire post-race. With Davison's retirement, Cooper was guaranteed the championship, but rules were consulted about whether it is possible to protest a retirement (the jury is still out) because he was enjoying the competition so much.

Saturday (one race)

The last race of the championship. Calmer weather was forecast, but out on the water it was a different story. The wind was still strong and norwesterly. After consideration, the Race Officer decided to keep the previous day's course. All the boats got away cleanly, but some sailors, finding the conditions difficult after the previous exhausting two days, retired, leaving seventeen boats out on the water. The first lap was unremarkable – strong winds, tight sails, wariness at the gybe mark – but towards the end of the second lap, the wind shifted massively, windward marks becoming gybe marks, and, in total contrast to the rest of the week, died away to barely nothing. Davison was caught by the wind shift on the wrong side of the course, allowing Cooper to take the final first of the competition. Toby Smith (Medley) also made the most of the wind shift, coming in third ahead of Paynter.

After bruises were tallied, boats washed and loaded, and a final lunch, the results were in. First overall, and National Champion, was Toby Cooper. Second was Tim Davison, while Roger Witts' consistency gave him third overall. Ladies' Champion was Abby Freeley, while the Transom Trophy for the best performing club went to Medley Sailing Club.

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

PosFleetSail NoBoatHelmClubPractice RTeddy HicksCoupe de LeonMarlow RopesObelisk TrophyAmeythst TrophyThompson TrophySolent TrophyPts
1stSenior887There is no SpoonToby CooperBroxbourne SC‑20.75‑20.75‑20.750.750.753.75
2ndVeteran892MulliganTim DavisonMedley SC‑0.75‑20.7520.752(RET)27.5
3rdSenior890DakotaRoger WittsFrampton on Severn SC‑353336(DNS)(RET)20
4thSenior839PanicRobert PaynterMedley SC‑8‑846‑733420
5thSenior846Proper JobToby SmithMedley SC‑1146‑8‑944321
6thSenior828GromitGraham PopeSevern SC‑7‑1585452(DNC)24
7thSenior872ASBOMark WiltshireFrampton on Severn SC‑9‑19545‑95726
8thVeteran856Okhams RazorColin HallHunts‑1567‑968(RET)532
9thSenior884BobbilyRichard KeefeHunts‑43‑1471076(RET)33
10thSenior808Laura LeeJeremy HigsonBartley SC(DNC)(DNC)(RET)1581011650
11thSenior882Little WingGary TompkinsHunts‑5101310(RET)‑1471050
12thSenior817Painted LadyJonathan TwiteSutton in Ashfield SC‑611111111‑13(RET)1155
13thLady883LapwingAbby FreeleyHunts‑13912‑211611(RET)957
14thSenior784Ruby TigerPaul Thomas PeterRipon SC‑1013‑161414‑1591262
15thVeteran854This way upIan EdwardsEarlswood Lakes(DNC)17‑181213(RET)81363
16thVeteran871ScruffIan HeywoodFrampton on Severn SC‑127916(RET)12RET(RET)64
17thSenior880SameSameTony LathamFrampton on Severn SC(DNC)181013(RET)(RET)RET869
18thLady504HawkmothElaine GillinghamHunts‑1712‑19‑191516121671
19thVeteran836FidgitJohn PickfordEarlswood Lakes‑14‑20172012(RET)101574
20thLady818MadgeJenni Heward‑CraigMaidenhead SC‑18‑2221‑231817131786
21stLady886Pink PerilElaine LavertyMWYC(RET)161517(RET)RETDNS(RET)92
22ndSenior870Grafifiti RatPaul LeafeGirton SC‑1921(RET)‑2217RETRET1494
23rdSenior847Ghost SwiftSimon HallMaidenhead SC‑16142018(DNS)(DNS)DNSRET97
24thLady700Tabitha TwitchitJennifer BentleyMaidenhead SC(RET)2322(DNS)(DNS)DNSDNSRET114

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