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Sprint 15 National Championship at Pwllheli Sailing Club

by David Groom 3 Sep 2016 08:23 BST 27-30 August 2016

Forty-one Sprint 15's arrived at Clwb Hwylio (Pwllheli Sailing Club) on the Saturday of the August Bank holiday weekend from all over the UK including South Island (The Isle of Wight) Devon, Dorset, Essex and Ooop North. Racing took place Sunday to Tuesday. The furthest flung competitor was Gabriel Kicks who had come in from Lantau Boat Club in Hong Kong. Attendance was unfortunately down from the expected 50-plus due to the date and the travel cost/time to reach the venue.

Most arrived to fight for space to unload and rig up amongst a host of RS Tera sailors, the accompanying ribs and motor homes and legions of supporting parents. Luckily the Tera's all went racing in the middle of the day so sufficient space was annexed by the Sprints for boats and trailers.

For almost all of the Sprint competitors the recently constructed National Sailing Centre was new. In the face of the multitude of users present over most of the event It did manage to provide suitable landside facilities with an ambience and character strangely reminiscent of its opposite number in Weymouth. Luckily the old club house was still partly in use meaning the Sprint fleet had its own reserved changing rooms.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and windless. At the briefing it was announced that the course to be sailed and the location of the finishing line was different to normal. This caused some consternation as the fleet is so well established it can only really easily cope with the norm. Given they routinely get nothing the fleet had also been thrown by the handing out of free event sun caps, most in a tasteful shade of beige, provided by David Lloyd of WH Insurance Consultants (

The Sprints launched and sailed round the corner so as to keep out of the way of the Terras covered part of the compound recently vacated by the Terrors with heavy weight trailers to prevent any re-annexation occurring. Launching was the normal Pwllheli low tide hike firstly a marathon across the lengthy beach and then a wade through what felt like half a mile of shallow water until normal sailing could commence. This was of course having returned the launching wheels to above the distant high tide mark and slogged back to the boat.

On the water the practice race got off to a good start in a Force Four with the initial excitement being near to and around the windward mark that being set inshore had a significant variety of winds in terms of strength and direction to contend with. Most boats finished but, true to form, some c@@@ed up the finish despite the specific guidance given at the Briefing and a few, including the report author, had been called OCS.

Race one commenced soon after with all the fleet enjoying what was near champagne conditions in the Bay with the fantastic backdrop of Snowdonia on display. It was full on upwind with a superb reach into the finish. The Race was won by Sean and Sophia McKenna with David Ball second and Stuart Snell third. This was yet another unexpected event to cause confusion in the fleet given the normal race and event winners had not won!. Race Two started soon after and in the excitement two boats capsized one before and one just after the start. As with Race One, places could be gained by tacking on the shifts and choosing the right side of the beat but it was snakes and ladders near the top mark. Uncharacteristically one of the top place finishers, Thomas Sandal, failed to finish correctly first time round and lost stacks of places when he corrected the error. That night first four places were the McKenna's, Paul Grattage, Stuart Snell and, to his and others surprise, David Groom.

That night roast dinner at the Club for many, as an alternative to a barbecue with the Terrors, although some missed out on dinner due to a communication error resulting in a trip down town for fish and chips. Post after dinner light refreshment, a thorough analysis of the day's happenings and in recognition of three back to back races to come on Monday the fleet retired to bed.

As per forecast Monday dawned sunny and windless and both fleets were sensibly kept on shore. In view of the time suddenly available the Class AGM was held at which point various matters, including the benefits or not of scrutineering what is a mostly one design class, were debated and the Nationals venues of 2017 and 18, Thorpe Bay and Restronguet, were agreed and proposed.

The Thorpe Bay event (to be held 17th to the 19th June) should see a return to 70 plus boats and Restronguet is particularly appropriate as a venue as the class is 40 years old in 2018 and the fleet is hopeful of going back to where it all began for a gala fest of fun on and off the water.

Early afternoon a light, and at times, steady onshore breeze appeared so the Race Officer summoned the eager fleet, or at least the eager muesli easting lightweight component of it. Battle commenced with, in all three races held that day, interesting and very different opinions on which way to go up the beat. The windward mark was always an exciting place to be with a stream of boats coming in on port to mix it in with the train on the starboard lay line occasionally with a boat using the mark as a convenient anchor. Many places were made or lost at this point with the mark, when it was not accompanied by an anchored boat having more than one boat polishing its side against it leading to a number of graceful pirouettes on the reaching leg to make up for such mostly unforced errors. Race winners were Team McKenna meaning they led again after day two followed by Grattage and Snell. This meant that, with the continuing exception of first place, the overall results showed the normal culprits in about the normal places.

That night, after the conventional three course Association Annual Dinner, limited drinking took place in wonderful peace and quiet post the departure of the Terrors. The limited drinking was this time caused by the forecast for what could be big Tuesday with an early start and two more races to get through.

Unfortunately for the full English breakfast eaters the day dawned not as big as hoped for but there was a decent steady wind in the Bay and meaningful waves in the new race area as just vacated by the Terrors. Their place had been taken by a small number of International Canoes (half catamarans really) practicing for their Nationals and Europeans. These are amazing machines with controllable everything's meaning the amount of string in any one boat is more than the Sprint fleet has in total.

The competitors were so eager to start Race Six that a general recall resulted and the Race Officer, sensibly, decided to use the I Flag causing some debate amongst the fleet in terms of what does that mean? They soon got the hand of it with the competitors all hanging back with one minute to go before a last minute surge to the line. In fact both the starts were particularly keenly contested.

Unfortunately at this point two rigs fell down, one of which belonging to Paul Grattage. His Shanklin club mate and Team Captain, Erling Holmberg, showed how desperate he was that Shanklin won the Team Prize in that he lent Paul his own boat and took charge of the dismasted vessel. Paul gratefully used this fine machine for race six but showed the Sprint 15 liking for the familiar by sailing back to the beach and using one of Erling's shrouds to repair his own boat for the final race. The other dismasted competitor followed this example leaving Erling with no option but an early shower as his boat was now fit for nothing but use as a bench or garden ornament.

Racing was great fun in both these last two races in a steady Force Three with meaningful waves meaning both retaining boat speed upwind and maximizing surfing downwind was essential. This caused problems for some especially those more experienced in reservoir sailing. Options on the beat allowed place changing and the superb surfing conditions evident on the runs were to the delight of the heavyweights who can surf longer and faster than their less well endowed colleagues.

Race winners were Team McKenna and Paul Grattage with Kevin Kirby, Liam Thom and Stuart Snell picking up the minor placings. Paul was shown to have made the right choice in terms of boat as he won the final race by a country mile.

Overall it was a great event won by Team McKenna with Stuart Snell second, Paul Grattage third, Liam Thom fourth and David Ball fifth just beating his sister Jenny. In addition to all the main event winners special mention must be given to the following:

  • Pete Richardson, Gary Sverdloff, Gabriel Hicks, Kevin Parsin Jon Dene and Gordon Deuce for getting commendable top ten positions in at least one race.
  • Eight year old Sophia McKenna for winning her first ever event (hopefully someone collected and returned her drysuit and boots left in the changing rooms).
  • 14 year old Hector Bunclark for winning being first junior and coming eighth in one race at his first Nationals having sensibly ignored his dad, fellow competitor Liam's advice, as to which way to sail the beat.
  • Sophia McKenna and Nathan Sverdloff for helping their respective old folks round the course in the two up boats.
  • Jenny Ball for giving her (routinely awarded to her) first ladies prize to Sophie who it must be said helped by dad, had beaten her by a mile in every race.
  • Simon Farthing for winning the heavyweight competition and giving the fleet an inkling of the steps he had gone through and the money spent to achieve the necessary stature.
  • Liam Thom for demonstrating quite how fast a muesli eater can drive a Sprint 15 upwind in waves.
  • Thomas Sandal for winning the 50 plus competition despite not looking nearly old enough.
  • David Groom for showing how badly he did last year by winning the most improved trophy.
  • Steve Davison for winning the Paul Smith persistence award.
  • Shanklin for winning the Club trophy despite the efforts of some Team Members.
  • Stuart Snell for winning the 60 plus competition yet again.
  • Carol Smith for presenting the prizes.
  • Race Officer Henry Wright, his assistants Keith and Liz Appleby. All from Carsington Sailing Club and the rest of the on the water team for simply being superb.
  • Those who stayed on for the fun events for the remainder of the week.
  • Brian Phipps and Windsport for the excellent fleet support throughout the year providing spares and repairs including attendance throughout these Nationals keeping boats on the water that would otherwise have to call it a day.

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7Pts
1Sean McKenna & Sophia McKenna2018Shanklin Sailing Club121121DNC6
2Stuart Snell2016Grafham Water Sailing Club345313514
3Paul Grattage458Shanklin Sailing Club4114611DNF123
4Liam Thom1957Shanklin Sailing Club12394165324
5Kevin Kirby2020Marconi Sailing Club175416122225
6David Ball1923Marconi Sailing Club27111337625
7Jenny Ball1917Marconi Sailing Club6818974429
8Thomas Sandal1982Grafham Water Sailing Club71035159731
9Simon Farthing1898Grafham Water Sailing Club10127222231142
10David Groom1714Netley Sailing Club5917323010849
11Jim Bowie2021Thorpe Bay Yacht Club8DNF21718131353
12Ed Tuite Dalton1940Draycote Water Sailing Club19610728191254
13George Love2019Carsington Sailing Club151182210111454
14Peter Richardson1983Marconi Sailing Club221513246141058
15Gary Sverdloff1963Thorpe Bay Yacht Club262016105171967
16Gabriel Kicks2015Lantau Boat Club24DNF2121416971
17Daren Fitchew1642Thorpe Bay Yacht Club91823292661672
18Gordon Goldstone2004Queen Mary Sailing Club1316241119151873
19Keith Persin1551Thorpe Bay Yacht Club141363724202477
20Jon Pearse1988Marconi Sailing Club201422333681781
21Richard Chidwick1545North Devon Yacht Club211915825272386
22John Manning1955Beaver Sailing Club1121301539222291
23Donald Sloan1240Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club1817261817DNF2595
24Charles Watson1237Halifax Sailing Club2322123423182196
25Kevin Parvin1615Llandudno Sailing Club1634293114122697
26Stuart Pierce1916Shanklin Sailing Club25261930312115106
27John Shenton1956Shanklin Sailing Club33232012292430108
28Steve Roberts1910Dee Sailing Club27243814372920114
29Gordon Deuce1461Brightlingsea Sailing Club302732239DNF32121
30Ray Gall1914Carsington Sailing Club32253126132834123
31Keith Chidwick1840Queen Mary Sailing Club34312538203329138
32Andrew Berisford1947Brightlingsea Sailing Club36302735212635139
33Gerald Sverdloff & Nathan Sverdloff2017Thorpe Bay Yacht Club31373419273033140
34Ian Wilkinson1862Shanklin Sailing Club35322827333327147
35Will Stefanou1976Stokes Bay Sailing Club2828OCS2032DNCDNC149
36Liam Bunclark1849North Devon Yacht Club37333936352128153
37Erling Holmberg2007Shanklin Sailing Club2929332538DNCDNC154
38Hector Bunclark1906North Devon Yacht Club40DNF3740835DNF158
39Andy Richards1242Open Dinghy Club39353639402531166
40Steve Davison1567Halifax Sailing Club38363528343436167

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