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Wayfarer National Championship at Arun Yacht Club - Preview

by Tim Townsend 12 Jun 2017 15:22 BST 16-18 June 2017
Wayfarer Nationals at Medway © Nick Champion /

It was 60 years ago this year that the late Ian Proctor drew the lines of the Wayfarer Class sailing dinghy, one of the greatest all round dinghies which has been perfect over the decades for training, cruising and racing. To celebrate the anniversary, a bumper entry has been received for this year's National Championships which will be hosted by Arun YC at Littlehampton, West Sussex, this coming weekend.

The members of Arun YC have been working very hard to put on a fantastic event for over 50 competitors from England, Ireland, Holland and Denmark with racing scheduled from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th June, along with a varied social programme. The weather forecast is looking favourable at the moment, so what will the competition on the water look like?

In spite of the Wayfarer's classic design (it's certainly no skiff) and its all purpose nature, the class has always attracted excellent sailors and a smattering of "works" boats. It also attracts teams from other classes who enjoy the close competition on the water and the relaxed socials off it. This year will be no exception, with a few boats with genuine chances of taking home the chocolates, and several more which have the potential to do so if the stars are aligned in their favour. Who are these people?

Perennially top of the list and serial winners are sailmaker Michael McNamara and Simon Townsend from Rollesby Broad SC. They are the reigning Wayfarer National and European Champions and failed only by a whisker to win the World Championships (for the umpteenth time) in Holland in 2016 when they were beaten by a two time Olympian from Denmark. They've started 2017 well by winning the Western Area Championships. Fast in all conditions, they will be hard to beat.

Next up are Len Jones and Peter Mitchell from Medway YC. They are a relatively new combination but Len finished second at the National Championships in 2015 and 2016 and won the Inland Championships at Haversham SC in 2017 retaining the trophy he won for the first time last year.

2017 sees the first appearance at a National Championship for a few years for Roger Challis and Mark Johnston from Waldringfield Sailing Club. They have, however, sailed together with great success for several years. Their numbers are consistently low; they finished 4th overall at the World Championships in Holland in 2016 and were runners up at the National and European Championships at Weymouth in 2014.

Don't write off the class builders Richard and Mark Hartley. Previously national champions, they finished 5th overall at last year's World Championships. They like it windy, but are able to score well even when it's light. In the forecast winds of force 3-4 they will be at or near the top of the leader board for three days. Richard and Mark, through Hartley Boats, are also the event's principal sponsors.

Watch out for Andrew and Tom Wilson from Datchet SC. Andrew has been performing very well at the open meetings in 2016 and 2017. He is a former World Championships runner up in the class and won two of the National Circuit events in 2016. He has already finished as runner up at this year's Western Area Championships and had a string of single digit results at the National Championships in 2016.

Last, but not least, among the genuine contenders is late entrant Guy Marks from Bough Beech SC. He won the National Championships in 2015 and generally finishes in the top few at open meetings, especially in the light to medium conditions. He didn't travel much in 2016 and his form in 2017 is largely untested but we expect him to be at or near the front of the fleet come Sunday.

What about the wildcards? These are the competitors who will have some good results and, if they can put together a consistent series they will threaten the top of the leaderboard. Who are they? Bill Whitney and John Shelton from Shoreham SC will be there or there abouts if it is windy and will relish the sea conditions which they are used to. If the wind is lighter, don't count out Richard Stone and Catherine Gore from Medway YC who have recently acquired a new boat and will expect to be fast. Barry Wolfenden and Alan Ritchie are Scorpion sailors from Bough Beech. However, they like the Wayfarer and the people who sail it and will be competing in their second Wayfarer Championships in a borrowed boat (they finished 6th in 2016). Another new boat is being sailed by Brian Lamb and Sam Pygall from Wilsonian SC. They finished 3rd at the Inland Championships last month, have won races at the National Championships before, and will be ones to watch.

There are more competitors with potential, many more. Any one of the twenty or so Gold fleet competitors, and several of the Silver fleet could have good individual race results or put together a good series. There is a Bronze fleet too for first timers and cruising boats. All the boats will race together and be scored as one fleet and we'll report on the event and publish the results after what promises to be a terrific weekend.

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