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Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

Unicorn National Championship at Stone Sailing Club

by Julius Mach 8 Aug 2017 09:32 BST 31 July - 4 August 2017

Day 1

The weather forecast was winds force 4-5 and so it proved. South Westerly in direction and becoming more southerly in direction. The morning race was sailed on an ebbing tide and the afternoon race on a flood tide. Gary Piper, William Dawson and Dan Jarman had all bought and restored their old boats and were clearly going to set the pace whilst Steve Pooley had brought along his latest acquisition, Unicorn 1100 the latest boat from the Gary Piper stable but stripped of mast, boom and control lines and hence the Sunday had been spent in rebuilding the rigging.

Rather surprisingly in the morning race, Julius Mach led at the first mark and also at marks two and three where he rather lost his way not being able to spot mark 4 and eventually being the sixth boat to round. Dawson and Piper then sailed away from the rest of the fleet and after 3 laps Piper was first, Dawson second and Mach third benefiting from Jarman having to retire after omitting a mark.

The second race saw Piper, Dawson and Pooley take an early lead but there was much place changing on the run as a result of a vast amount of weed being swept up the river by the incoming tide with boats swooping in varying directions as weed was cleared from rudders. This race was only two laps fortunately for Jarman as sailing in the only boat with pinned rudders as opposed to rudders held down by lines or other means meant he was down to his last replacement pin as the pins sheared due to the accumulation of weed. Piper was first, followed by Pooley and then Dawson.

Day 2

The day started with lighter winds but this was just a teaser. There were indeed light winds and plenty of windless patches as well but as the day progressed the winds grew stronger with many shifts and gusts. The morning race was on an ebbing tide with the second mark providing a test of skill. Piper made a clean approach and rounding and got away from the rest of the fleet. Jarman and Mach arrived next and both failed to round and had to put in several tacks before managing to round. Dawson thought he saw an opportunity and came in fast to the mark and attempted to tack inside the pair and discovered his error when the mark approached and hit him. Jarman subsequently extended his lead over Mach. Dawson and Peter Toft got past Mach on the last lap when Mach sailed into a hole and the pair picked up a gust and sailed a reach to the leeward mark. Although Mach was able to pull a place back the race finished with Piper first, Jarman second and Dawson third.

The afternoon race held in a newly flooding tide saw Jarman, Mach and Piper arrive at the first mark in that order. Jarman and Piper tacked at the mark opting for a three tack beat to the next mark but lessening the chances of interaction with weed whilst Mach stood on for a one tack beat knowing he could clear his rudders and daggerboards quickly if necessary. The one tack beat proved the better route and Mach subsequently led the rest of the lap from Jarman and Piper. The wind had increased substantially for the second lap and the heavy weather contingent of Jarman, Piper, Dawson and Pooley all swept past Mach on the first leg. Pooley dropped a place on the run but then progressed from fifth to second on the beat to the finish. First was Jarman, followed by Pooley and Dawson.

After racing there was a cream Prosecco – like a cream tea but with Prosecco rather than tea – (included in the entry fee), a roast dinner (extra) and then the quiz night – first prize £50 plus other prizes.

Day 3

Races 5 and 6 were brought forward to Wednesday as the forecast for Thursday was rather breezy. Even so the winds were still quite strong.

The morning race – Due to the strength of the wind a somewhat diminished fleet took to the water with Boosey joining the four windy weather favourites. Jarman, by now in his element blasted away from the start, with Piper and Dawson having a close battle. Having led all the way round the course and with only a short leg to the finish, Jarman was broadsided by a 35 knot gust which ended in a spectacular capsize. Piper and Dawson were so intent on covering each other they failed to notice Pooley gaining ground and allowed Pooley to pass to claim his first race win of the series.

In view of the high winds the afternoon race enticed Mach to try out a cut down sail he had just had made. The sail worked miracles. As soon as it was up the wind died away and the rain started. Jarman led away from the start line pursued by Piper, Dawson and eventually Pooley. Dave Boosey and Mach had a tussle at the back of the fleet with Boosey winning out. With very little drama the positions at the end were Jarman first followed by Piper and then Pooley.

Some 220 people attended the barbecue in the evening which was followed by a barn dance.

Thursday all racing was cancelled for the day. A catamaran was seen flying a hull but it must be said that it had no sails up and was anchored. The bar was drunk dry while a rock band played out the history of rock.

Day 4

Competitors were pleased to see the daily brewery lorry turn up as even the bottled beer had mostly run out. Eleven empty kegs from the previous day were taken away.

The westerly breeze was still howling for Friday's penultimate race with a steep Blackwater chop caused by wind over tide. There was much place changing at the front end of the fleet. Pooley took the lead, however confusion prevailed among the front runners, which shall be blamed on poor visibility at the time, over the other Stone Week competitors' shortened course flag. The shortened course flag was spotted but not the fact the the Unicorn flag was not displayed whilst all the other class flags were. The leaders stopped but Jarman carried on for the third lap to be the first and only finisher.

For the last race of the week sailed back to back in order to allow competitors to de-rig and the race committee to calculate all the results, the tide was ebbing and the waves had calmed down. Beating into the tide and a force 5, Jarman built up a comfortable lead and went on to win. Gary Piper battled for second place against Pooley and Dawson who finished in that order.

Piper won the championship with 9 points followed by Jarman with 11 points and Pooley third with 15 points. Dawson, Mach, Boosey, Toft, John Moore and David Taylor filled the minor places in that order. Over one hundred people sat down to a two course dinner to watch the presentations with the hardy ones then going on to an end of week disco.

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