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CoastWaterSports 2014

Hornet National Championship at Colwyn Bay Watersports

by David Henshall 18 Aug 2017 11:05 BST 12-15 August 2017
Open water swimming marks for the Hornet Championship at Colwyn Bay Watersports © David Henshall

When the fleet arrived at Porth Eirias, the Watersports Centre on the Promenade at Colwyn Bay, they were greeted by large orange marks labelled USWIM (an open water swimming group who had loaned the event the marks).

In the end the name was somewhat prophetic, as at what was destined to be a windy Championships, many of the competitors would end up testing the water at some point in the full programme of racing afloat. Being Hornet sailors, this of course had to be balanced by a full programme of happy activities ashore!

Day 1 just happened to coincide with the 12th August but there was nothing glorious about getting afloat. First the competitors had to punch out through the curling shore dump, only to find more wind than expected and an ugly sea state that would quickly catching out the unwary helm. Dave Jones and Mark Hogan, having borrowed the Class Association boat, quickly stamped their authority on the fleet with a comfortable win. For the second race the wind had moderated slightly but the tide had turned making the sea state even worse. All the usual heavy weather suspects were up there but the competition was for the lower podium places as Jones and Hogan were again way out front, though Tim Coombe and James Beer worked hard at keeping them honest. With a forecast of zilch wind for the following day it had been hoped to squeeze in an extra race, but by now the depleted fleet were pretty exhausted. Out on the course the Race Team were now clinging on for dear life in their Committee Boat, so there was little dissent when the boats were sent back to the shore after Race 2. One who was very happy to be heading for the shore was Roger Kelleway, who had injured his leg during the 2016 Nationals at Herne Bay. Picking up another injury, after his second trip to A&E in two years, Thorpe Bay General Hospital are already booking him his slot for the 2018 event.

Top marks to the forecasters for a spot-on call for Day 2. They promised 3-5 kts and that it exactly what was happening out in the bay. The Race Team dispatched RIBs to see if things were better further out only to find that it was even worse there than inshore. There was a moment of excitement when 6 kts was seen at one point, but it could have been someone sneezing, for nothing else like it was seen and racing was reluctantly canned for the day. An early start for Day 3 was set with the intention of getting 4 – and maybe even 5 races in. Once again though the weather would have the last laugh. The fleet started in a good breeze and fairly romped around the first triangle and sausage but then the wind started to die – but only in patches. Jones and Hogan had their own supply of breeze, as did the evergreen partnership of Strangler and Pippa Rogers who rode a narrowband of private breeze into a deserved second place. The top place finishers were the only ones to enjoy the race as behind them the rest of the fleet were left drifting around in a faint and fickle breeze There was then an unfortunate and lengthy delay as the sun shone and the best breeze blew happily; unhappily two of the marks had gone for a Sunday stroll and in trying to get them back in place one of those simple but so easy to make mistakes happened. A misunderstanding with a GPS 'ping' saw the course doubled in size rather than reduced, with the fleet being sent out on the dinghy equivalent of the Fastnet Race. With the wind relatively stable, boat speed was always going to be a premium on the long legs and so it was hardly a surprise that Dave Jones and Mark Hogan were again front running. Behind them, Dick Garry and Sam Woolner were holding second place, with this being the start of a long run of top results. After the earlier delays, getting the full four races in was going to be a big ask, but by now the mark layers were getting into their stride and despite the long day afloat, racing continued. For Race 5 it was business as usual out front, though this time the chasing hounds were Nigel Scudder/Keith Hills and Storky/Mark Taylor. Behind them the racing was close and intense, at times too close, as several protests where to result from the race. The most notable of these would see Strangler and Pippa relegated to a DSQ score; the question was now if this would impact on the final places.

There was just time for a shortened final race but what was this? Instead of the lemon-yellow spinnaker of the Jones boat, the first kite to pop out at the windward mark was the blue of Toby Barsley-Dale/Richard Nurse. Behind Toby came Nigel Scudder/Keith Hills and then the rest of the pack; Jones and Hogan were some way back playing Wurzel. Yet their run of 5 straight wins had already put them out of reach of the rest for the Championship; the competition was now about who would be the 'best of the rest'. As if to heap yet more hardship onto the fleet, that night Colwyn Bay produced some near biblical rain that seemed to be falling mainly on the tent village that had been set up for the Hornet fleet in the grounds of the local rugby club. With the last night of the championships antics concluded (how did Barry Miller's back survive doing the Gay Gordons) some still managed to sleep all the way through.

The final day dawned to a near perfect day, with warm sunshine and a stiff westerly breeze. This was something of a relief for the Race Officer, who was not only a Horneteer from the past but who had a long and illustrious (is that the right word) history of officiating at Hornet Championships. The deal is simple; deliver sunshine and breeze or it is trousers off with them then being run up the flag pole. Luckily the weather helped him preserve his modesty, for it was a great day for Hornet sailing. Big seas, big winds and sunshine, with reaches that were just on the sailable side of tight. For once it was a day for the bigger crews to really stretch their legs, but Dave Jones and Mark Hogan wouldn't be amongst them as they were one of two boats called out UFD on a very competitive start line. The Race Team were dismayed to have to call the second boat, as Eric Styles was being crewed by Catherine Westbrook, yet a boat that is OCS must be called as such. Being in the front of a Hornet is a demanding task at the best of times, even for a fully equipped crew, yet Catherine is blind. Even in the confused seas on the Saturday, she was seen, spinnaker flying and hard out on the wire and Eric and Catherine would score their best result at the event in the second race of the day.

With the leading boat pulled out, Dick Garry and Sam Woolner changed up through the gears, storming around to take the win to close the gap on the absent leaders. Time was running out and there was just enough left on the clock for a final race blast around the bay which suited Toby Barsley-Dale and Richard Nurse just fine, as they sailed a classy race, leading from the off. The action though was going on behind them when, with the breeze building even further, the fleet decided to two sail it down the last reach to the finish line. Normally, this would be a sign that the reach had been set too tight but this was clearly not the case, as Garry/Woolner blasted down the leg, kite up and in a cloud of spray. Not only did they carry it but ended up having to bear off slightly to tear across the finish line in second place. Their 1,2 score on the day closed them within a point of the winners Jones and Hogan for one of the closest finishes in recent Hornet history.

The Mayor of Colwyn Bay was on hand to give out the silverware at the prize giving on the roof of the Centre, where Class Chairman Eric Marchbanks and Champion crew Mark Hogan all gave their thanks to the organisers of the event, the helpers from Porth Eirias and the race team afloat.

2018 will see the Hornet fleet heading back to more familiar waters with a Championships at Thorpe Bay and a more conventional event. The memories though will be not of the rain, nor the trek across the sand, but of those final day reaches. As one competitor said, "this is what we came for!".

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

PosSail NoHelmCrewR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8Pts
12168Dave JonesMark Hogan111116UFDDNS11
22108Dick GarrySam Woolner2382421212
42125Toby Barsley‑DaleRichard Nurse36DNF3615119
32160Nigel ScudderKeith Hills5495232621
52132StranglerPippa Rogers4724DSQ43522
62157StorkyMark Taylor7536356325
72147Tim CoombeJames Beer62118584429
82178Richard RobertsAlex Rogers8810713981450
92115Jo PowellJon Garmon9117149714851
102171Tom GuyBarney Broatch1014131281610962
112191Dave EdgeMartin ArnisonDNF10129141391063
122156Mike OwenChris Wilms111217DNS710111667
132181Dean SaxtonAdam SaxtonDNFDNS41318207769
142192Eric MarchbanksLucy Loughton14156111115131870
162058Roger KellewayNatalie KellewayDNFDNS5101514171172
152142Eric StylesCatherine Westbrook13915191211UFD1272
172182Kevin BurtBarry Miller121316171617121382
182180Alan ButlerTomos JonesDNFDNS14151012151985
192100Steve HarrisonLiz Harrison1516181819191617100
20173Ancel DavisonIan RamseyDNFDNS191617181815103

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