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Spitfire Nationals at Stokes Bay Sailing Club sponsored by Forward WIP

by Olly Harris 5 Sep 2017 11:18 BST 1-3 September 2017

The Spitfire Nationals at Stokes Bay Sailing club started on Friday 1st September with sunny weather for rigging and sailors very happy to receive hats and T-shirts from sponsors Forward WIP. They sailed out to the course in a gentle breeze with spinnakers flying and hulls up.

This year we were very happy to welcome Max Tjarnsved and Gustav Jacobsson from Sweden. A few years ago, cat sailors there decided to replicate the success of the Spitfire for youth cat sailing in the UK. They now have a healthy fleet and held selection events to choose the top team to race at the UK Nationals.

In Race 1, James Stacey / Cat Elson played the shifts particularly well to take the lead early on the first beat whilst Ben Harris and AJ Luxton tacked off to the right, only to sail into a hole and watch the fleet sail away. They gradually worked their way back up, passing Lotte Johnson / Jack Benson and then team Sweden on the run to the finish to take second place whilst James and Cat got their first race win. The wind then dropped so the fleet were sent ashore to wait for wind, which didn't materialise.

The first race on Saturday saw James & Cat assert their dominance again, taking the win in light and flukey conditions- a day for finding the best pressure and understanding the Solent tides. Close behind them were Max and Gustav showing great downwind speed, followed by 2016 Inland Champion Matt McRobbie, back on a Spitfire with Scarlet Desorgher for her first cat event.

After a brief return to the beach waiting for the wind to stabilise, the fleet began Race 3 with a busy start prompting Ben & AJ to tack off to the right to be first around the windward mark. The pair had extended this to a large lead downwind when a collision with submerged debris caused a messy capsize. This allowed Chloe & William Stuart through to take first, followed by James & Cat.

The final race of the day saw a tight battle emerge between Ben & AJ and Max & Gustav, with Lotte/ Jack and Ben/ Alex close to the leaders. It was the Swedish team's depth downwind that allowed them to take 1st place, with Ben & AJ 2nd and Chloe & Will posting another solid result in 3rd.

Saturday evening featured the quieter activities of pizza eating and card playing for many of the happy but tired sailors, whilst others headed to the bar for dinner, drinks and a live band.

Day 3 saw more wind and plenty of rain with more wind forecast. With several boats opting to stay ashore, the remaining fleet started race 5 on time, with the top 3 boats of team Sweden, James & Cat and Ben & AJ quickly breaking away from the rest of the boats, spotting the best way around the course in the building tide. Rounding the first leeward gate, both Max/ Gustav and James/ Cat had steering issues, causing James & Cat to pop ashore for a new tiller extension while team Harris / Luxton moved into first. Once ahead, they extended their lead to win the race from Max & Gustav.

Race 6 began in similar conditions, this time with Ben McElroy & Alex Hamel making a strong start to spend the race in the leading pack. After some incredibly close and exciting racing, with all boats at the leeward mark together and much place changing, Max/ Gustav took the win, with team McElroy-Hamel second and Ben & AJ close behind.

By the start of the last race, the wind had increased and the heavier crew of Flynn Luxton & Charlie Hamel soon shot ahead, chased by James & Cat. It seemed that as the breeze got stronger, the racing got closer, a testament to the ability of these young sailors. The battle for the lead continued until the hook of Flynn's trapeze harness broke off, leading to a capsize and allowing James & Cat to take the win whilst team Sweden capsized and didn't finish.

Despite their last race swim, Max and Gustav had already done enough to win the event by just one point from James and Cat who in turn were only one point ahead of Ben and AJ, giving the UK Nationals title to James and Cat. It was great to see the same level of performance between the top Swedish and UK boats and those newer to the boat starting to push the more experienced teams.

A special mention must go to Chloe and William Stuart, who showed great resilience in getting back out on the water in the fresh conditions after not one but two fast pit stops at the beach for repairs and although quite new to the boat, dealing really well with the conditions, finishing all races and winning one.

Stokes Bay SC, PRO Mike Rayden and a large team of volunteers put on a fantastic event, with racing often close to the shore so great for spectators. Next up is Weston Cat Open on 7th/ 8th October. If you want to try sailing a Spitfire, contact

Overall Results: (top three)

1st Max Tjarnsved / Gustav Jacobsson Lidingo (Jolleseglare SC) 12pts
2nd (UK National Champions) James Stacey / Catherine Elson (Brightlingsea SC) 13pts
3rd Ben Harris / AJ Luxton (Weston SC) 14pts

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