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Scottish Open Challenger Championship at Solway Yacht Club

by Marion Edwards 19 Jun 2018 15:04 BST 16-17 June 2018
Scottish Challenger Championship at Solway © Becky Davison

Last year the Scottish Open Challenger Championships were scheduled to take place at Solway Yacht Club at Kippford (Dumfries and Galloway) and the fleet duly assembled there, but the weather had other ideas and the event was abandoned due to very strong winds. However, the fleet received such a warm welcome that the decision was made to try again in 2018.

Saturday morning saw strong winds, heavy rain and sinking hearts among competitors and club members alike. A 25 knot gust was recorded on the pontoon just when the fleet was supposed to launch, instead AP went up signalling a hour's postponement. To everyone's relief the wind dropped and nine Challengers were launched with the intention of holding two races before the tide receded.

In the race area the fleet found the committee boat, a trapezoidal course, a F3-4 south south westerly wind and the rain giving way to sun - what more could the sailors want?

In Race 1 Craig Moffett (295) started midline but was OCS and had to return. Graham Hall (270) bagged a position by the committee boat and Jessica Campbell (304) came through fast below him. Graham took the lead, but on the second beat he entered "Starvation" (see below) as he approached the windward mark and was overtaken by Craig. Craig led across the top reach but then proceeded to sail for the wrong mark and although he realised his mistake the detour was sufficient to allow Graham though. Graham prudently covered Craig on the final beat to take the win. Alex Hodge (240) was third and Jessica fourth. Stephen Laycock (300), a newcomer to the fleet, came seventh, in spite of reassuring everyone he would be last!

Before Race 2 there was a very short delay to adjust the course as the wind had veered. The line was port biased but Craig's port tack flier did not go according to plan leaving him fourth at the windward mark. Stephen Thomas Bate (238) and Ronnie Cameron (184) failed to notice the windward mark had moved and their "cracking start" turned out not to be so. Ronnie's race turned into a nightmare as he had steering problems but he soldiered on, as did Jessica who was similarly afflicted. Craig fought his way up to second but unfortunately on the final beat he failed to cover Duncan Greenhalgh (234) who snuck through ahead of him.

The regatta dinner was held in the village hall and an excellent meal was prepared by Duncan Gillespie and the (multi-talented) race officer. There was much talk of "Starvation" which had nothing to do with the food (which was served in generous portions) and everything to do with the informal name for the area where the windward mark had been located. Some sailors claimed there was no wind at there at all, although Alex offered the more considered opinion that the wind backed and veered all around it; a view shared by the race officer.

Sunday started sunny and, with the wind forecast to back to the south, the decision was made to start from the Start Hut rather than the committee boat. Race 3 started in a southerly F5 and was a complex course but with the lead boat it was successfully navigated by all sailors. With a strong tide running it paid to go up the eastern shore (as Alex found to his cost). Graham hugged the shore for longest and emerged first at the windward mark chased by Craig, Duncan and Jessica. An incident between Craig and Jessica led to a protest and allowed Duncan to take second.

Race 4 used a figure of eight course and was notable for the wrong reason as it saw a nasty collision between the two most experienced sailors in the fleet. Craig (on port) believed he could cross Duncan (on starboard) and Duncan shared this view. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case and, in spite of taking frantic avoiding action, Duncan's starboard sponson caught Craig's mainsheet and in the resulting chaos Craig received a blow to the head. Fortunately Craig is one of the few sailors who wears a helmet and this took the brunt of the blow, and although he suffered a cut above his eye and no doubt now sports an impressive black eye, he was able to sail back unaided. Helmets aren't often warn by Challenger sailors as there is little danger of the upswept boom hitting the sailor's head but in this case it was certainly worth its weight in gold. With Craig retired and Duncan well down the fleet, Jessica took second and John McPartlin (237) gained his best result of fifth.

Race 5 was a short race (the race officer had noticed that some of the fleet were tiring) on a triangular course and was fortunately incident free. Graham found the fastest route was in the eastern half of the channel where the waves were smaller. Jessica recorded another second and John another fifth.

The prize giving was delayed as there were protests to resolve (this is unusual for the Challenger fleet). The trophies were swiftly presented with Graham taking the Sandeman Trophy (first overall) and the Clyde Cruising Club Challenger Trophy (winner of last race); Duncan claimed second overall and first Scottish boat, and Jessica third overall. It took much longer to thank all those who made the event possible including the race officer William Patterson and his team (Stewart and Emily Biggar); the Shore Force (the club's youth sailors) who undertook the hard work of launching and recovering the Challengers; and the event organiser Peter Hammond. In fact, thanks can be extended to all members of Solway Yacht Club for their warm welcome and to the village of Kippford who waived the hire fee for the village hall which was our base for the event.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1st270Graham HallRutland Sailing Club‑111114
2nd234Duncan GreenhalghBassenthwaite Sailing Club‑5224311
3rd304Jessica CampbellSW Scotland Sailability4‑662214
4th240Alex HodgeClyde Cruising Club34‑83414
5th295Craig MoffettLoch Earn Sailing Club233(RET)DNC19
6th238Stephen Thomas BateAnnandale Sailing Club‑9546621
7th237John McPartlin 6‑775523
8th184Ronnie CameronClyde Cruising Club8‑957727
9th300Stephen Laycock 78(DNC)DNCDNC37
10th241Dorothy BennettClyde Cruising Club(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC44

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