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Byte National Championships at Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy

by Emma Pearson 24 Jul 2018 13:22 BST 20-22 July 2018
2018 Byte National Championships at Weymouth © Sian Nunn

Day 0

With a healthy 35 entries and a history of stiff competition, the Byte Nationals is always a readily under-rated dinghy racing event. For the past 8 years the over all trophy has been alternating between Rick Whitehouse and Louis Saunders but with Louis taking a sabbatical and a mixed weather forecast Rick appeared to be the only one to watch.

The Thursday before the event really began, there was a training day arranged by the class association. Ross Harvey took the "Advanced" group and practised some starting and boat handling techniques that all went bit bumper-boats. Charlie Sansom, a reputable ex-byte sailor took the newcomers group, some of whom had not sailed on the sea before or had not attended an event away from home. Charlie's group also contained a number of youth sailors from the Himley Hall – a newly started group of three schools that have invested in new bytes from Hartley boats and the kids are lucky enough to take sailing lessons for PE!

After a long session on the water for both groups, highly informative de-briefs were completed and we were released for dinner and sleep.

Due to a lighter than usual Weymouth forecast I had opted to use a CII (the bigger and more common of the two modern rigs) however, having used all my expendable income purchasing my new C1 sail early in the season I'd been lucky enough to borrow a CII sail from my adoptive Byte family: The Mack-Moores. After registration I had a quick, last minute clean of my boat's hull which proved to be quite entertaining for some as I have an older Ovington boat which is readily referred to as beige and is really quite battle-scarred in places.

Race 1

As we launched and sailed downwind out of the WPNSA marina it was a gloriously sunny and warm day with the sea breeze already up to about 15 knots. 24 of the 32 entrants started the first race and battled around the first lap of triangle/sausage/triangle. Rick took the initial lead after starting at the pin end and taking an early to mid tack over to the right. Stu Moore was hot on his heals and by the second rounding of the windward mark, was ahead of Rick but only just. I was next, but with a gap before the group of chasing boats I went for an early gybe but planted the nose deep into a wave and promptly turtled. Zoe Bazen, Matt Banbrook, Huw Nunn, Kevin Moore and Charlotte Hitchmough all zipped passed me with varying expressions of "sorry/not sorry"... and I couldn't blame them.

On the following up wind I managed to squeeze back through a few boats to come in sixth. Stu finished a good length ahead of the majority followed by Rick and then Zoe, a very promising young sailor, renowned for loving the windy days.

Race 2

The wind was now 18 knots and continuing to build (Weather File topped out at 24 knots later in the race). Stu led the chase this time, followed by Rick, Zoe and Kevin. Myself and Huw, now with a deceased Cunningham, were in a tussle behind them and Matthew and Richard Woods not far behind that. Again, Stu had built an impressive lead and seemed untouchable. It was a long beat back into the harbour for a now hungry and tired fleet. Parents, partners and siblings of sailors were eagerly helping competitors up the steep slipway with their boats on trollies.

Day 2

I woke up to stiff legs and a tired back after the previous day's hike-off up the beats and across the reaches. Today's racing was scheduled earlier and all forecasts were looking light. Armed with a cup of tea and still in my pyjamas we rigged and made ready for a 9:45am launch. Kevin (aka BigKev) had managed to pull the mainsheet ratchet out of it's base and had to fiddle with tying it back down – luckily he'd had a safety line on it!

Three races today and keen to shed a few points from the day before, I opted to keep things simple. I knew that the wind was a little stronger and gustier on the right hand side of the course so chose to get a clean start with clear air and tack over early. It was 7–12 knots, so using the "ease and squeeze" leach control with the mainsheet was fast and offered some good height.

For me, the three races were all fairly similar. I lead from the first mark and extended this to up to half a leg which carries a brilliant feeling and despite all the practice and hard work, was still a bit unexpected! (I have to confess here that I am not fully aware of what else was happening in the fleet – only that the fleet seemed to disperse into clusters containing the same faces, each race.

Race 4 however, ended slightly differently. After leading for two laps, I rounded the leeward mark and started to climb back upwind. To my absolute horror, the three break away boats behind me didn't follow. Instead they headed off towards the finish line. Somehow I'd forgotten that this was a two lap race and not three! D'oh! What a blonde moment to have. I was not going to make that mistake again.

At the end of the day I'd collected eleven points after one discard which I was, on the whole, pleased with but knew that four boats were able, eager and likely to overtake. Trying to put this negative-nervousness out of my head and exchange it for positive-excitedness, we had a few rounds of a table top game called Mexican Train Dominoes and a barbecue dinner.

Day 3

Refusing to believe it was in the bag already and keen to get on with racing, we rigged again in sunny, light airs but knowing that the wind was due to build as it did on the first day of racing. We had a 6-7 knot cruise downwind to the racing area which is a fine wind for any one small and light footed but it was in the back of my mind that it could and would be very likely to get quite breezy before racing was over. I did a couple of practice routines, checked the start line, transits and number of laps(!) and popped a softmint with some deep breaths, knowing that I needed a "good enough" race and a first – and preferably in that order.

Race 6 went the way of races 3 and 5 for me – I logged who was second and third knowing that we were all quite tight on points. After the race there was a lot of gossiping and chatter about how many points So-and-So needed to win and who they needed to beat/by how much etc, etc. It's not over yet, I told myself, anything could happen and I need a good, small number to go on the board now.

Race 7, I managed to have a poor trigger pull and was unable to tack out to the ever-reliable right and get lifted all the way to the mark. Surrounded by what felt like the Bowmoor Mafia and to my horror I rounding the first windward mark in eighth place. All the negative, detrimental thoughts you could ever imagine ran through my head like that scene in Watership Down. "No!" I thought to myself. Cast out the bad thoughts and push through to the end. "It's not over 'til it's over".

I rolled one boat on a reach and took one or two up the next beat. By the following run of the sausage leg, I'd managed to sneak inside and then just ahead of Rick and Charlotte who were having a battle all unto themselves. I headed back up wind on the final beat a few boat lengths behind Huw, who was in turn a few lengths behind Matt who had been second in the previous race and was therefore second overall but well within reach of the overall title. Huw then covered me all the way up the beat, limiting all my options whilst claiming that he wasn't. Both the tight and the broad reach were the same. He wasn't going to budge! It came down to a near photo finish but I didn't quite manage to get ahead.

Totally miffed, I started a very apathetic beat back to the marina – nervous that I'd thrown it all away. Hours of practising on my own, watching videos of Laser Radial starts, books I've read and annotated – my big green sailing geek folder.... for what?

Packing up the boats, I congratulated Matt, he sailed really well in that last race and was a long way ahead – neither of us knew who had won overall and it was uncomfortable. Masts down and sails rolled away, John appeared out of nowhere and asked me if I want to know who'd won. I shrieked with disbelief as he told me.

I don't do any form of formal or public speaking so have posted my thanks on the class Facebook page – John the chairman does such a good job of thanking everyone anyway!

The Class would like to extend a very warm thank you to WPNSA who were, as ever, exquisite hosts for the event; and also to Hartley Boats for their continued support of a fantastic little racing dinghy.

The next Byte open is at Weston SC as part of the Weston Single Handed Open (WOSH), followed by Coombs and then the Inlands at Bowmoor at the end of September.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7Pts
11267Emma PearsonWeston SC‑6‑51411310
23584Matthew BanbrookBowmoor SC‑5‑82142110
33606Huw NunnBowmoor SC/Datchet Water SC‑7‑65223214
43588Zoe BazenBowmoor SC333‑83‑6618
53693Richard WhitehouseCombs SC22‑93‑87519
63608Stuart MooreNetley SC11‑1210‑179829
73613Lucy HaydonBowmoor SC‑11‑1646641030
83616Charlotte Hitchmough 8‑96‑1175430
93577Rachel MackinderNetley SC‑19‑141012912750
102950Kirsten GlenParkstone YC‑13137513‑141351
113611Celia RushtonWeymouth SC‑15‑171195131553
123688Julia JenkinsAlton Water SC‑18‑151371511955
133565Clare MachWeston SC‑17(DNC)81311101456
143127Izzy CrampHooe Point SC(DNC)(DNC)14141081157
15867Kevin MooreNetley SC44‑21182019(RET)65
163580Amber PoulloinWeymouth SC121215‑19‑18171672
171623Richard WoodsTorpoint Mosquito SC107‑23‑2422161974
183132Callum CombeBowmoor SC1410‑221716‑221875
192957Teresa DoranBowmoor SC‑20‑20201512201279
203607Julian BoschAlton Water SC(DNF)(DNF)171614151779
211677Julius MachNetley SC911‑26202326‑2889
22483Louise DickerDell Quay SC16(DNC)162119‑232092
233698David LucasHimley Hall SC(DNF)(DNC)1922212121104
243684Toby BanbrookBowmoor SC(DNF)181823‑272425108
253699Lydia WestHimley Hall SC211924‑25‑252522111
261658Mark BrambleHimley Hall SC23(DNC)25‑29241823113
271241Matthew BonnarHimley Hall SC(DNF)(DNC)2728262724132
283696Nathan WestHimley Hall SC(DNF)(DNC)2927282826138
291640Rhys WalkerBowmoor SC(DNF)(DNF)2826292927139
303697William FletcherHimley Hall SC22(DNC)3130(DNS)3029142
312Jack BainesHimley Hall SC24(DNC)‑3232303231149
321424Stephen ZhengHimley Hall SC(DNF)(DNC)3031313130153

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