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Sandhopper National Championship at Thorpe Bay Yacht Club

by Howard Warrington 11 Sep 2018 07:01 BST 8-9 September 2018
Sandhopper Nationals at Thorpe Bay © Linda Snow

Many of you are familiar with the Squib keel dinghy. Due to tidal flows leaving expanses of mud flats in some areas on our coastline, a short keel with two out-rider skegs were fitted to the Squib and called the Sandhopper. Using the same running rigging as the Squib the sail plan was changed with a short footed main sail but much larger overlapping headsail and of course using a bigger spinnaker based on the FD. Making this version of the design quite a powerful boat and can be very demanding to sail.

Thorpe Bay YC and Maylandsea Bay YC currently seem to be the main bases for the Sandhopper and a National Championship is held each year. For past few years being held on the wonderful expanse of water on the north shore of the Thames Estuary and East of Southend on Sea's famous pier.

This year Race Officer and local sailor, Wesley Absolom, was the perfect man for the job. Setting upwind / downwind courses through a leeward gate. Short courses, keeping boats in touch with each other in close fought battles from start to finish.

The Nationals this year was a two-day event with 3 races scheduled per day and 1 discard on the final race. This made the event a hard run challenge for all competitors. Last year's Champions Peter Thompson and Mark Dell (17 Pray) knew they would have a job fending off Alex Farrall and Paul Beasley (157 Obsession) who last year put up a healthy challenge for the title. With a couple of curve-balls thrown in namely local legend Dave Hall sailing with Steve Hopper in his newly, beautifully restored boat (35 Sandswan) were set to try and put the cat among the pigeons.

A perfect day with around 12-14 knots of breeze from the South-West became the setting and racing started mid morning. Getting a clear start is even more crucial in these boats, with a lot going on under the water, getting forward momentum quickly is key. Pete and Mark set the pace taking the first bullet of the event from Father and Son team of Chris and Ken Clarke (160 Nemesis) with Alex and Paul home in 3rd. All did not go the same way in race two. Alex and Paul took the win convincingly, Dave and Steve in 2nd Chris and Ken 3rd with Pete and Mark feeling the pinch now in 6th. The pinch is clearly what they needed, and they put in their 2nd win of the day in race 3 with Dave and Steve taking their second 2nd place of the day.

This left Alex and Paul overnight leaders by 1 point from Peter and Mark and another single point behind was Dave and Steve. All to play for in the morning and the team on board Pray, praying for a good day on Sunday.

Day 2 dawned with an even better day looming, a bit more puff and a little sunshine for good measure. Wesley and his team set another perfect windward mark and choosing which side to go was down to who you needed to cover.

After all that praying, Peter and Mark were pushing hard but also being chased hard by Alex and Paul. They both rounded the top mark on the last lap a good half a leg in front of Dave and Steve, however; Dave and Steve's downhill sailing was a sight to see and in that short leg they finished only 3 seconds behind the duelling leaders who gave the committee boat a near photo finish with Peter and Mark taking the win by a bow fitting!

Alex and Paul now had to launch their attack in earnest. They dug deep and hit the top spot in race 2 but couldn't find another boat to put between them and Peter and Mark. Pre-start antics between the top 3 boats trying to get that edge over the line made for an exciting start. The tide having turned and starting to ebb hard put in another dynamic to the sailing we see here at Thorpe Bay. Suddenly it became all too apparent that with the tide, crossing the line on starboard would not be as easy as planned and with half a dozen boats arriving at the pin much earlier than they thought, saw lots of ducking and weaving and heading back up the line on port. Peter and Mark had a disastrous start. Could this then all fall into Alex and Paul's hands after all?

Crew, Mark said "we're going right" and as all good helms, Peter took the advice (instruction) and off they went. Storming up the beat and popping out at the top mark in pole position with Alex and Paul very close behind. This wasn't going to be easy as the whole fleet seem to round very close together.

There was plenty of fun to be had mid fleet with positions switching continuously. Rupert Snow and Rod Watson (14 Zeus) were doing their best to find the way into the chocolates. Having been the pair to beat all year on the club circuit, found they had to work hard to keep Chris and Ken Clarke at bay. But with some great tactics the Clarkes found the wherewithal and took the 4th position overall from Rupert and Rod by just 1 point.

Richard Barnes and Paul Dell (154 Bluejacket) were out sporting their brand new all white McNamara sails. A result of a class EGM late last year allowing the use of white cloth and thereby opening up the Sail Maker options. Mark Jewell and James Gundy (154 The Dogs) couldn't quite hold off the youngsters, David Hopper and George Warrington sailing borrowed boat (161 Aeolus). All three boats finished within 4 points of each other.

Back at the top Peter and Mark needed no help in holding out the lead despite some great downwind sailing from Alex and Paul, they just could not find that gap and came home solid in 2nd place. Dave and Steve took a very commendable 3rd place having never raced in the boat together before this event.

Peter Thompson and Mark Dell; National Champions for the 2nd year running. Peter said that he thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. He thanked again Race Officer Wesley Absolom for some superb courses and congratulated runners up Alex Farrall and Paul Beasley, who took home the Ted Crawford trophy, for some fantastic competition and making his job very hard indeed.

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

PosSail NoBoat NameHelmCrewR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
117PrayPeter ThompsonMark Dell1‑611216
2157ObsessionAlex FarrallPaul Beasley‑3132129
335Sand SwanDave HallSteve Hopper5223‑6315
4160NemesisChris ClarkeKen Clarke23‑654519
514ZeusRupert SnowRod Watson454‑73420
6161AoelusDavid HopperGeorge Warrington‑114965731
7156The Dogs ..5Mark JewellJames Gundy7‑9748632
8154BluejacketRichard BarnesPaul Dell675‑99835
9159Sand StarSue DalyWill Daly8888‑10941
10152Sand SpiritGary PlantPolly Plant911(DNF)1071249
1126CrackerMark RobinsonAndrea Metcalfe10‑131011111052
1227RemedyChas GibsonSean Harman1212‑1312121159
13158SatisfactionMatt RainbowMargaret Kennedy141011DNF(DNC)DNC65
1418PhoenixTony PadburyJanet Wilsmer131414(DNC)DNCDNC73
1541SquiffyMatthew LloydKaty Lloyd151512(DNC)DNCDNC74

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