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The Forts Race Weekend 2018 at Whitstable Yacht Club

by Robert Govier 12 Sep 15:44 BST 8-9 September 2018

The 23rd Forts Race Weekend, sponsored by Marlow Ropes and supported by Whitstable Marine and Integral Asset Management, was held on 8th and 9th September at Whitstable Yacht Club. The weekend delivered fantastic sailing conditions for the high-performance catamarans that gathered to take part in the event, and made for great racing on the waters off Whitstable.

Saturday saw 17 boats head out to take part in the 'Shakedown Race' to ensure their boats were set up correctly after travelling and to get some experience of the Whitstable Conditions. The boats set off on a beat into gusty 15 knot winds up the coast towards Faversham to make a turn around the Sand End buoy, took a run to Ham Gat buoy, then a tight reach to the old Herne Bay pier head, followed by a beat back up to Herne Bay. William Sunnocks and Simon Reynolds in the foiling Vampire Project shot off to take and keep the lead for the duration of the race, leaving the F18s and Tornados to battle it out in a pack behind them.

Local Whitstable sailors Robert Govier and David Figgis in their Tornado used their local knowledge of the tides to get into second place, which they held onto for much of the race, fending off the Tornado of John Payne and John Hunt, and the F18s sailed by Simon Northrop and Caleb Cooper, and Grant Piggott and Simon Farren.

The race showed a tight finish and a close race for second place on the water as the lead boats crossed the line after 35km with less than a minute between the lead boats. Robert and David on their Tornado took 2nd place on the water, with the Tornado sailed by Kevin Dutch and David Oakley crossing closely behind them, having battled through the pack to catch up after missing the start by 4 minutes!

In the handicap results, William and Simon took 1st place on the Vampire Project, followed by Simon and Caleb on their F18, and Tony Stokes and Sam Curtis on their F18 in third place.

The fleet came back to shore, with some of the teams getting straight down to some much-needed boat setup adjustment for the full race on Sunday, whilst most of the competitors relaxed at the WYC bar to enjoy the barbeque, band and share the large bar tab provided to William and Simon for winning the race!

Sunday saw similar conditions, and the fleet set off at 11.30 to attempt the epic 80km race around the Thames Estuary waters off Whitstable. The course was set to take in the Red Sands Forts, Sand End buoy, Herne Bay Pier, Columbine Buoy, Ham Gat Buoy and finally Columbine Spit buoy, with each mark rounding forming the end of a spoke before returning to a mark off WYC.

Robert and David showed the fleet some of the dangers of the gusty winds and light chop by putting in an impressive pitchpole in their Tornado just before the 5-minute warning signal. Despite some damage to themselves and their downhaul cleat, they managed to recover and hit the start line on the start gun!

The foiling Vampire Project sailed by William and Simon again took off from the start, leaving the rest of the fleet behind despite not lifting their kite, but leaving a very impressive sight for the other boats to chase! They completed the first 26km leg from WYC to the Red Sands Forts and back in less than 45 minutes, then took advantage of the slack tide to gain a further advantage on the beat back from Herne Bay over the rest of the fleet that got caught in an outgoing tide as they rounded the pier head. Ultimately Will and Simon went on to take a well-deserved line honours after only 2 hours and 34 minutes for first place on handicap.

The rest of the pack had an enjoyable race, with close battles throughout despite the long distance. Kevin and David got into an early second place, and lead the rest of the fleet round, with John Payne and John Hunt in a Tornado, Simon and Caleb in an F18, and Grant and Simon in their F18 closely nipping at their heels, but not quite managing to take them.

Towards the back of the fleet four Dart 18s enjoyed a good race to the Forts and back, with Tony Dod and his son James leading the way, but retiring after the Forts leg to leave a close race between the other three boats for the honour of first Dart 18 over the short course of Forts and back, and Sand End and back, with Robin Wilkinson and Robert MacDonald taking the win.

Once again, the Forts Race proved itself to be one of the best events on the catamaran racing calendar, with its unique hub and spoke format making it accessible to club racers, whilst also attracting the top catamaran sailors in the country to take part. This year's entries show that the Tornado seems to be gaining in popularity once again, but that the latest generation of F18s, with deck sweeping mainsails are a force to be reckoned with. And of course, the performance of William Sunnock's foiling M20 based Vampire Project that impressed everyone on and off the water (see for more information on this amazing boat)!

Overall Results:

1st Overall (handicap)William SunnocksSimon ReynoldsVampire ProjectBrightlingsea
2nd Overall (handicap)Simon NorthropCaleb CooperF18Minnis Bay
3rd Overall (handicap)Grant PiggotSimon FarrenF18Weston
1st Short Course (handicap)Chris GregoryLuke BarnardF18Tankerton
1st TornadoKevin DutchDavid OakleyTornadoSeasalter SC
First Female HelmMegan Smith F18Grafham Water
1st F18Simon NorthropCaleb CooperF18Minnis Bay
1st Dart 18Robin WilkinsonRobert MacDonaldDart 18Tankerton
1st placed Forts Leg (handicap)William SunnocksSimon ReynoldsVampire ProjectBrightlingsea
1st WYC Boat (handicap)Ghislain MelanieHugo SunnocksF18WYC
Line Honours (place)William SunnocksSimon ReynoldsVampire ProjectBrightlingsea
Spirit of the Forts Race (Last finisher of full race)Megan SmithWilliam SmithF18Grafham Water
Youngest round the Forts James DodDart 18WYC

For the full results, see

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