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Harken National Solo Inland Championship at Grafham Water Sailing Club

by Doug Latta, Martin Honnor, Andy Davis & James Boyc 3 Oct 2018 13:56 BST 22-23 September 2018
Harken Solo Inland Championship at Grafham Water © Ross Underwood

67 sailors from across the country, including sea sailors from afar afield as Aberdeen, Wroxham, Bristol, Weymouth and pond sailors from Silver Wings, Papercourt & Yorkshire Dales gathered for the Solo Inland Championship over the weekend of 23rd & 24th September.

Grafham Water's PRO Peter Saxton and his team had been watching the weather forecast all week and with Sunday's winds expected to gust up to 57 knots, it took a steady nerve to hold fire on any decisions. In the event the forecast changed such that the stronger winds blew through early and the really big winds never arrived.

A keen group of sailors had gathered to receive the words of wisdom of past Solo aficionado and NSCA race coach Ross Harvey, and while the winds prevented any time on the water, this gave more time to impart such wisdom if not to practice the techniques. Determined to sail fast the following day the trainees headed off to the nearby Wheatsheaf, where all competitive hopes became dulled by the local hospitality.

Not deterred by the arrival of the Cadet fleet who had had to cancel their Inlands at another venue at short notice due to an alien green algae, the Solo fleet massed on the banks of Grafham Water and prepared their vessels, adorning them with Harken stickers in recognition of the sponsorship of the event provided by the manufacturer of the much favoured Carbo Air blocks used by many Solo sailors. PRO Peter Saxton had already made arrangements in the Sailing Instructions to have 4 races on the Saturday, anticipating the Sunday could be blown off but during the briefing NSCA President Doug Latta breathed a sigh of relief as it became evident that the fleet would indeed get two full days of racing in. The Class's preference for sausage triangle courses with a downwind gate, with the option for windward leeward course should the winds be lighter were noted. Peter warned of early use of the Black Flag should the dogs see the hare early, for which the fleet has a bit of a reputation. On the water Jury William who demonstrated what flags and penalties would be awarded in the event of Rule 42 breaches. The sailors pulled on their hikers and assisted each other in launching.

Race 1:

The starting line was set on the north side of the reservoir and had a small port end bias, resulting in the fleet all being gathered towards the pin. The warning of the U flag had worked with the fleet being slightly line shy. Vince Horey saw his opportunity for a port tack flyer, and on the gun managed to cross the first boat out of the gate. With a clear start, Peter Saxton was able to order the preparation of tea on board the committee boat and the Solo fleet's reputation for repeated starts improved slightly. The Jury boat shadowed the fleet, while our new class photographer Ross Underwood got busy behind his long lenses. It would be great to say it was a sparkly sunny day, but it wasn't – grey was the colour, and although a fair sailing breeze from the South West, all of the action was down to the sailors focused on their tight battles throughout the fleet.

The first beat saw the boats who had tracked out to the left benefit, and at the windward mark Tom Gillard rounded first, followed by Vince and a bunch of 5 or 6 boats in a tight huddle. Andy Davis came in to the mark somewhat under the layline, but somehow squeezed through ahead of Honnor, Latta & Brown. The first run saw Mr Horey in action again, getting the first warning for Rule 42 from the on-the-water judge. The second shifty beat saw a few changes of position with Andy (Taxi) Davis moving up to second and Martin Honnor third, and this would be the finishing positions for race 1.

Race 2:

Wind peaked in race two and then died off and the competitors started to feel the change in temperature between races as it was getting seasonably cold. Shane MacCarthy sporting the memorable 5-0 sail number, got an unbelievable port end flyer and crossed the fleet in race 2, a feat he somehow managed to repeat in Race 3. Shane's showboating however had him sailing off to the right of the course, whereas Taxi, Ollie Davenport & Nigel Davies went middle left and got up to the windward mark in that order. Tom Gillard made a big come back to snatch 3rd place from James Boyce on the finish line.

Race 3:

After a number of recalls the fleet got away cleanly with Shane McCarthy showing a good turn of speed, and taking the right side of the beat, rounding the windward mark first. He was closely followed by the Taxi, Gillard, James Joyce and Steve Ede. On rounding the spreader Mr McCarthy made a schoolboy error and gybed straight under the fleet, leaving the chasing pack, who held on port to sail past. The race finished with Tom 1st, Andy 2nd and James 3rd., with Shane holding on to a good 4th place.

Having notched up two 5th places in the previous races, Chris Brown struggled in the lighter winds but otherwise showed his consistent good speed throughout the weekend, adopting his unique over-thwart prone position in the boat to great effect downwind. Noticeable was that Chris' boat doesn't rock or roll at all, while some around him seemed to slow themselves down with their frantic efforts while the Jury boat was elsewhere on the course – maybe some need reminding we are not racing Finn's!

The fleet returned to shore after an excellent day's racing and was treated to an array of warm food and liquid refreshments by Grafham Water SC.

On to Day 2, and the early risers of the fleet awoke to a 10 knot Westerly and heavy rain, however, this was soon replaced by a 12 knot North Westerly as forecast, and the rain reduced to a chilling drizzle. The Met Office was also suggesting 15-20 knots would arrive at 1pm, would the racing be done by then was the question.

Race 4:

The line was set in front of the club house, again with a port end bias. After one false start, the fleet got away cleanly under the Black Flag, with Lawrence Creaser and Gillard tight to the pin. Lawrence rolled Tom, forcing him to bail out right and take transoms, only to get to the windward mark in the top 3 as he benefited from a big right shift. John Reekie, from Bassenthwaite lead at the windward mark, with Chris Mayhew, Tom Gillard, Lawrence Creaser & Ewan Birken-Walls in close pursuit. By the end of the 1st run, the left hand shore paid early on the beats favouring the right hand leeward gate. With some big holes across the course, places were shuffling faster than a Blackjack dealer's cards. Once all the cards were dealt, Gillard lead from Reekie, with Creaser seeing his best result of the regatta in 3rd.

Race 5:

With the breeze stiffening, and another stunning port tack flyer by Shane, the fleet set off into the penultimate race and the promise of some sun as it tried to poke through the greyness. Tom Gillard hiked like a ninja and managed the shifts very well to put himself into a commanding position, while Shane's flyer saw him rounding just behind Chris Brown in 2nd. Taxi had rounded in 8th but started to work his magic downwind, and with some good shifts on the beats finished in 2nd.

Race 6:

Finally, what the fleet had been waiting for, sun and wind. We're not quite talking Dogs off Chains windy, but it was enough for there to be quite a few capsizes, including not one, but two capsizes by Vince Horey. One of these he blamed on Martin Honnor and had some skin missing from the end of his fingertips as evidence of the distance between their boats! With only 44 finishers the depleted fleet got underway after another Black Flag start, revelling in the stronger breeze. Gillard once again set off like the butcher's dog, leading Alex Butler to the windward mark, Taxi, Birken-Walls and James Boyce chasing hard. The leading group pulled away from the pack, and other than Taxi overtaking Butler on the next beat, these were their positions through the finish line.

When all the counting had been done, 1st Junior was Alex Butler, 1st Lady Sue Taylor, 1st Veteran Martin Honnor, 1st Grand Master Dave Mitchell & 1st Septimus John Webster.

In preparation for next year's trial of split fleet racing at the Nigel Pusinelli Trophy at WPNSA, there were winners allocated throughout the fleet: Overall (Gold fleet) with prizes provided by GWSC, Harken Tom Gillard – winning 5 of the 6 races, Andy Davis 2nd counting a 1st and four 2nd's, James Boyce 3rd, Chris Brown 4th and Steve Ede 5th.

Silver fleet Roger Bennett 1st John Steels 2nd & Rob Laurie 3rd.

Bronze fleet Peter Warne 1st, Sue Taylor 2nd & Dave Rudman 3rd. All were the recipients of Harken kit ranging from dry-bags to t-shirts and sun-glasses.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1st5675Tom GillardSheffield Viking SC1‑311115
2nd5787Andy DavisBlithfield SC212‑8229
3rd5115James BoycePapercourt‑84346522
4th5777Chris BrownRYA55‑24751133
5th5804Steve EdeArdleigh69611‑18941
6th5658Martin HonnorOgston SC36815(BFD)1446
7th5705Lawrence CreaserHayling Island SC11‑217391646
8th5652M J GiffordHunts SC‑17859121347
9th5738Ewan Birkin‑WallsGrafham Water Sailing Club13‑1716515453
10th5750David MitchellWarsash97111016‑2053
11th5407John ReekieBassenthwaite SC‑29259281256
12th5782Nigel DaviesDraycote Water SC151014‑2111757
13th5764Oliver DavenportNorthampton SC19210253(DNC)59
14th50Shane Mac CarthyGreystones SC23114177(DNC)62
15th4921Chris MayhewRoyal Harwich Yacht Club‑241421622871
16th5781Alex ButlerHayling Island SC1820‑251319373
17th6000Doug LattaPortchester SC / HISC722‑4519102280
18th5766Tim SadlerYorkshire Dales Sailing Club161922‑30131888
19th5730Vince Horey 416‑3822213699
20th5664Dave LucasGrafham Water Sailing Club10151926‑3733103
21st5779Mark MaskellBlackwater SC2126152023(DNF)105
22nd5655John WebsterCarsington28282014(BFD)17107
23rd5487Roger BennettSilver Wing Sailing Club2529171226(DNF)109
24th5786John SteelsStarcross YC26‑3312183323112
25th5134Robert Laurie ‑411841241715115
26th5524Kev HallNorthampton SC20‑3128283110117
27th5634Howard Edwards 1236‑64372019124
28th5736Iain CarpenterNorthampton SC382729‑411425133
29th5595Richard BallChipstead SC30‑3232232929143
30th5264Paul GraceChipstead SC31302731‑4728147
31st5176Jonathan WoodwardSouth Staffs Sailing Club3723232936(BFD)148
32nd5259Roger WilsonRollesby Broad SC40‑4133343024161
33rd5586Ian WaltersGrafham Water Sailing Club(DNC)DNCDNC1646162
34th5700Adrian LawFrensham Pond SC394036‑472427166
35th5745Andrew FoxLeigh and LowtonSC3312504032(DNC)167
36th5724Terry PamlerUpper Thames SC3534‑51333432168
37th5778Shaun WelshLymington Town SC3237‑40353834176
38th5713Duncan PearceSpinnaker2246463925(DNF)178
39th5232Ian AyresRollesby Broad434213‑484340181
40th5731Vernon PerkinsSouth Cerney Sailing Club47‑4930493537198
41st4309Richard BundockHunts SC642453(BFD)2830199
42nd5130Mark LeeWeymouth SC141337(DNC)DNCDNC200
43rd5721Graham WilsonNorthampton SC‑504347434826207
44th5152Andrew Thompson 453948‑504631209
45th5547Peter WarneNorthampton SC46‑4742424438212
46th4970Sue TaylorSilver Wing Sailing Club56‑5735364541213
47th5760Dave RudmanChipstead SC4244444440(DNC)214
48th5776Tim WadeSpinnaker273518(DNC)DNCDNC216
49th4454Stas LawickiPapercourt5858‑59552721219
50th5138Patrick OversPaxton Lakes Sailing Club‑555131465043221
51st5158Simon CharlesGrafham Water Sailing Club36385627(DNC)DNC225
52nd5627David ParkinAberdeen & Stonehaven YC4950493841(DNC)227
53rd4882Brian FisherNottinghamshire County525626(BFD)39DNF241
54th4551Bill HutchingsTonbridge4852‑57524942243
55th566Simon KnellerGrafham Water Sailing Club59624345(DNF)35244
56th5465Dan BishopChipstead SC6153‑63544239249
57th4471Julian ClarkeGrafham Water Sailing Club57455832(DNC)DNC260
58th5648Simon StrodeRollesby Sailing Club515462(DNC)5244263
59th5137Derek MayhewRoyal Harwich Yacht Club535534(DNC)DNCDNC278
60th4360Trevor WhitingNorfolk Braods Yacht Club6360545151(DNF)279
61st5819Phil StrumerRoyal Burnham YC444861(DNC)DNCDNC289
62nd5500Keith TurtleChipstead SC6564555653(DNC)293
63rd5230Mick HealyChipstead SC60615253(DNC)DNC294
64th4730John BrookerFrensham Pond SC625939(DNC)DNCDNC296
65th4040Dave GoudieGrafham Water Sailing Club34(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC306
66th5044Alastair FraserGrafham Water Sailing Club546360(DNC)DNCDNC313
67th5003Paul BottomleySouth Staffs Sailing Club(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNCDNC340

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