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Craftinsure Wayfarer National Circuit Round 7 at Swarkstone Sailing Club this weekend

by Tim Townsend 4 Oct 2018 11:33 BST 6-7 October 2018
Craftinsure Wayfarer 2017 Finale at Bough Beech © Martyn Smith

Arms race in the Wayfarer Class? A dinghy class which has been around 60 years and is a strict one design with one builder where the rules clearly state that if something is not permitted in the rules it's just not permitted. Carbon is not permitted. Laminate sails are not permitted. Arms race? Who would have believed it? As the fleet heads to Swarkestone SC for event 7 of the Craftinsure National Circuit and Travellers Series, high tech developments are the talk of the fleet. Why?

Swarkestone SC is a new venue for the Wayfarer Class. But it has a nascent fleet of Wayfarers and two of that fleet regularly travel to events at other Clubs, mainly in the deep South. These people like the off water activities of the class as much as the racing (although they struggled with the Kentcentric questions of a quiz evening at a recent area championship at Medway Yacht Club, Kent). They themselves describe Swarkestone as small, with an island, and with random blasts of unforgiving wind on gusty days.

So why go to Swarkestone? Several will travel to try and improve their positions in the Craftinsure National Circuit and Travellers Series, and to get an extra ticket for the end of season prize draw (sails, insurance and undercovers are among the sponsors prizes.....along with branded sponsors belts and burgees for those who insist on sailing their boats the wrong way up). All will travel to enjoy the socials and the free beer. With two events to go, Andrew and Tom Wilson (Datchet Water SC) lead the charge for the overall National Circuit and Travellers Series trophies, followed by Bill Whitney and John Shelton (Shoreham SC) and Guy Marks and Mel Titmuss (Bough Beech SC). Others wait in the wings ready to pounce and find a place on the podium.

Some of the travellers will be there to show off their latest equipment. We don't mean the barber hauler on Len Jones boat or the trendy twin spinnaker pole system (twin sheets and twin guys a la 505's) sported by the Townsends. To some extent they're old hat. We don't mean the moulded proboscides (plural for proboscis for those who aren't zoologists or graduates in classical Greek) which have appeared on Medway based boats in the last couple of years designed to stop the spinnaker sheet from running under the bow and we don't mean the titanium fittings Len Jones puts on his boat every time he sails it (don't panic, rule makers, it's only Len's hips). We don't even mean the removable Aga found on one particular boat, which races particularly effectively when the oven (and the fulsome array of pots and pans inside it) has been removed.

No, we're referring to the camper van and motorhome one-upmanship which has emerged in the last few months. Yesterday's go fast equipment (by and large) was a tent. The very fast people had standing headroom. Then the Whitneys and Brian Lamb bought camper vans. The positive effect on their performance was questionable. Then there was a Caravelle and another small camper van. The Pennys from Medway Yacht Club bought a van which they brought up to speed at their home club (a club race, as it were). Then somebody bought a nice new red VW California with aircon/heating and swivelling seats. Then somebody else bought a nice new red VW California with all of the above PLUS alloy wheels. Then the Pennys upgraded to a larger model. At the other end of the accommodation star rating there's the infamous white Sprinter conversion which in a former life was used to transport sheep - allegedly. Meanwhile the Townsends eschewed these developments and stuck to the tent (note - Mrs Townsend not wholly impressed and voting for a hotel this weekend for some reason).

For all the jokes, the Wayfarer is a popular traditional dinghy class which provides excellent and close racing in all conditions. It attracts sailors from many other classes, National, World and European Champions. At the European Championships in Denmark earlier in the year the fleet included sailors with Olympic experience, Olympic trialists, and one boat helmed by a former America's Cup sailor. At the same time, weekend warriors can be very competitive; several boats are successfully raced by mixed crews too. If you sail a Wayfarer in the Midlands or beyond it's not too late to enter the open meeting at Swarkestone and join in the fun. If you don't sail a Wayfarer at the moment but might be interested in the class, come to Swarkestone, talk to the friendly people who race Wayfarers, look at the boats and see how modern and "sorted" they are these days and, if you must, see the camper vans. If you're there on Saturday night you may even catch Brian Lamb doing his Maybot to the sound of Dancing Queen. You'll be very welcome.

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