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A Huge Season Ahead for the National Solo Class

by Will Loy, NSCA Publicity 29 Dec 2018 11:39 GMT
There is always close racing in the Solo fleet © Will Loy

The NSCA press room has been quiet for some time and while I like nothing more than "bigging up" the Solo class and making the sailors sound like heroes, the seasonal break does at least provide a welcome reprieve for my laptop and a chance to rekindle my love for my patient wife.

While the Selden Sailjuice Winter Series offers handicap sailing throughout the Winter months, the Solo strength and DNA lies firmly in the one design class racing category. The North Sails Super Series, which in 2019 will be in it's fifth year is a pretty good indication of how popular the class is across the UK, averaging out at over 50 entries per event, 41 qualifiers, one winner and one prize draw winner who picked up a brand new North mainsail. A big thank you to Charlie Cumbley at North Sails, a true ambassador for the company and to have such a gent in the class, providing advice and setting a very high benchmark to anyone wanting to reach the top is only good. Charlie entered the class back in 2008 and I had the pleasure of beating him in race 1 of the Noble Marine Winter Championship. That was the first and last time and only ten years ago.

The Series (and full-on season) kicks off at the Noble Marine Winter Championship on February 23rd at Chew Valley S.C. which is one of my all time favourite venues, well it looks lovely in the summer months. My first visit there was back in 1984 and I have fond memories of hurtling around the twisting lanes in my Chevette trying to find the sailing club entrance. I also recall remonstrating with a swarthy, hairy, tanned sailor who was leading the race but rather 'dynamic' downwind. That man was Martin Payne, one of my heroes and still a legend.

The Solos return to Draycote Water for the Spring Championship on April 6 and with one of my old drinking venues just a few miles away in Earlsdon, Coventry, and with my birthday falling on the 7th, it promises to be a great weekend, whatever the on-water result. The midlands is a hotbed for the Solo class, that said, the north and south are strong. Did I mention the east coast and the west.

We return to Medemblik, Holland for the Spring Cup May 3-5, the class is strong here too! The Dutch apres sailing is legendary and the people so nice and very tall. The fleet are really gaining traction and it is great to see the ladies holding their own and showcasing the virtues of the National Solo. One design, one size rig but with the flexibility in equipment to race on the same track. This was highlighted so well by Ellie Cumpsty at the 2018 Magic Marine National Championship where she was in contention to finish second overall right up until the final race.

The Nigel Pusinelli Trophy, WPNSA June 15-16 will be the first event where we trial split fleet racing and with the event serving as the National Championship venue just a few months later, we anticipate a big entry. WPNSA is an awesome place to sail and even within the harbour walls there are enough waves for everyone to enjoy proper sea sailing. The beautiful and generous concrete boat park is a perfect place to bimble before racing and to reflect on the days racing afterwards before hitting the bar. The split fleet will provide me with plenty to write about and I am already exploring my dictionary for new words to express the emotions on the sailors faces as they realise they have not made the cut. Maybe that will be a slow-mo video moment with some sad background music. Joking aside, this format may entice some entries who see the large fleet start as less than appealing. I wonder if we should also adopt some stadium sailing race courses within 100yrds of the club. Just for the top ten in a last race winner takes all, aka Star Sailors League.

The Magic Marine Nation's Cup visits Carnac July 13-16, for the first time ever, albeit not far from Quiberon where we visited back in 200? This will be a top event and with ferry discount arranged thanks to Class President Doug Latta, is already on the talking list whenever two Solo sailors get together. There will be strong representation from both the UK and Holland and we hope to see a few Portuguese entries which will be a big thing. I am thinking of insisting on blazers for each nation, harping back to the days of old before drugs, terrorism and silly selfies.

If you have a Solo (blazers optional) then get yourself to Carnac while we still can, visa free.

Our prestige event is the National Championship, run since 1962 and dripping in history. WPNSA will be the hosts and with a shorter than normal, 12 race program over 4 days from August 8-11, we predict north of 100 entries. The NSCA committee are working hard to provide a social program to match anything the Dutch can do! The race program will be based on the feedback from the trial split fleet system we employ at the Pusinelli Trophy, so much to discuss.

We move onto the Inland Championship and the venue of Rutland S.C. September 7-8, a very popular venue but we seem to suffer from inclement weather around this time of year which has affected attendance for the last 2 years. Hopefully an Indian summer and a nice 15 knots will be awaiting us, come September.

The EOS takes place at Grafham Water on October 12 and will conclude the 2019 North Sails Super Series. The draw for a new North sail will take place at the 2020 Dinghy Show, again, thanks to North Sails for their generous sponsorship. A full list of Super Series events and qualification system will be published in the new year.

Aside from the majors and my personal favourite will be the second edition of the Vintage Championship which will once again see Leigh on Sea as the venue. With a rolling 20 year qualification system, any Solo built before 1999 will be legible. Leigh is a fabulous place to race and while the tides dictate that we will run this event earlier in the year, May 18th, we hope to see a challenge to the strong home fleet from a number of visitors, me being one.

Salcombe Regatta is always well attended and provides sailors with challenges they may never face at any other venue. A grasp of tidal influence is unnecessary if you know who to follow, any local will do, except maybe Chris 'Chubby" Cleaves. Seriously though, Salcombe is the mecca of Solo sailing and the talent, including Chubby is rich and deep. Legend, Alec Stone often sits on a bench across from the club line so if you want to impress him, nail the start.

We have Area Championships for the North, South, East, West, the Midlands and in Scotland so there are many opportunities for some big fleet racing which really is the best way to improve and become confident.

A few words from NSCA Class President, Doug Latta:

"With such a huge racing circuit, not just at National level but up and down the country in the regional championships, as well as regional & Sea Series, the Committee certainly have their work cut out. We plan in 2019 to harmonise prizes for each of these regional events also, and the regional reps are on the lookout for sponsors too, so if you know of any suitable sponsors in your area, please do speak to your Class Captain & Region Rep to make them aware.

ALSO, with our costs increasing, and to allow us to plan such initiatives such as a demo boat to help attract younger sailors into the class, I'd like to ask every member to remind any non members at their home clubs to invest their £25 so the Committee can do more and help protect the value of every Solo out there! I'd really love to see our membership increase by 20% so let's get (gently) recruiting and reminding all Solo sailors of the benefits!

2019 is going to be an exciting year, and I'm delighted to be serving you and to build on the great initiatives of those who've done so much previously! Solos are the most races boat in clubs up and down the country, so we're working from a strong base!"

See you all on the water soon! Whatever your standard, wherever you sail, there is a Solo fleet near you. We look forward to seeing you on the water in 2019.

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