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Topper GJW Direct National Series Round 5 at Carsington Sailing Club

by Chris Woodard 22 Jun 07:30 BST 8-9 June 2019

Round 5 of the Topper GJW Direct National Series saw 163 Toppers competing at Carsington Sailing Club, set amidst the glorious Peak District countryside, over the weekend of 8-9 June.

Some competitors arrived on Friday evening, other early on Saturday morning, but it made little difference to the conditions that greeted them; it was grey, miserable, unseasonably cold, intermittently wet, and very, very, windy! Indeed, Saturday's forecasts generally suggested that it would be too windy for racing, but there is always the chance that local conditions will differ, and after race management and safety teams had been out to assess the conditions the signal was made to launch on schedule for the first race at 12.00. Around the clubhouse and dinghy park, largely sheltered from the fierce west-south-westerly, it was very deceptive, and many of the lighter and less experienced sailors who probably should have reefed didn't, and got a bit of a shock when they sailed out beyond Stones Island, and realised what they were in for!

Although at times the wind was averaging "only" around 18 mph, there were equally periods when it was averaging up to 26 mph, and throughout the day there were ferocious gusts, recorded up to 30 mph, which caused mayhem, particularly when they hit on the downwind legs. Consequently there was an unusually high attrition rate, with multiple spectacular death-rolls even amongst the front runners. The safety crews were kept exceptionally busy, and with some inevitable gear failures there was a steady stream of boats towed ashore - many bravely re-launching after quick repairs!

In the 145-boat 5.3 fleet, raced as usual in two flights, this was generally a day for the older sailors, nearing the end of their Topper days, who have mastered the boat in heavy weather conditions, evidenced none more so than by Ben Purrier who won all three races in his flight, to secure the overnight lead, closely followed by Leo Wilkinson with two wins and a second in his flight, with James Deaton taking the remaining race victory. With the scheduled three races completed the 5.3 fleet returned ashore, many bedraggled and exhausted, but it was no such relief for the already over-worked safety boat crews - it was now the 4.2 fleet's turn!

The 18-boat 4.2 fleet had been held ashore for most of the day, freeing up more safety ribs for the 5.3 fleet, but they now launched into these challenging conditions with the luxury of approximately one safety rib per competitor! It was great to see these younger and less experienced sailors venturing out, albeit with varying degrees of confidence! The race management team gave them two races, won by Graydon McLeod Fleming and Sam Grayton, before bringing them, and the exhausted safety crews, back ashore in time for an already delayed ITCA AGM.

Sunday couldn't have been more different; the wind had swung round to the south-south-east and dropped dramatically, even less than had been forecast, varying between 5 and 8 mph through the day, occasionally even less. This presented an opportunity for the smaller or lighter sailors who had struggled on Saturday, and indeed a perusal of the final results shows a marked difference in some sailor's results across the two days.

Not only was the wind very light, but it was also horrendously shifty and patchy - a real day for snakes and ladders racing - but this didn't faze Leo Wilkinson who showed complete mastery across all conditions, replicating his previous day's results with two more race victories and another second, to win the event by a huge margin, and secure overall victory in the 2018-19 Topper GJW Direct National Series with an event to spare. Tom Peacock had a pretty good day too, with two race wins in his flight, with the remaining race wins going to Tim Evans and Joseph Warwicker.

With Leo in such dominant form, the real battle was for the remaining podium places, eventually secured by Ed Baker in second, and Ben Purrier third, with James Deaton and Tom Mitchell both just one point further behind. Kate Robertson was first girl, with Leah Fidling and Honor Proctor completing the girl's podium, and Sachin Gholkar took the Optimum Time Endeavour Prize.

In the 4.2 fleet it was very much Bjorn Handley's favourite conditions, which he capitalised upon with four straight race victories to comfortably secure overall victory, with Immi Rees second overall, and first girl, and Graydon McLeod Fleming completing the podium. Third boy was Hayden Moore, second and third girls were Charlotte Cooper and Caitlin Thomas, and the Optimum Time Endeavour prize went to Jessica Hedgecock.

Huge thanks as always go to the large number of parent/supporter volunteers who help to ensure that these big-fleet events run so smoothly, with special thanks on this occasion to Saturday's safety crews who had a really tough day afloat, and congratulations to the race management team led by Adrian Stogall, Adam Millington and Andy Moore for completing the full race programme despite such challenging and contrasting conditions. Thanks also, of course, to our sponsors GJW Direct, Harken, Rooster, Optimum Time, and Topper Sailboats - Russ's Topper van (and shed!) was busier than ever, with many running repairs during windy Saturday, and over 100 masts modified with the new mast foot fitting!

Next stop, for the final round of the 2018-19 National Series, is at Poole Yacht Club over the weekend of 6-7 July, and then for many it is a short trip (well, short compared to last year's trip to China!) to Medemblik, Holland, for the Worlds from 21-26 July, swiftly followed by the Nationals at Largs from 4-9 August. Let's hope that for all of these we get sailing conditions that are not at the two extremes that we experienced at Carsington!

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