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Devon Yawl National Championship at Brixham Yacht Club

by Tim Petitt 7 Jul 2019 13:43 BST 29-30 June 2019

Devon's Brixham Yacht Club hosted the 22nd Devon Yawl National Championship over the weekend of 29-30 June.

The venue, away from a home fleet, saw a small entry of 13 Devon Yawls comprising a local boat and 12 visiting boats from Topsham SC, Yealm YC, Bosham SC, Dittisham SC and Teign Corinthian YC.

The forecast for the weekend was light Easterlies on the Saturday and more breeze on the Sunday from the West.

Saturday arrived. A beautifully sunny day with a gentle Easterly breeze of 4-6 knots. At the briefing there was a discussion about whether or not to postpone racing, take in some crazy golf ashore and wait for the sea breeze to kick in at around 3pm, but the consensus was to get out there and try to get some races in.

The format for the day was to be three races, of approximately 1 hour's duration on either a windward - leeward or a triangle, sausage, triangle course.

The race officer, Sean Semmens, set the first triangle / sausage course on a perfectly sailable light Easterly breeze of 4-6 knots with a contrary tide on the beat.

DY304 Cook & Kempton led away to the left hand side, closely followed by DY186 Petitt & Callcut and DY349 Buckley & Strangler. This continued to be the order of the first three around the 2 lap race. The elastic joining the three stretched and contracted at various points, but the light breeze, the favoured left side of the course and plenty of covering of the following boat, kept the top three together to finish in that order.

The race officer quickly got the second race, a windward leeward, under way whilst the breeze held. DY304 and DY186 led off from the pin end to the favoured left again, but DY349 and DY100A Matthews & Scholefield both started further back on the line and got a nice starboard lift to cross ahead at the first tack, and these two boats led up the first beat.

The light wind and increasing tidal rate were having an effect on the windward mark now. The tide was running right to left, making it quite tricky to gauge the starboard lay-line. With the first 5 boats converging on the windward mark, the leaders had to put in two extra tacks to get around, giving those coming in on port tack an advantage on an easier to judge lay line. Those on starboard tack, were getting headed and swept down by the tide each time they approached the mark.

The run, being down wind and down tide was quite tricky, and keeping the sails filled and boat moving took all one's concentration. DY349, DY100A & DY304 kept their positions for the second lap to finish in that order.

The third race was a two laps triangle-sausage. The addition of the two reaching legs and only one run, made the downwind sections a little less painful. The starboard lay line had now been abandoned by the leading two boats, with them putting in several additional tacks to stay on the left side of the approach. With the wind still light, it was a repeat of race two until the wind died momentarily at the windward mark on the second lap. The three leading boats, DY349, DY304 & DY186 had got around, but as DY35 Pegg & Petitt approached, the wind died and they had to make several tacks to make it round. The rest of the fleet also struggled. However, there was enough breeze to allow all the boats to get around in the end before the breeze died away completely.

With three races successfully completed in very tricky light air conditions, the fleet returned to Brixham harbour to raft up on the Brixham Yacht Club pontoons.

A fantastic buffet was laid on by the Club, including moules-marinieres as starters and a choice of main courses. The food went down very well. It was good to catch up with fellow sailors from previous events and to chat to the crew of DY168, who had made the trip from Bosham Sailing Club.

Several crews stayed over in local B&B's and one crew overnighted in their support boat. However, as the location was reasonably local for Yealm, Topsham, Teign and Dartmouth crews, many returned home at the end of the evening.

Sunday dawned a bit grey, but the forecast was for a North Westerly breeze, 12-17 knots, which duly arrived. Blowing from an offshore direction, the water was flat, with a small chop and plenty of white horses. Gusting and shifting as the breeze came over the land, it would be a day to keep an eye on your compass (if you had one) and the dark patches of water. There were certainly a few holes in the breeze as you approached the windward mark as would prove crucial later.

The fourth race got under way on time, a three lap triangle-sausage-triangle. With plenty of breeze and full hiking conditions, DY186 sailed up the middle of the course, whilst the bulk of the fleet went left. After a few nerve-racking moments seeing the fleet to the left and trying to pick the shifts, DY186 made it to the windward mark first. Second and third round were DY349 and DY168 Davis & Aldaz-Carroll. The positions remained constant on the two reaches and whilst DY186 stretched out on the next beat, a battle ensued for second and third positions. At the start of the downwind leg, DY168 gybed inside DY349 at the top mark and got the inside overlap, maintaining that position over the third lap to the finish line.

By the fifth race, a three lap windward-leeward, everyone was keen to get a good start (meaning early) and the fleet had a general recall. The race officer then deployed the 'U' flag. Similar in effect to the Black Flag 1 minute rule, the difference being that if the race is restarted or recalled then the penalty is rescinded (unlike the Black Flag). Anyhow, it worked and the fleet got away cleanly. The breeze was definitely a good 18 - gusting 20 knots and it was quite a battle up the first beat. DY186 back up the middle, the bulk of the fleet was to the left and DY168, middle to right, cross tacking regularly with DY186. DY35 managed on the next lap to get between DY186 and DY168 to finish second with DY168 third.

New to the 2019 Devon Yawl Nationals was a 6th race. The points were now even between DY186 and DY349, 12 points each in total without discard. The committee set a 3 laps triangle-sausage-triangle course for the last race of the day and the Championship decider.

DY349 started at the pin end heading for the left, and DY186 at the committee boat end, hoping to keep the option open to tack onto port on the first shift.

DY186 however got caught up in a bit of traffic so tacked onto port early, heading for the right hand side. The pin end starters carried on a bit further before tacking onto port, and then picking up a fantastic port lift. The view from the right hand side of the course for DY186 did not look good at all. But, remembering the words from a well-known sailing tactics book, 'if you find yourself on the wrong side of the course, get back to the correct side of the course now!', with dread, DY186 tacked back onto starboard and headed for the left side, noting there were only 3 boats behind, putting 8 ahead.

Coming into the windward mark DY186 managed to get up to 5th, but DY304 and DY349 were coming in to the mark on starboard. DY186 was coming in on the port lay line looking to duck DY304 and possibly DY349, the boat DY186 had to beat. With a couple of boat lengths to go, DY304 unexpectedly tacked onto port, because it was not laying the mark. This left a gap for DY186 to tack into and round the mark ahead of both boats. I am fairly certain that was the Championship result changing moment. Meanwhile DY100A and DY35 had rounded the windward mark in that order. DY186 followed DY35 and DY100A down the reaching legs onto the next beat. The priority for DY186 was to cover DY349 up the beat, which it did. On the following run, DY35 and DY100A had a tussle with DY35 coming out ahead. It was enough to allow DY186 to close up to the pair and just get past DY100A on the last beat. By now DY186 was happy to be in second position for the last two reaches, with DY349 two places behind them. The crew on DY35 even had time to take selfies before taking the final race win.

Brixham Yacht Club did a fantastic job of organising all the boats to be recovered to their trailers. The shore crew using their Land Rover with front tow hitch and the Club RIB bringing the Yawls in saw all the boats up the slipway and lined up for packing away.

The prize giving was held at the Yacht Club. The race committee lead by Sean Semmens and his team at Brixham Yacht Club, including the committee boat crew and the rescue boat drivers, not forgetting the chef and bar staff for fantastic food and drink, were thanked.

We are looking forward to next year's Championship probably to be hosted by the Yealm Yacht Club.

Apologies to anyone who thinks I may have got the description of the racing wrong, but this was how it unfolded from my point of view!

Overall Results:
If you finished in the top ten at the Devon Yawl nationals then enter your Gear Guide information here

PosSail NoHelm / CrewClubR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1DY186Tim Petitt / Tony CallcutYYC2‑531129
2DY349Shane Buckley / StranglerTSC3113‑4412
3DY304Ian Cook / Tom KemptonTSC13255‑616
4DY35Elly Pegg / Ed PetittYYC544‑62116
5DY168Ben Davis / Eduardo Aldaz‑CarrollBSC4‑9623520
6DY100AAndrew Matthews / Ian ScholefieldYYC‑102876326
7DY52Mark & Helen PhillipsYYC7‑10987738
8DY351Ed Williams‑Hawkes/Tim CoombesTSC11854‑141442
9DY91Adrian Troop / Steve KeatsTSC81110148845
10DY141Mike Roberts / Rebecca RobertsTCYC66714141447
11DY92Don Macrae / Jon EyresTSC97129141451
12DY102Mike Bennet / Neil DrewDSC‑121211109951
13DY50Andrew Hoole / Cheryl HooleBYC131414 141469

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