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Magic Marine Solo Nation's Cup at Yacht Club de Carnac - Wrap-up

by Will Loy 25 Jul 20:07 BST 13-16 July 2019

I have been home for just one week but the Solo Nation's Cup in Carnac, France is still fresh in my memory. So what were the highlights? My wife always tells me to bullet point so below are some of the best bits and some more personal to myself.

80 National Solos on the start line which represented the largest Nation's Cup attendance when the event is split from the National championship.

The weather. Unbroken sunshine for the four days. Clear Atlantic water and an old town bursting with character and awesome restaurants. And the coffee is unreal.

Sailors from the UK, Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland and the USA which is another first for the class. OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves, these may have been individual entries but the sailors are going home and spreading the word!

YC Carnac. Wow. Fabulous location provided a holiday vibe which some UK venues just cannot compete with. That said, with the summer we are having even Harwich could put on a good show.

The facilities are basic but the relaxed demeanour of the officials smooths over any tiny cracks like the snail pace service for Cafe au Lait. The PRO and race team are as efficient as German engineering but their accents are softer.

Easy ferry links for transportation and Brittany even laid on cabaret.

Patrick Burns winning "Wally of the day". Who knew that a Scotsman would look good in gold.

Blake Latta flying his drone so expertly and cooly landing it into my outstretched hands in the RIB.

Two great social events (in the same year)! Carnac nailed the BBQ and had we laid out the sausages end to end they may have reached Paris. The class dinner, held at the local casino was a flash affair and the Salcombe sailors really know how to dress smart. The guys from up north did their usual casual but Ted Bakker stole the show with the polo neck jumper.

UK Class President Doug Latta rounding the first mark of the last race in the lead: if there had been a "first to the mark" beer token, he would have won it.

The surprise presentation to myself by the Dutch class was indeed emotional and the vintage video camera mounted on mahogany sits proudly on my mantelpiece. I only started filming the fleet back in 2012 after searching high and low for old photos of myself, only to find very few. I therefore decided we needed to build a more extensive video library for sailors to view when they have hung their sailing boots up. Today the Solo Sailing 1 channel has over 240 videos and the site has had over 330,782 hits. It has been a pleasure to share the drama, pain and achievements of so many great sailors.

Salcombe Gin Classic - Three of the entries were racing wooden "Classics" which hold dear in my heart after a lifetime of racing them.

Floris Eijsink NED had lovingly restored his Velt's Solo 3233 NED 512, built sometime in the late 70s and takes great joy in keeping her updated. Floors scored a 70 in race 5 which was his best score so work to do my friend! I should maybe not be too critical, Floris towers over most of the fleet and his handshake made me feel like Frodo.

The second of the classics was a real peach, 1030, another Velts hull with input from another designer whose name I was unable to identify. It's owner, Cees Leen Herder NED 1 speaks english better than I speak dutch but only just. The hull was built in the 60s and has all the tell tale signs of early Solo design. Beading for gunwales and a generously wide bow shape along with plenty of war wounds. Cees himself is a force of nature and on day 4 his tiller union joint failed as he sat in the middle of the course with 4 minutes left until the start gun. His stricken hull was surrounded by three ribs but he seemed very keen to just float to shore under his own steam. Fortunately he was extracted from the race track before the 79 Solos could get to him.

My third classic is the well known "Blaze of Hope" 3769 NED 601, which is possibly the most ironic name for Marc Dieben's Solo as it was upside down in race 3! Marc is my Dutch equivalent in that he produces the videos which have projected the Solo fleet in the Netherlands to one of the strongest, media is the best possible tool. I remember when Paul Cunningham turned up in 3769 back in 1990, a Don Marine built hull which was varnished from top to bottom and it has been this way ever since. Blaze of Hope manage to score a 50 in race 2 which must have felt pretty good with so many FRP hulls behind him.

Salcombe Gin very generously provided their awesome gin for these three gallant sailors and there were some very jealous faces amongst the gathered audience at the prize-giving, especially the those who won playing cards. A massive thank you to Salcombe Gin for supporting the sailors who keep reminding us all of how far the National Solo has come in 63 years.

And the main event.

So, to the event itself and with light winds predicted, the defending champion Charlie Cumbley would have his work cut out if he was to secure another major championship.

The stand out performances on day 1 were James Boyce 1-2 and Cumbley with 3-1 while Richie Bailey and Alex Butler showed glimpses of what they could do. The winds were in the 6-12 knot range and the sun shone brightly.

Day 2 brought more of the same but maybe a touch lighter and Butler and Tim Law won the day with 5-2-1 and 3-7-2, constancy would be key to this 8 race series. Cumbley won race 3 but the 9-5 would mean that the beer would not taste quite as nice. Fortunately they had a lock in at the local ice-cream cafe which would pacify any frustration. Event leader Boyce suffered rudder stock failure in race 3 when in a strong position, I blame his father Andrew for not letting him use the new boat. James did recover in race 5, his ballsy tack on top of Cumbley at the finish was significant to me in his confidence of his race craft. Richard Lovering had a good day with a 4-3-10, clearly unaffected by the previous nights apres session.

Day 3 and the PRO managed to get races 6-7 done and dusted despite the wind dropping out after the first one of the day. The fleet relaxed in the dinghy park, chewing the fat on all things Solo, Brexit was not on the agenda. The camaraderie of like minded Solo sailors is a thing of beauty to me, having seen it develop in the 40 years I have been racing them. The fat one's still whine when it's light and the feather weights moan when it's windy, thus the story continues.

What is amazing is that Cumbley, at 90 kgs can clean up when the breeze is lighter than an Aero and sailors such as Saskia Arnold, Marleen Gaillard and Babara Schipers can do very nicely when the breeze is up. The rig development of the Solo and athleticism of the modern sailors is impressive.

So, going into day 4 and with seven races done it was Cumbley who would be wearing the leaders jersey with Boyce in second and Lovering third. Sailors looked on, some anxious to get a race in and others preying for it to be canned. The PRO was unflappable, his gallic charm soothing nerves and his positive attitude cheering the sailors desperate for a second discard or a chance for glory.

We went onto the water at 1pm, the light breeze that had started at 090 was now tracking close to 240 which was good enough for the PRO. The wind steadied at around 10 knots and I picked out the top three Magic Marine rash vests through my Fuji S1. Law was slightly out to the right while Cumbley and Boyce worked the middle. Boyce pushing Cumbley out to the right then finding a good lane into the top mark in sixth. Cumbley recovers to round tenth but his title is slipping away.

Ahead it is John Reeke who is leading while Law has got himself into second. Cumbley chooses the left down to the leeward gate but this has dropped him into the teens while Boyce has found some pressure and improved. The next round sees Cumbley unable to improve enough while Reeke takes the bullet, his last four race results of 6-4-9-1 announcing his arrival to the Solo fleet, Boyce takes second and Law third.

Overall, James Boyce wins the Nation's Cup 2019 with Charlie Cumbley second and Tim Law third. Boyce impressed with his upwind speed and pointing ability, aided by the pre event North sail set up by Charlie Cumbley who was as ever, noble in defeat which is something he does not experience very often. Tim Law showed his resilience and experience to knock out the results when he needed them, a consummate competitor.

Alex Butler, at 20 years old is a star of the future and Richard Lovering is clearly finding his feet in the Solo, powered by the impressive Hyde sail. I imagine he will be a handful in Weymouth with some steady breeze. I have already mentioned the other category winners in my day 4 report but special mention to John Webster, 21st overall and first Septimus (over 70). Yes, the Solo is a dinghy frequented by the older competitor but that does not mean they are not bloody good.

The prize-giving was a fabulous affair, held in the marquee which had been blasting out some great music for the four days...apart from Ed Sheeran.

North Sails who are our Super Series sponsor provided some great kit and sail vouchers which were duly distributed in the draw while Magic Marine also gave out some super gear. The packs of playing cards went to those nearer the back of the fleet who obviously have time on their hands.

UK class President Doug Latta closed the event with a rousing speech which literally brought the house down...the podium collapsed.

So, next on the tour is the National Championship, being held at WPNSA and with 60 pre entries, sponsor prizes including a Milanes centreboard and a shortened Championship program over four days, I anticipate another bumper event.

Thanks to Magic Marine, North Sails, Salcombe Gin and Carnac for a spectacular Championship and on behalf of the competitors, thanks to their loved ones who support them and in so doing, strengthen the National Solo class.

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