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Wanderer National Championships 2019 at Bewl Sailing Association

by Adam Wickenden 17 Sep 2019 13:07 BST 14-15 September 2019
Amicia Hopkins and Bernard Taylor win the Wanderer National Championships 2019 © David X

Wind would have been nice

Nine Wanderers gathered at Bewl Valley in Kent on 14th/15th September for their 2019 national championships, hosted by Bewl Sailing Association. The forecast for both days was not promising at all. Hopes were raised on the Saturday morning as the first view of the lake saw some quite positive ripples. That, alas, was just fate tempting us.

Race 1 saw the RO set a rectangular course. Well, that was the initial idea. The wind begged to differ. The forecast gradient wind was a gentle north easterly. It was a warm weekend, so a light sea breeze arrived from the South at just the inopportune moment. Bewl is set in three arms of a valley, so the classic 'valley wind' effect took hold. There was a nice patch of wind just under the dam from the north easterly gradient wind and a nice dark patch up the south east arm from the sea breeze. There was also a hole in the middle of the lake where the two met head on.

After a short postponement however all looked good, the sea breeze wind looked to be taking hold. This required the windward mark shifting to the right so the beat was towards the south east arm of Bewl. Not so much a rectangle, at best now a wonky quadrilateral. Still, the decision looked good, and every time a gust filled in there was a slight veer in the wind.

So off we started. We should have known better. Rule1: Don't get too far away from the line on a light wind day. It all died, leaving Philip Meadowcroft in 1541 and Paul Cross in 1099 a little stuck. Still, they got there eventually, and Wanderers being a gentlemanly lot Meadowcroft even let Paul Cross in round the back of the committee boat - not that he really had anywhere else to go (or any ability to steer for that matter).

The reason for all this soon became apparent. The gradient wind had staged a comeback. The beat was now a gentle port tack fetch to the mark. Ami Hopkins in 1810, Ian Simpson in 1004 and Philip Meadowcroft all made it to the windward mark in a bunch in that order. The wind from the south east arm was hovering temptingly just by the mark. Meadowcoft even bore off, hoping for the header it would bring, followed by nice starboard lay line across the front of the other two. Alas no - the wind sat just out of reach.

At this point it became one of those frustrating races where the boat a couple of feet from you got the gust, and you didn't. Ami Hopkins crewed by Bernard Taylor rounded, first and crept away to build a huge lead. Ian Simpson and Dave Bardwell sat for a bit, then they were off. For Meadowcroft and Wickenden in 1541 the gust sat teasingly just out of reach and the boats behind started to catch up. Familiar stuff for someone who is a Salcombe regular. Eventually though 1541 got a gust and set off in pursuit of the two leaders.

Progress to the second and third marks was painful. The leg from marks three to four saw every point of sail. By this point Rick Lewis and Neil Bridge in 1443 had caught Meadowcroft, however one was beating and the other running, while only two boat lengths apart. Ian Simpson was also dangerously close to catching Ami Hopkins, but not quite. Fortunately, the RO finished the race after one lap. Hopkins was first, Simpson second. Meadowcroft was just able to draw away from Lewis to finish third. The wind then decided to fill in - with Scarborough Sea Cadets Hamish Steel and Kian Price able to carry their spinnaker over the line on a tight reach. No mean achievement.

Race 2 - every leg optionally a beat - was held after lunch. The conditions had not really changed much. However the course was changed to a simple windward/leeward sausage.

This time there was going to be something of a beat to the first mark. But no, the wind was only kidding. It backed as the leaders approached the first mark. So much so that - yes - the second and supposedly leeward leg was now also going to be a beat. Ami Hopkins spotted this and headed up on to port as she rounded the mark, before tacking to the second mark after a couple of boat lengths.

Ian Simpson in 1004 tacked almost immediately. Dave Bardwell, his crew, seemed to be suffering from separation anxiety regarding his spinnaker, having not been able to use it in the first race. In fact, he'd probably not seen it since Whitstable in June. As 1004 exited the tack the spinnaker was hoisted. Not good for boatspeed as they were now sailing upwind. Good for Meadowcroft in 1541 however. Despite his crew's protestations Meadowcroft had tacked directly underneath Simpson (memo - he should check with his 420 sailing grandson about 'lanes'). As Simpson ground gently to a halt with spinnaker backed, Meadowcroft was able to sail through underneath into second.

The beat back through what would become the finish line was held in a reasonable breeze. Enough to fool the RO into thinking it would stay and provide a good second lap. Ami Hopkins and Bernard Taylor crept steadily away and was able to make most of the second lap in wind, rounding the second and third marks before the wind died. Simpson managed to pass Meadowcroft on the beat to the third mark - yes, that became a beat as well - and just crept round in the last puff. Meadowcroft was now stopped tantalisingly close to the mark, surrounded by a fleet of Catapults who were having an open at Bewl the same weekend. The rest of the Wanderer fleet now caught him up.

To make matters worse, the large inflatable mark appeared to have its own gravitational field. Meadowcroft now suffered the further indignity of drifting gently onto it. So did Paul Cross in 1099, so there must have been something odd going on. Meadowcroft was now forced to do a 360 which placed him flat last of nine. Ami Hopkins and Ian Simpson had by now had finished in first and second respectively.

The wind had not finished with its tricks. It now filled in behind. This was great for Meadowcroft. The spinnaker on 1541 was quickly hoisted and they carried the gust past Nigel and Maria Lamb, Paul Cross, Nick Hawkins, Richard Austin and startled Sea Cadets Hamish Steel and Kian Price in 1746 by pipping them a metre from the line But they could not catch Rick Lewis and Neil Bridge in 1443 who finished fourth.

Sunday, and Bart's Bash day and Race 3. The forecast was a little more promising. The gradient wind and any sea breeze were now roughly from the same direction, so hopefully no repeat of Saturday's shenanigans. In an agreed change to the NoR, the Wanderer fleet was given a separate start 5 minutes behind the club's Bart's Bash handicap and Catapult fleet start. The course was a triangle with a longish beat up the western arm, one broad and one close reach. For once the beat was a beat and the reaches remained reaches, although they were a little patchy.

The shifty wind produced a somewhat starboard biased line, the start being won by Ami Hopkins squeezing in cleanly between Meadowcroft, who had arrived at the line five seconds too early, and the Committee boat. The first mark saw Hopkins lead, followed by Meadowcroft and Simpson. The wind filled in from behind and Meadowcroft was able to reel in Hopkins in 1810 by the second mark. 1810 opted to gybe with their spinnaker up, but 1541 spotted that the wind had veered and that the second reach was now too close. The spinnaker was doused at the gybe and 1541 sailed past into the lead. Positions at the end of the first lap were Meadowcroft first, Ami Hopkins second, and Ian Simpson third.

The club fleet ahead looked to be in more wind on the left side of the beat, with a couple of catapults in a nice port tack lift to the mark. Meadowcroft in 1541 thus headed off on starboard. Ami Hopkins and Ian Simpson tacked off to port into what at first looked like a hole. It didn't remain a hole for long, but instead turned into a nice starboard tack lift to the mark.

Hopkins rounded in first only having had to put in a couple of tacks. Simpson in 1004 was able to tack in under Meadowcroft and the pair rounded in second and third. A decent broad spinnaker reach followed, with only a club RS Venture to provide any distraction.

This time no one tried to carry spinnakers on the last leg. Simpson rounded the gybe mark inside Meadowcroft. He was however so determined to shut the door and force Meadowcroft around the outside that 1004 ended up virtually stalled. Meadowcroft in 1541 carried his way through underneath and into second. Ami Hopkins had by this time sailed off to a third win, the finish being at the end of the second reach.

All was not over for second and third places however. As they approached the line the wind died on 1541 and Ian Simpson and these two looked as though they were going to dead-heat but Simpson was judged to have crossed the line 0.2 seconds after Meadowcroft.

The fleet then decided that enough was enough and no more races would be held. With three wins and no discard Ami Hopkins and Bernard Taylor from Swarkestone SC thus became the 2019 Wanderer National Champions and holders of the magnificent Ian Proctor Trophy. Ian Simpson and Dave Bardwell, the eternal bridesmaids, with three seconds won the Ted Shephard Cup.

The prize giving, in a brand new beach gazebo, was held as part of the Bewl Bart's Bash BBQ. Jenny Renouf, WCOA Membership Secretary, presented the two trophies and decent bottles of wine to everyone else. At which point the wind finally filled in!

As ever, the stalwarts of Bewl Sailing Association did us proud with their organisation of this event.

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

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3Pts
11810Amicia HopkinsBernard TaylorSwarkestone SC1113
21004Ian SimpsonDave BardwellTudor SC2226
31541Philip MeadowcroftAdam WickendenHenley SC / Salcombe YC34310
41443Rick LewisNeil BridgeShoreham SC43411
51604Nick HawkinsMike JudsonIsle of Sheppey Sailing Club57820
61099Paul CrossDavid MarshWhitstable YC79521
71746Hamish SteelKian PriceScarborough Sea Cadets95721
81542Richard AustinSue HumphriesBroxbourne66921
9477Nigel LambMaria LambChipstead Sailing Club88622

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