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Harken RS400 Inland Championship at Grafham Water Sailing Club

by Matthew Sheahan 7 Oct 10:38 BST 5-6 October 2019

It was a weekend of chalk and cheese, two days in which the conditions exceeded those of the forecast, albeit in opposite directions.

On Saturday the weather underplayed its hand as the predicted breeze of 8-10 knots didn't really hit the mark, at least not the 10 knot part. Instead, the three back to back races were run in 6-8 knots from the SE. Conditions were shifty throughout the afternoon where the only certainty seemed to be that the middle of the course wasn't the place to be.

For a while there were some big names buried in the 33 boat fleet, yet many of them managed to fight their way to the front of the pack by the finish.

In the first race, Hamish Gledhill and Simon Dowse (1407) took the win, while in the second Sean Cleary and Annalise Nixon (1377) demonstrated once again that their path to the top of the 400 fleet has been no accident. In the third race of the day it was Mike Simms and Jack Holden (1488) that took the bullet. They too have had their fair share of victories in the fleet this season and along with Steve and Sarah Cockerill (1489) were among the favourites to take the inland championships. Indeed, if the Cockerills had not been UFD in race two the evidence of two second places on the opening day would suggest that they could have been the hot favourites.

Sunday was drama filled. A punchy forecast of breeze in the high teens with gusts into the mid twenties had been doing the rounds for days and had cleared rattled some in the fleet. But when it came to the morning rig, the breeze was only in the low teens. Only the rain made it feel worse. Many who had decided to bend on their older sails were now wondering about the wisdom of such a call.

Even once out on the water and during the first beat the breeze was just 12-18knots and showed little sign of pumping into the mid twenties. But for Sims and Holden a full scale drama had already started.

Having rounded the windward mark in the lead they hoisted their kite on the tight reach across to the outer loop just as a gust came through. For reasons that are yet to be understood, their carbon bowsprit snapped.

Disappointed, yet undeterred, they retired and headed for the shore where they 'found' a replacement alloy bowsprit and fitted it in time to get back out for the next start. This in itself was impressive.

But shortly before the start they realised that they had forgotten to rig the wing/wang lines so, having handed the helm to his crew, Simms led from the front and slid out on the foredeck to fix the problem.

"It was pretty tricky," he said. "Having untied the lines in the cockpit I had to get my hands down into the chute to try and re-thread them around the pole. I had my head over the side of the bow and kept getting submerged in the process. It was pretty stressful."

Surely the understatement of the day given that the breeze had now hit a steady 20 knots with guts into 25 according to the club anemometer.

Even more impressive was that he fixed the pole and then went on to win the second race.

By now conditions were full survival for many as the wind was a solid 25knots with gusts hitting 34knots. With every gybe the fleet was thinning out rapidly. Yet for those that stayed upright the downhill sleigh rides were epic.

Consistency remained for the Cockerills throughout the lively conditions with a third and a second. But with the weather now having taken a serious toll on the fleet and the wind speed continuing to climb, the race officer binned the last race.

This left the Cockerills and Simms/Holden on equal points. But with Simms and Holden's staggering first place comeback they won the event on a tie break. Meanwhile, Russ and Penny Clark (1309) took third overall.

The Inland Championships are well known as being a very social affair and this year's was no different. But a special mention must be made of a Duckhams' award on a level we haven't had for some time in the class. Indeed, so good was the accidental foul-up by someone who has done a great deal for the class recently that it's recipient Andy Powell should remain anonymous.

Keen to ensure that a group in the class had a good night out at the Wheatsheaf pub, a large table for 20 or so was booked. But when we all turned up our host was told no such table had been booked and the pub was full. A period of embarrassment on both sides ensued as the pub's helpful staff tried to find a way of accommodating us, which they did.

As this was going on, a call came through on our host's mobile from the Wheatsheaf in Rutland asking him where his party of 20 were.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1st1488Mike SimmsJack HoldenCarsington/Avon YC431(DNC)19
2nd1489Steve CockerillS CockerillSBSC2(UFD)2329
3rd1309Russ ClarkPenny ClarkRNSA/Stokes Bay‑8831315
4th1377Sean ClearyAnnalise NixonGreystones SC‑9154515
5th1407Hamish GledhillSimon DowseWest Riding SC19‑115419
6th1396Richard CatchpoleGary CoopLeigh & Lowton SC56‑127725
7th874Jon GayAmanda HendersonLochaber3118‑15830
8th1189Steve RestallChris StubbsDowns124410‑1730
9th1465Ben WilliamsonTodd ReaeldWelton SC65109‑1130
10th8Wayne FletcherMartin CooperRYA‑2513621334
11th1418Mark OakeyLouise HoskenItchenor/QMSC102914(DNC)35
12th1399Richard GrayJon DyasQMSC/Broadwater1410‑166636
13th1414Caroline WhitehouseAdam WhitehouseBartley SC1971413(DNC)53
14th770Thomas BroatchAncel DavisonGrafham Water SC13‑207181553
15th1425Mike GreenSophie GreenEastbourne Sovereign SC‑26162581059
16th1479Mick WhitmoreSarah WhitmoreEastbourne Sovereign SC16141811(DNC)59
17th1345John HobsonRebecca OgdenNotts County SC‑201220201264
18th1503Peter SnowdonLouise CarrShoreham SC7172121(DNC)66
19th1435Matt SheahanEllie SheahanNetley SC22‑242312966
20th1292Christopher EamesHenry MorleyRoyal Thames11‑1919171966
21st1447Jon WillarsRichard BrameldWelton SC231513(UFD)1667
22nd951George KennedyHebe HemmingParkstone YC15231516(DNC)69
23rd971Simon KitchenAbbi HooperGrafham Water SC182217(DNC)1471
24th1493Geoffrey HoldenBernice HoldenLocks SC21212419(DNC)85
25th880James Le CouilliardTim Le CouilliardAldenham SC17252722(DNC)91
26th1101Simon BakerChris HopkinsQMSC‑272726231894
27th1363Ross RyanAmy Hinsliff‑SmithNotts County SC241822(DNC)DNC98
28th527Andy PowellIan VersoWarsash SC28(UFD)3024DNC116
29th1342Max TositiJulesThorneQMSC292628(DNC)DNC117
30th676Michael MarriottMaurice BarnesTHorpe Bay YC312929(DNC)DNC123
31st1382Andrew HuntMatt HuntEastbourne Sovereign SC3228(DNC)DNCDNC128
32nd1203Johnny LimebearAbi MorganWest Riding SC30(UFD)31DNCDNC129
33rd1437Barrie ThorntonNick HuntScaling Dam SC(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC136

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