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National 12 Mid-Winter Championships at Royal Harwich Yacht Club

by George Finch 9 Feb 18:56 GMT 8 February 2020
National 12 Mid-Winter Championships at Harwich © Pavel Kricka

After constantly reviewing the forecast for Sunday in the week running up to the Mid-Winters, the Royal Harwich Yacht Club and the N12 Class decided to adjust the programme for the weekend, bringing the sailing forward by 24 hours and keeping the N12 Mid-Winter dinner at the club on the Saturday. As it turns out, with Storm Ciara in full force on Sunday, this really was the right decision.

Unfortunately, a few of the sailors couldn't make the earlier racing, starting at 10:00, but most managed to still attend the 'traditional' N12 Dinner in the evening. A reduced fleet of seven N12s arrived at RHYC to be greeted with a gentle breeze, a reasonable air temperature and a flooding tide.

The attraction of the day was the brand-new Simon Hipkin built National 12 - N 3551, 'Over The Rainbow'. This N12 is a '4-Plank' Dead Cat Bounce, based on the original Dead Cat Bounce design by Jo Richards, then modified by Keith Callaghan. Just after launching, champagne was sprayed over the bow before George & Lucy Finch set off for their maiden voyage towards the committee boat, ready for the first race of the day.

After a short postponement, the first race got under way with a clean start from all of the fleet. Racing towards the windward mark was close, with numerous position changes and the top five boats all rounding within a boat length of each other. Jon Ibbotson and Rachel Smith rounded first and headed left to cross the tide as soon as possible before starting the running down to the bottom mark. Kevin Iles and Andrea Downham took a more direct route, followed by Tom & Robbie Stewart and George & Lucy Finch. The fleet stuck together for the second lap, with the leaders slowly increasing their led. Jon & Rachel finished first, with Kevin and Andrea in second, followed by John and Bryony Thornton in third.

The course was set for the second race - this time a trapezoid. Max Shiel and Will Taylor had now made their way to the race course and were ready to join in. The breeze increased slightly with most helms and crews now sitting on the side. The new N12 of George and Lucy Finch demonstrated some quick speed up the first beat, only to fall foul of a few shifts and round the windward mark fourth, Tom and Robbie were leading, with Kevin and Andrea just behind. They kept these positions for the remainder of the race, with Jon Ibbotson and Rachel Smith finishing 3rd. There was some close racing with George & Lucy and John and Bryony, with John and Bryony pulling through to fourth at the second windward mark and keeping this up until the finish.

The same course was set for the third race and with the tide beginning to ebb, local knowledge became crucial. Graham Ireland and Toby Hunt used Graham's knowledge (built up over 50 years!) to round the windward mark in fourth, a respectable position as it was Toby's first ever N12 outing and Graham's first N12 race in his Admirals Cup Final Chapter in about five years! Having had an interesting first leg, George and Lucy had to play 'catch up' with the rest of the fleet, leading to a close tacking battle between Graham/Toby and George/Lucy on way to the finish! Tom and Robbie won, with Jon & Rachel in second and Kevin & Andrea in third.

For the fourth and final race, a windward/leeward course was set, as per the first race. With the tide really ebbing, it took a while to cross the start line and a sudden shift saw the whole fleet tack onto port - almost as if they were 'tacking on the whistle'! Finding the lifts in between the trees on the approach to the windward mark was the tactic of the day, which Tom and Robbie demonstrated to round first. Even with the strong tide, some of the fleet over-stood the mark, allowing a few boats to round just inside them at the mark. Staying as close to the channel with the ebbing flow was the best decision downwind, which Kevin & Andrea demonstrated, securing their second place in the race. Tom and Robbie won again, with John and Bryony in third.

The fleet then enjoyed lunch in the clubhouse, before watching the rugby in the afternoon, with a few enjoying a walk to Pin Mill and back.

The club then hosted the N12 Mid-Winter Dinner, with a number of past and present N12 sailors and class stalwarts turning up to enjoy an evening of good food, good company and good beer. There was some recently discovered video showing in the clubhouse - a N12 Open Meeting from 1989 hosted at the RHYC!

Thanks must go to the RHYC, PRO Mike Clayton and his race team for allowing us to bring the sailing forward to Saturday and run four races with a slick turnaround. The fleet decided the event was a success and look forward to returning again next year for this revived annual event.

Thanks also to Pavel Kricka for taking some excellent photos, available at

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4Pts
1st3544Tom StewartRobbie StewartRoyal Harwich Yacht Club‑41113
2nd3540Jon IbbotsonRachel SmithRoyal Harwich Yacht Club132‑46
3rd3527Kevin IlesAndrea DownhamWest Oxfordshire Sailing Club22‑326
4th3443John ThorntonBryony ThorntonBurghfield Sailing Club3‑44310
5th3551George FinchLucy FinchRoyal Harwich Yacht Club‑555515
6th3390Graham IrelandToby HuntRoyal Harwich Yacht Club‑666618
7th3450Max ShielWill TaylorRoyal Harwich Yacht Club(DNC)77721

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