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Solo Open at Broadwater Sailing Club

by Will Loy 10 Mar 15:22 GMT
Paul Playle enjoying the gusts during the Broadwater Solo Open © Will Loy

Part of the CB Coverstore Classic Tour, supported at this event by P&B

Nineteen entries defied a rather menacing forecast and made the journey to Broadwater Sailing Club to contest the Chessboard Trophy. For the few of you who may be interested, Chess Sailing Club was once the venue for this aforementioned and unimaginatively named trophy, the lake no larger than a handkerchief and the members were staunchly proud of their Solo heritage.

My father once showed me a local newspaper extract as we sat at the breakfast table, pre open meeting, the monochrome photos and report not a million miles away from todays efforts but with no reference to which site the reader should go to to see the video. The picture depicted a mountain range of white Solo sails planing down to the leeward mark with my father's iconic Solo 186 standing out like an unbleached tooth on an Essex girl. No, this was not the earliest recorded application of Kevlar, it was in fact red cotton, not unusual back in the day but, as with the pale blue version, now thankfully obsolete. While those sailors are gone, sons and daughters now fill their sailing boots, thus is the way of the Solo.

I was fortunate to win the trophy in 1984, just to name drop, Geoff Carveth won here in 1979, anyway I believe this was the final open meeting at Chess S.C. before relocating to the much larger Broadwater S.C.

I made my way down the twisting pot holed club road, not dissimilar to an RAC Rally stage, cursing my decision to purchase a VW Beetle rather than a rally spec Subaru Impreza which would have eaten up the track. I looked out left, the overgenerous passenger window providing an insight into what the competitors would face, the sun warming my right cheek, it was blowing from the west then. The suspension bottomed again as I drove down another sink hole sized obstacle, next year I will bring a co-driver.

There have been some huge turnouts at this venue, historically the first Solo event of the season, giving sailors a chance to show off their new Solos but this year would be different. In an ironic twist, the event would be the first of the CB Coverstore Classic Tour events, giving owners the chance to show off their old Solos. Kinda fitting really.

The conditions were kind to the fleet of 19, six of these Classic entries and the breeze at between 15-20 mph was tempered by the local tree line though this did provide some gusty moments just when you didn't expect it.

Race 1

PRO David Cherrill set a course with the first beat just off the clubhouse which allowed me to film from the shore and also meant the Committee boat could stay firmly attached to the pontoon. While this allowed a constant and well deserved flow of tea from galley to race officials, it also provided an obstacle for some competitors to negotiate on launching and Godfrey Clark was holed above the waterline just 5 seconds after letting go of the slip.

The line looked pretty port biased but no one other than myself, who would have port tacked the fleet seemed to spot this and they were away first time with just one individual recall. Sue Taylor, who had been practicing the course was last through the start line, a victim of the prompt starting sequence.

Local Steve Swinchatt led at the first mark with Brenda Hoult in the lovely Gosling built 4214, close on his heels. She took the lead somewhere on the far side of the island, my Fuji S2, even with the lens extended to max was no match for the length of the lake. Behind her, a posse of FRP and wood built Solos chased, Roger Bennett, Tim Lewis and Phil Sheppard the main threat. Hoult held for a lap before handing the lead to Godfrey Clark on the run who clearly had elevated adrenaline levels following his pre race collision. Hoult then compounded her problems with a swim when gybing which would see her drop back to 8th by the gun. Clark also dropped places like City are dropping points, possibly taking in water or maybe just a victim of some of the savage wind shifts, either way he finished fifth behind the fast finishing Paul Playle. Bennett took the bullett then with Lewis, who was carrying an NSCA transom cam 2nd, Sheppard 3rd. Robin Tothill from the fabled Leigh on Sea was just behind Hoult in his Severn Sailboats built 3904 sporting NSCA transom cam 2 with Laurence Cavill Grant 11th sailing a home built Cooper hull 3462.

Race 2

A very heavily port biased line and with 1 minute to go Steve Jones was sitting up at the pin end by himself as the fleet bunched towards the committee boat. Unfortunately, as is nearly always the case, the mass of starboard tackers floated towards the pin, shutting the door on Jones's master plan and shattering his dream of raising the Chessboard aloft. There were some casualties at the start gun but some pretty vocal intervention saw them return to dip the start line.

Andrew Boyce, father of the Nation's Cup Champion nailed the first beat and led the first lap, NSCA transom cam 3 was not slowing him down, though it may have quelled any thoughts to ooch. Playle was close on his tail and eventually passed him, clearly, the skills learned from his apprenticeship at Salcombe have given him the tools to tackle any other venue with a 'bag'. Maybe Rugby Sailing Club' with it's 'spinny' should be his next target.

Playle took the bullet as the heaven's opened, the increase in wind strength perfect timing for the fleet as they returned to the lee shore. Sheppard had worked through to second with Boyce 3rd. Bennett's 4th would mean Playle, Sheppard and himself were tied on 5 points with one race to go. In the Classics it was Hoult, finishing a creditable 6th who would lead from Tothill and Cavill Grant.

Lunchtime

The chilli took away the chill and the competitors, doing what sailors do, retold stories of triumph and failure, sometimes all in one leg. Some plotted their revenge on the water as others looked on vacantly, possibly assessing the risk versus reward of eating the pudding that was available.

Race 3

The wind had all but disappeared as the fleet re-engaged for the final race of the event. The wind had swung right but the PRO was not going to lose access to the hot tea so the line was a tad committee boat biased. The fleet lined up early, some too early including Hoult and Lewis. Brenda's husband Simon looked on from the beach. Inside he was possibly regretting not to sail the boat himself but with the competitors almost becalmed, his initial decision was surely vindicated. First around the top mark after claiming the sweet spot at the right end was Bennett who led the race from start to finish as the fickle breeze teased tell tales and frustrated even the most patient amongst the fleet. To be honest I lost interest as a spectator after ten minutes and mused to myself, "this is what it must feel like to be a Spurs fan." The remaining places went to Clark and Sheppard with Lewis 4th. In the Classic fleet, Hoult retired but Tothill dropped three places on the final lap which gave Brenda Hoult the win, fitting as it was International Women's Day.

Overall

It was great to see half a dozen Classics out on the water, the pride that the owners have for their Solos is admirable. Thank you for travelling.

Roger Bennett will have his name etched on the fabled Chessboard Trophy while Brenda walked away with a brand new sailing holdall, courtesy of P&B who are supporting the Classic Tour.

Have you got an older Solo you want to race others with? The next CB Coverstore Classic Tour event is at the Fernhurst Books Spring Championship, Draycote Water April 25. We will have a separate start if we get 6 Classics or more.

Before that we have the hastily rearranged Noble Marine Winter Championship to deal with on Saturday March 14th, King George Sailing Club.

See you on the water.

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