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RS Vareo Volvo Noble Marine National Championship at Itchenor Sailing Club

by Paul North 17 Jul 06:40 BST 10-12 July 2020

By luck or chance our scheduled nationals fitted with the restart of sailing and easing of lockdown to allow staying overnight away from home.

Early discussions between the usual competitors, RS Vareo Class Association and Itchenor Sailing Club race management led to a plan to attend with an open mind ready to have a social sail if it was not appropriate to race.

We were also able to bring an additional support boat manned by the Dicker bubble; thanks Becki, Lou and Michelle.

As it turned out our relatively low numbers and the club's new procedures (rope ladder for solo rescue etc) together with manageable wind and weather gave the right formula for our racing to go ahead - although the three of us who arrived on Thursday for the planned practice took a look at the wind and sky and decided that with three day's good forecast from Friday we would be better off distanced in the pub garden across the road.

Itchenor seems to be the best place for seeing classic and nice modern cars in use and if you like the sight and sound of a Spitfire flying look no further (there seemed to be one overhead every hour or so).

The sun joined us for all of the race days and the weather was perfect for dining and socialising (distantly) outside for club catering on the club lawn, and then off to Mike and Becki's garden for the fleet's evening venue.

Day One - Friday

After a briefing from Ryan, our event Race Officer, Darren, Ken, Nick and Paul launched and sailed the 30 minutes against the tide to our preferred windward leeward course, where a steady North Westerly was blowing. Ken, an experienced sailor in other classes, was sailing his RS Vareo for only the second time!

In race one a sudden shift and gust had Nick and Ken struggling to not overshoot the end of the line allowing Paul (who should have been late) to dive up the inside and lead the first beat. The shift meant that the downwind leg no longer required a gybe and Paul maintained the lead. However Nick's superior upwind ability prevailed and he took the win with Paul holding on to second, Mike third and Ken fourth.

The windward mark was moved further left for race two and after a close beat Nick led the four boats in line with kites flying down the downwind leg. The change in course had disorientated us all and we all followed Nick a good half mile past the lay line before realising that the downwind mark was far behind. Mike and Paul turned early and were able to keep the kites up longer with Ken and Nick reaching back on a lower line. Paul arrived at the mark first but a big knot in the kite downhaul saw it stuck halfway down and he pirouetted in front of the mark as everyone else got past. Ken and Mike got past Nick who struggled hoisting on the second lap but he managed to get back past Mike at the bottom. The race finished Ken, Nick, Mike then Paul.

In race three Nick got a good start in yet another big shift that left only a last gasp tack to round the windward mark with Ken close behind. Approaching the final mark in third place, Mike's drop saw the kite go under the front of the hull and turn into a sea anchor as he limped agonisingly slowly to the finish line. Paul, in last place, saw Mike struggling so dropped early to get a safe rounding and hope to beat him to the line. However, he didn't see a particularly large wave that rolled him over just before the turn. Race finish order: Nick, Ken, Mike, then Paul.

After a very pleasant sail back to the club a fish and chip supper in the garden hit the spot!

Day Two - Saturday

Darren joined us on Saturday morning for the weekend option. We had already agreed a minimum of three discards to give him a fighting chance. At 1100hrs we set off back down the harbour for four back to back races along with a selection of the club single-handers who would sail the same course but with a separate start 10 minutes behind the RS Vareos. Although light winds were forecast the afternoon sea breeze picked up to give great racing conditions.

Nick won race four by the largest margin so far largely due to completing the first lap in 9 mins 59 seconds. Paul took second followed by Ken, Mike and Darren. Sadly Darren suffered a gear failure forcing him to retire to the nearby "beach" for the reminder of the day.

Race five also went Nick's way after the course was shortened following a 90 degree shift that turned our windward leeward into two exciting reaches. Ken second, Paul then Mike.

There was a short delay while the course was reset after which being the right side of the tide became much more important, along with a keen eye out for the keelboats which were racing in the same area.

Race six Nick nailed a port flyer to lead at the start. Ken was finding better windward speed but Nick heated up on the runs to triumph. Meanwhile at the back Mike and Paul were trading 3rd and 4th all afternoon. Mike third, Paul fourth.

Race seven looked to be going the same way but canny lad Ken made some more cautious choices and took the lead on the last leg home to win. On the final lap Paul got caught in irons in a nasty gust and was pushed back a long way by the tide before finding forward momentum and coming home at the back again.

Day Three - Sunday

Another new wind direction added to the variety of racing for the event.

Race eight Nick got another port flyer to get to the shallower less tidal side of the course and led from start to finish (sealing the championship result), followed by Darren, Paul, and Mike, with Ken retiring after a capsize with a stuck kite.

Race nine Darren proved his worth in his fully functional boat taking a bullet followed by Ken and Nick. With Darren back in the race Mike and Paul were left swapping 4th and 5th all day.

Race ten saw Ken lead from start to finish. It was a great Nationals for him at his first ever RS Vareo event and a great result despite teething problems with his extensively bimbled rig (there seemed to be some tool or other in his hand whenever his boat was on the shore). In yet another hot contest for 4th/5th Paul exited his RS Vareo right in front of the committee boat with a perfect back flip after completely missing the toe straps trying to tack and get past Mike.

For the final race Ryan set a one lap two mark course, so the usual mark Y to windward was moved far up the estuary towards East Head followed by a teapot symbol called Peacock - go figure! This then enabled a long run back to finish in time for tea. This proved to be an interesting adventure for the visitors to see the remainder of the club's usual sailing area followed by a great chance for the RS Vareos to stretch their spinnaker legs as suits their design. Ken led to Y and Nick found the best downwind route to take the final win, Darren third, then Paul and Mike.

The five RS Vareos then lined up in formation for a sail past photo op with kites flying and enjoyed a beautiful sunny sail back to Itchenor.

Socially distanced prize-giving and post event analysis then took place on the lawn at the end of a perfect afternoon. In true RS Vareo fleet fashion everyone went home with a piece of Itchenor SC glassware.

Huge thanks to Race Office Ryan, the safety crews and office and catering staff at Itchenor SC who gave us such a great event in very difficult circumstances. Thank you also to our title sponsors Volvo and Noble Marine.

The fleet were so impressed with the club and race management as a whole that we hope to return same time next year, possibly as nationals again, when we hope the regulars who could not make it under this year's circumstances will be able to join us. We also have a new recruit who will be getting an RS Vareo to compete at the club having seen the boats in action.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8R9R10R11Pts
1st162Nicholas CrickmoreWaveney and Oulton Broad1‑21111‑21‑3‑217
2nd & Grand Master128Ken WardSunderland Yacht Club‑41‑2‑3221(RET)21211
3rd & Master443Paul NorthMilton Keynes Sailing Club2‑4‑423‑4434‑5422
4th539Mike DickerDell Quay Sailing Club333‑4‑4334‑54‑523
5th147Darren PriorTudor Sailing Club(DNC)(DNC)(DNC)55(DNC)DNC213325

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