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Contender Invitational at Weston Sailing Club

by Ed Presley 11 Sep 14:37 BST
Weston Sailing Club © Ben Harris

After a six month enforced layoff (for reasons now too chewed-over to even mention without the risk accidental boredom coma) the Contender class gratefully accepted the call from one of history's fabled Contender strongholds: Weston Sailing Club.

And grateful we were, to the tune of 31 boats, all desperate for the thrill of competition. Weston had clearly pulled out all available stops to create the system required to handle an influx of visitors, and it worked too, with no need to encounter another human in close quarters throughout the event. Not a bad thing if you know anything about the Contender fleet and it's fondness of late night curries.

The event was also monumental beyond the epic efforts of the club to organise it, as this marked the final competition before retirement, of the legend of Keith Paul, the multiple national and international champion of FDs, 505s and Contenders. Keith is well-known in the class for always 'going the right way' which is unsurprising having spent a lifetime at Weston, where sniffing out a shift has to be the key weapon in your quiver.

There was no doubt Mr Paul would be able to use this strength as the wind direction on the day was moving around all over the place, giving the race officer a few headaches in setting an even line, but succeed he did and the first races on Saturday were held in a puffy 8-15 knots.

Race 1 proved that a six month break had the double effect of making the fleet a) very keen, and b) a bit rusty. The starting sequence barely had 30 second to go with some pulling the trigger and having to circle the pin. Others managed to hover effectively enough to keep it legal, with the pin end being the clear preference.

Current travellers leader Simon Mussell (albeit after one event) poured out of the blocks to lead the charge to the left hand side with Nick Noble; all reports insisted that this was going to pay. It did, as anyone throwing in a touch of right on the first beat lost out big. Noble and Mussell led around the windward mark with Rob Hughes and Mark Watts for company. Nick maintained his lead downwind.

It was Mussell who first passed Noble as he fell victim to a large shift on the right hand side. The wind lightened on the second lap, allowing Iain to get past Simon into the lead followed by Rob Smith and Mark Watts.

In the lighter breeze, Iain extended his lead and was not bothered until the finish with Rob smith taking second from Watts in third.

The second race followed in slightly increasing breeze but no less value on a pin end start heading left. Simon Mussell landed the pin and bore off at speed, he decided to tack early and come left leaving Charlie Samson and Ed Presley leading out. Ed tacked inside the lay line which allowed Nick Noble and Graham Wilcox to bang the corner with a fast improving Charlie Samson following suit.

Those going hard left had made the gains and it was Nick Noble who rounded first followed by Graham Wilcox and Charlie Samson. Simon Mussell used his normal speed to recover to forth with Ed Presley just behind.

Downwind Simon and Ed managed to get past Charlie to try to close up to Graham and Nick, whist from behind Rob Smith followed by Stuart Jones had made gains to come into contention. The following work took Rob and then Stuart into the front pack to make it a four-way joust with Nick and Graham. These four had close quarter gybe off down the final run to gain position for the last blatt upwind to the finish.

Nick rounded first with everything pulled tight to ensure he could cross the line with no tack needed. He took the win. Stuart and Rob were next and Stuart decided to not make any effort to point high to cross the line thus holding Rob to ransom in his lee and unable to tack. Rob eventually attempted a tack at the committee boat to clear behind Stuart but sadly for all involved fell out of his boat and floated away - so close.

Stuart crossed the line in second in hysterics as well as the entire committee boat. Graham Wilcox, Ed Presley and Simon Mussell were able to cross the line next whilst Rob regained his composure.

The final race of the day must have been quite testing for all of the unused sailing muscles and the effects of fatigue were to be seen evidenced in the start sequence. Exhibit A was the raft of boats trapped on the pin end as a last second wind shift made crossing the line tricky and made more challenging by a capsized Mick Murley taking up any remaining line space.

Exhibit B was the boom of former world champion Stuart Jones that hooked the forestay of former world champion Keith Paul, dragging Keith into a tack that he was not prepared for and ultimately capsizing him. That is not the way to treat a legend on his final hurrah!

In amongst all of this carnage Ed Presley realised he was not going to make the line, gybed around and hit the line on port with Paul Ross and Ben Hawks to head off on the unfavoured right hand side. The right though now started to pay and did until a perfect shift allowed those on the right to tack and cross the fleet, or at least those who had got out of the pin end in decent shape, namely Graham Wilcox and Richard Franks.

Ed Presley rounded with good lead and reached off in breeze that became unavailable to those just behind, this gave him a substantial gap that was only extended to the end of the race. Behind, Graham Wilcox fended off Richard Franks and David Bate to maintain the early placings.

The fleet had a great and mixed day sailing which was illustrated by a number tired-looking faces on shore, still with some work to do to get back to full sailing fitness. The sailors congregated as far as possible to celebrate the sailing legacy of Keith Paul with commentary and anecdotes about his exploits delivered by Dougal Henshall, concluding the day with a celebratory feel.

Weston SC's heroics continued with a distanced fish and chip meal arranged for the sailors that was well appreciated. We were entertained by a Pilates demonstration by the inflexible and unbalanced Nick Noble; the screams were heard far into the evening.

The second day of sailing began hopeful after a thrilling first day, but as time wore on it became obvious we would be lucky to get sailing in anything more than 2 knots. The sailors adopted the usual boat park holding pattern of fiddling and coffee drinking until the RO put us out of our misery and canned it.

The day 1results were so variable that anyone consistently in the top five could have a chance, as it was Stuart Jones who had caused havoc in the final race somehow cobbled together a score line of 6, 2, 5 for the win; has there ever been a more disappointing set of winning results? Graham Wilcox was second with Iain Horlock in third.

The Contender Fleet thanks Weston SC for the huge effort that went into getting us on the water again and we are already booked in again for next year. Next event for the Contenders is the Torbay Open on 3-4 October.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3Pts
1st2706Stuart JonesDatchet Water SC62513
2nd695Graeme WillcoxNetley SC93214
3rd2511Iain HorlockExe SC17816
4th2618Nicholas NobleCastle Cove511218
5th2708Ed PresleyCastle Cove184123
6th2449Robert SmithCastle Cove261624
7th2710Gary LangdownHighcliffe109625
8th2420Simon MussellHighcliffe451726
9th2709Mark WattsWeston3111327
10th2730Adrian SmithHythe & Saltwood SC713727
11th615David Bate 1610430
12th716Richard FranksRYA1422339
13th2661Nick CurryWeston12122145
14th27Simon HawkesCCSC8152447
15th2729Chris HoweOxford SC19211050
16th2702Chris BoshierThorpe Bay Yacht Club17231151
17th2619Mike MurleyWeston138DNC53
18th2572Paul RossShotley Sailing Club21171553
19th2718Peter Noble 23191456
20th2713Ben HawkesCCSC1114DNC57
21st2746Simon ForbesWeston SC2824961
22nd595Dave AdamsBroadstairs25181861
23rd2496Tony BrooksOxford SC20271966
24th589Keith PaulWeston1520DNC67
25th666Charlie SansomBowmoor SC29162267
26th2725Peter SnowdonShoreham SC22252370
27th2714Martin JonesWilsonian Sailing Club24262575
28th503James DanielsNetley SC30292079
29th2712Willy EckerslikeOSC27282681
30th2639Ralph DrewWeston2630DNC88
31st705James SpikesleyNetley SCDNCDNCDNC96

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