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National 12 Dinghy Shack Series at Royal Harwich Yacht Club

by George Finch 14 Jul 13:24 BST 10-11 July 2021

The National 12 fleet were once again welcomed back to the Smugglers' Trophy weekend at Royal Harwich Yacht Club. The Smugglers' Trophy weekend consists of four or five different fleets enjoying racing on the River Orwell, always on two different race areas to keep the race management smooth.

Saturday 10th July

With the forecast for Saturday getting increasingly worse, with constant drizzle, an absence of wind and a mere 14 degrees C air temperature, it was no surprise that the fleet were more enthusiastic about catching up in person again rather than rigging their boats. The Race Officer for the weekend (on the Phantom and N12 course) was ex RHYC Commodore Gordon Sutton. Bravely he suggested that if two races were sailed, he would be a happy man. At this point, the wind was shifting 180 degrees every five minutes and the drizzle was equally as inspiring.

Making use of the RHYC's coffee machine was the most popular activity at this stage but nevertheless Gordon and his team went afloat to search for some stable wind. About two hours later, as lunchtime was calling, Gordon made the call to abandon for the day. You can almost predict what came next - a faint sea breeze, blowing up the river. A surprise since the sun had not turned up yet. However, the tide was ebbing fast, and the RO had made the call. The wind did not last long, and the fleet were glad they had all stayed ashore.

So, what was next for the N12 fleet? A bit of boat tuning, a bit of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding on the Orwell, a walk and - for some - an 8 mile run. The fleet returned from their various activities and spent an evening on the RHYC lawn, enjoying the live music from 'JAG' and making good use of the club bar.

Sunday 11th July

With the decision already made the previous day to cancel the traditional 'Smugglers' Pursuit Race' on the Sunday, so the RO teams could get afloat early, the fleet woke up to beautiful sunshine and a mirror finish on the water, as the tide flooded in. The Dinghy Shack flag on the club's mast begun to flutter with the first hints of a sea breeze and the local N12 sailors within the fleet knew, racing would be on.

The fleet rigged up and headed off to the race area, located in the Potter Reach area of the River Orwell, in between RHYC and Pin Mill.

Race 1 was to be a simple and pleasant windward-leeward course, three laps. Breeze was from the East / South East, against the tide. With the tide holding the fleet back, there was a clean start. Chris and Nicole Mayhew in N3437 showed how to do it and rounded the windward mark first. Close on their tail was Ian and Alex Gore in N3525, the first time sailing their N12 since March 2020. The wind started to decrease as the fleet headed downwind.

On the second beat, there were a lot of holes that could be sailed into. A lot of tide to sail into. A lot of seaweed had appeared, also available to sail into!

All N12s were sailing fast on this beat, at times. When they were not, it was because of the wind, tide or seaweed. No one could conquer all three. At one point, George and Lucy Finch, sailing N3551 who had headed very right looked to get the jackpot and come out in front. Of course, if it looks too good to be true it probably is, and it was. Adam Fuller and Saffron Hill, sailing N3341, (at their first N12 event) sailed from last to fifth on this beat, showing some excellent sailing knowledge. Pete Miatt and Jack Gore in N3528 were unfortunate to make a few places on the beat but then park on the windward mark, which wasn't quick.

Graham Camm, sailing N3529 with local RHYC crew Danny Blackburn, their first time sailing together and Danny's second N12 race sailed very well to take the bullet, followed by Ian and Alex Gore (N3525), and Chris and Nicole Mayhew (N3437) in third.

For Race 2, RO Gordon set a four lap Olympic course. The fleet started clean. Again it was Chris and Nicole Mayhew (N3437) who rounded first. Cameron Harris and Aaron Woolf, sailing N3513 showed some excellent speed to round in third. Not bad for their first outing, having arranged to borrow George and Lucy Finch's spare boat on Friday. Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn in N3529 sailed low on the first reach, George and Lucy Finch in N3551 sailed high. Both strategies worked as both sailed past Tom Lee and Jennifer Bugge (N3545) and Cameron Harris and Aaron Woolf (N3513). Always better when your old boat is behind your new one on the course, George and Lucy thought.

At this stage, Ian and Alex Gore (N3525) had overhauled Chris and Nicole Mayhew (N3437) to lead, a position they held to the end. On the second beat, Steve LeGrys and Sabrina Ireland (N3432) used their local tidal knowledge to sail into fifth and then apply pressure to those ahead. Ian and Alex (N3525) took the win, with Chris and Nicole Mayhew (N3437) in second. A lucky shift almost placed George and Lucy Finch (N3551) on the podium, but Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn (N3529) just nipped ahead and took third place.

For the third race of the day, the course remained as a triangle-sausage. With the sailors now in tune with the wind, seaweed and decreasing tide, it was another clear start off the line. Tom Lee and Jennifer Bugge (N3545) went right, tacking into clear air and that worked well. Ian and Alex Gore (N3525) rounded first, followed by Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn (N3529), with Tom and Jennifer (N3545) in third.

An exciting reach across the top of the course for leg two saw Adam Fuller and Saffron Hill (N3341) doing turns, George and Lucy Finch (N3551) overtaking their other boat (N3513, sailed by Cameron Harris and Aaron) and Pete Miatt and Jack Gore (N3528) enjoying sailing in the top five. The positions were held for the second leg, with a shifting breeze turning the leg almost dead downwind.

For the second beat, going left seemed to pay, even though the tide was slack by now. Pete Miatt and Jack Gore (N3528) seemed to lose out a bit on this leg, with Steve LeGrys (crewed by Sabrina Ireland) in N3432 sailing through to sixth place. Again, Ian and Alex Gore (N3525) took the win, with Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn (N3529) in second. Tom Lee and Jennifer Bugge (N3545) sailed their best race of the weekend and finished third.

The fourth and final race of the open was to be a windward-leeward course with three laps. No problem, the fleet thought, as Gordon the RO would shorten to just two laps like the previous races. He didn't. Nevertheless, with the tide now ebbing, at least one of the fleet was over, and no-one was quite sure who it was. The wind was a bit more stable and those in clean air did well.

George and Lucy Finch (N3551) looked to approach the windward mark first, although Ian and Alex Gore (N3525) just closed them out and rounded first. Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn (N3529) didn't attack from underneath, where they probably could have done and rounded third. Cameron Harris and Aaron Woolf (N3513) rounded fourth.

George and Lucy Finch (N3551) gybed off to the left early, into more breeze but also a bit more tide. Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn (N3529) went right. Ian and Alex Gore (N3525) were in the middle, but ahead. Neither strategy had any great advantage, Ian and Alex held their position and both George & Lucy and Graham & Danny came back together for the leeward mark rounding.

On the second beat, the wind was offering the occasional lift, although with that came less pressure. Ian and Alex Gore (N3525) played it safe up the middle. George and Lucy Finch (N3551) went left, Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn (N3529) went right. Ian and Alex Gore (N3525) nearly fell victim to a brutal sudden header, although excellent crew work from Alex kept their boat upright. They carried on and rounded the windward mark ahead. Graham and Danny (N3529) rounded in second, just a few boat lengths ahead of George and Lucy (N3551). Chris and Nicole Mayhew (N3437) recovered well on this beat, sailing through the fleet into fourth.

There were no place changes at the front downwind and progress was slow against the tide. One positive was the seaweed seemed to have disappeared temporarily, moving into the main channel where the tide is strongest. With no shortened course flag flying, the fleet continued for the third and final lap.

The top three remained in their positions for this lap, but there was a lot of close racing for the boats behind. At one point Cameron Harris and Aaron Woolf (N3513) overhauled Chris and Nicole Mayhew (N3437). Just behind there was a three-way battle which saw Steve Le Grys and Sabrina Ireland (N3432), Pete Miatt and Jack Gore (N3528) and Tom Lee and Jennifer Bugge (N3545) all swap places on the final run.

As soon as Ian & Alex Gore (N3525) rounded the leeward mark, the tide and gentle breeze ensured they would win their third race of the day and therefore the open meeting. Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn (N3529) were second again, and George and Lucy Finch (N3551) completed the podium with a well-earned third place in the final race.

It was clear Ian and Alex Gore (N3525) had won. Graham Camm and Danny Blackburn (N3529) would be second. Third place onwards was not so clear, so the fleet headed back to shore to enjoy some of the excellent food and drink on offer from the RHYC, whilst soaking up the summer sunshine on the club lawn.

Thanks to Dinghy Shack for the excellent prizes which were spread across the fleet. www.flickr.com/photos/pavelkricka/albums/72157719519959013">There are some excellent photos taken by Pavel Kricka.

Next the fleet head on holiday, either to the North Norfolk Coast for North West Norfolk Week, or to Salcombe for the Salcombe Gin SYC Regatta, before coming together again for our National Championships at Shoreham Sailing Club on 27th-30th August.

Overall Results:

PosBoatSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4Pts
1stMog3525Ian GoreAlex GoreUp River Yacht Club‑21113
2ndCat In The Hat3529Graham CammDanny BlackburnBurghfield Sailing Club1‑3225
3rdWorth It's Weight...3437Chris MayhewNicole MayhewRoyal Harwich Yacht Club32‑449
4thOver The Rainbow3551George FinchLucy FinchRoyal Harwich Yacht Club‑645312
5thA Wood and a Sheep3545Tom LeeJennifer BuggeBurghfield Sailing Club463(OCS)13
6thCrazy Jayne3432Steve Le GrysSabrina IrelandRoyal Harwich Yacht Club‑856617
7thGuns 'n' Roses3341Adam FullerSaffron HillOrwell Yacht Club5‑97820
8thBlue Kangaroo3528Peter MiattJack GoreCarsington Sailing Club77‑8721
9thSilver Lining3513Cameron HarrisAaron WoolfOrwell Yacht Club‑989522
10thWhitebait3544Tom StewartIsobel StewartRoyal Harwich Yacht Club(DNC)DNCDNCDNC36
10thAtomic Kitten3540Jon IbbotsonRachel SmithBurghfield Sailing Club(DNC)DNCDNCDNC36

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