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Graduate National Championship at Rutland Sailing Club

by Bob Murrell 27 Jul 11:05 BST 24-25 July 2021

In the current pandemic circumstances, finding a venue for a national championship event presents a number of challenges. The Graduate Champion Secretary, Maggie Murrell, persevered and was delighted to be able to arrange for the Graduates to be included in Rutland Sailing Club's Battle of the Hikers. This was a handicap event of 6 races run over 2 days with single and double handed hiking boats eligible to enter.

12 crews arrived on Saturday morning to brisk conditions despite the more moderate forecast. 3 races were scheduled for Day 1 and following the briefing from the principle race officer the boats gathered in the start area for the first race at the northern end of the reservoir. Due to number of technical difficulties with marks drifting and some crews being very hot for the first start, there were numerous general recalls which finally resulted black flag penalties being awarded to 3 identified crews, unfortunately including Graduate team Chris & Chloe Parker.

After nearly 1 3/4 hours the first race got under way with the crews trying to warm themselves up after the long delay. With the fresh breeze there were plenty of exiting, fast planing reaches around the trapezoid course. Reigning champions John Clementson and Melanie Titmus showed their intent with a win, Fresh Abendstern & Isaac Marsh were a strong second and returning Graduate sailor Tim Hand in his newly acquired G3001 with stand-in crew Meg Warren a creditable third in their first sail together.

The second race was started a soon as possible and thankfully the fleet got cleanly away. The wind if anything had increased which meant that the exhilarating conditions persisted. This time Fresh & Isaac got the better of John & Mel with Bob & Maggie Murrell recording their best result of the weekend in third place.

Due to the earlier delay the third race was postponed until Sunday which meant that John & Mel were the overnight leaders.

Sunday dawned grey and humidly overcast with much lighter winds. With 4 races to fit in back to back the crews stocked up their boat larders and sailed to the race course hoping for clean starts for each race.

The lighter winds made for much more tactical racing which suited Fresh & Isaac's sailing technique and resulting in wins in races 3 and 4 with John & Mel close behind in each one. The teenage team of Hannah Whitham & Ruby Barber excelled in the more benign conditions with 3rd places, Tim & Meg and Bob & Maggie swapping 4th and 5th in race 3 and then 6th and 4th places in race 4.

There was very close racing throughout the fleet and at the start of race 5 there was all to play for. John & Mel needed a win to keep their championship hopes alive but further back there was also strong competition for positions 3 to 5.

Race 5 saw a second win for John & Mel, Fresh & Isaac close on their heels. Hannah & Ruby consolidated their claim to 3rd place overall with Tim & Meg just ahead of Bob & Maggie who rounded off the top 5.

The championship was always going to be a tight contest and it all came down to who prevailed in Race 6 for the championship win. For John & Mel it was a must-win race but Fresh & Isaac could win if anyone else but John & Mel took the gun. This resulted in a little bit of match racing just before the start at the pin end of the line. At the gun Tim & Meg had the best start followed by Fresh & Isaac who had freed themselves from the pre-start manoeuvring. John & Mel initially got stuck behind an RS400 and Bob & Maggie were within touching distance of these crews. With a nice lift on the port side of the course John & Mel recovered to assume the lead and rounded the windward mark first closely followed by Fresh, Tim & Bob in close order. The slow off-wind legs allowed Hannah & Ruby to close up on the leading group by the leeward mark. John & Mel, Fresh & Isaac and Bob & Maggie opted for the starboard side for the second beat whilst Tim & Meg took a flyer on the port side. On reaching the lay line John & Mel tacked on to starboard but Fresh & Isaac opted to split the tacks and held on to port. Bob & Maggie followed John on to starboard to avoid Fresh's lee-bow effect. Hannah & Ruby also opted to carry-on on port to gain height. All the time Tim & Meg were making steady progress on the port side of the course.

John and Bob's course took them near the water tower in the centre of the race course and it seems this must have affected the pressure in this region because Fresh and Hannah gobbled up John's lead, rounding the windward mark ahead with Tim arriving on port immediately behind John. All Bob & Maggie could do was watch this unfolding from their calm patch by the water tower.

With Fresh & Isaac now in a commanding position the championship was within their grasp and they maintained their lead to the line. John & Mel wrestled past Hannah & Ruby to take second place for the race and the championship. Hannah & Ruby showed great maturity with a third place in the race and also overall.

The Graduate fleet had a very enjoyable weekend with mixed conditions and courses giving close and competitive racing.

Overall Results:
If you finished in the top ten at the Graduate nationals then enter your Gear Guide information here

PosHelmCrewSail NoR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1Richard Fresh AbendsternIsaac Marsh30132111216
2John Clementson Melanie Titmus29791222128
3Hannah WhithamRuby Barber300458333418
4Tim HandMeg Warren300134464318
5Bob MurrellMaggie Murrell302043545521
6James Webber Helen Recardo301576976632
7Greg ThomasAbbi Hodge30186578131339
8Simon ForwardMoses Forward28968710118841
9Richard Thorpe Jane Thorpe28731398109743
10Chris ParkerChloe Parker283913136571344
11Hamilton RoafGrace Everitt29011313119131359
12David WilsonSandra Wilson301013131213131364

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