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North Sails Contender UK National Championships at Plymouth

by Ed Presley 13 Sep 2021 09:14 BST 3-6 September 2021

With the enforced two year wait for a UK nationals and the promise of a venue featuring within the Sail GP, the clamour for this year's Contender nationals was only tempered by the number of other big events occurring simultaneously. Still, 40 god-like specimens arrived ready to joust both inside and outside of Plymouth's famous Sound.

A mixture of the Plymouth youth sailing association and the Mount Batten centre had us ably covered for all possible needs, both on and off the water. With that stuff taken care of, the focus shifted toward the conditions, and therefore the rapidly changing odds. With a forecast of 2 days in medium breeze and then 2 days in light breeze, the expectation centred on those with less winter coat in reserve or those who can handle multiple conditions.

Graeme Wilcox seemed the obvious bet, as a continuing improvement in results and a great light wind nose would seem to provide the equinox of all promise. Another with form in multiple conditions would be that old rogue Stuart Jones, who doesn't seem to suffer in any type of breeze. Outside of the obvious choices comes along dinghy class Cuckoo Sam Barker, who not only can and does sail anything well, and is possibly the lightest in the fleet, but is benefiting by sailing a borrowed boat optimised for a standard sized Contender body. If the breeze turned out to be light this might make a difference.

With a sunny first day to be held inside the sound the breeze came in slightly under forecast at 8-10 knots, just on the cusp of trapezable for some, and perfect for others, but the constant flux in pressure and direction around the course would make this one for the thinking sailor, which is a real shame because we don't have any. Closest to this was Sam Barker who was able to make a golden start to lead with Graeme Wilcox and Gary Langdown firmly lodged behind, Sam fell back but returned on the final lap with superior speed as he snuck past giving him a race win in his first ever Contender race! Just rude.

"New Graham" Graeme Wilcox was able to make up for this insult in the next race showing his class in going left early and making it stick, Stuart Jones tacked around behind him but was unable to make a dent in his lead, these two were well ahead of the next man Richard Franks who had a pleasant race unfettered by other boats until the last reach when Rob Smith Finally decide to make a move, but it was too late.

After two tricky races in swinging breeze the fleet were relieved to get to shore to bask in the sunshine and consume the boat park free beers supplied by Bluewood interiors. Tales of great heroics from the day becoming further enhanced as the beer pile reduced. An evening buffet and prizes encouraged further socialising in the customary Contender manner.

"Outside the sound for three races" was the advice of the RO Keith Kendall for Day 2, this instruction was plainly supported by the fleet and apart from slightly misjudging the travelling time for the first start, were mad keen to go again in similar 9-11 Knot conditions, but this time with the twists dampened by the open sea setting, or so we thought.

The line bias in the first race of the day fooled many into a trip to the right, but even glancing in that direction would cost places. The early winners all came form the left with some large gaps opening up. Richard Franks improved on his form to lead early and not be disturbed even with Graeme Wilcox hot on his tail, in lightening breeze Mike Murley fought of several packs to take the final podium spot, but this race was notable for the amount of big numbers some of the favourites had banked. The trickiness, it seems had returned. Gary Langdown had borrowed a mast for the event after breaking his recently, sadly the borrowed one let go of it's kicker attachment, effectively ending Gary's day and taking out one of the main players.

Race 2 again was a bit lefty, but still the right could do stuff, with those on the unfavoured pin finding better breeze and handy knock 200m after the line, Dave Davies had had some bad luck until this point, but now decided to turn it on, leading until politely giving way to port tackers on the run whist fully protected by the law, that gave Stuart Jones enough to get past, these two looked safe but as the breeze faltered again Sam Barker made gains to frighten the two leaders into action.

The final action of the day had a spot more breeze off the line with Ed Presley able to get out well and use the right of middle to challenge what was now a fairly large port tack brigade. Ed Rounded first with Graeme Wilcox in second as the breeze started to do its disappearing act. Graeme managed to get past downwind and they were joined by Sam Barker and Iain Horlock to schlep back up wind. Once again Ed led and was able to defend until the final reaches where Sam used pure boatspeed to get past into the win.

Even more so at the end of this day the fleet were pleased to back on land, slightly sunburned and exhausted, to enjoy The Essex Rigging boatpark beer and crisps, using Simon Mussell's Bonezzi as the bar.

The following day lived up to its rather depressing forecast of less wind and overcast skys, the cloud would shift but the lack of breeze would persist throughout the day making tough work of the races. Heavy airs favourite Martin Jones would pick the hard left route that had slowly diminished the previous day and make it popular again, along with Roger White would round ahead before the course evened itself up once again with a big right shift. Martin led all the way until he decided to finish a lap early, allowing Graeme to come through for the win after disposing of Sam on the run. Gary Made some amends for is poor boat maintenance with a handy third.

This pattern of the leader heading for the line early repeated itself in the next race after Rob Smith had again made gains on the left with the returning hero Stacey bray, only to give away nearly all the distance with that mistake, of course a hovering S.Jones would enjoy that sort mess as he always does, with Rob hanging on for 2nd.

The last race of the day allowed Adrian Smith to make good on his improving pace this year by leading from start to finish, only sweating a bit at the end when holding back speedy Sam Barker. Once again the fleet returned for beer and story telling in the sun thanks to the Noble consultancy, this time slightly less fatigued but more cramped from a day sitting still and crouching. The evening schedule gave into a seriously generous Championship dinner, replete with prizes, speeches and the final days of the Boshier administration, Chris having held the Chair for 10 years finally stepping down to pursue other interests, such as not being the Chairman.

The feeling on last day that nothing was going to happen started at breakfast as the bleary-eyed sailors viewed the mirror like sea state. At the top Sam Barker had gained a slim one-point lead but was keen to go sailing if the wind was going to be light again, just behind him Graeme Wilcox was very eager to get going especially with the hint from the locals that the sea breeze could get up to an F3, but sadly watching the AP flag did not make it boil, or fly, or something.... and Sam did not have to fend of the attack. The RO rightly called the day.

Disappointment to Graeme who has been consistently consistent all year and getting better with every event, unfortunately coming up against Sam Barker, who used his experience in other classes to generate incredible light wind speed, which is no mean feat considering his short time in the Contender, very few people step into the boat and jump straight to the front. The event will be remembered for this tight battle and the great venue and social event that Plymouth provided, both the race management and onshore team had been flawless. The Plymouth youth sailing academy and the Mount Batten centre are to be greatly thanked for their huge effort in making us welcome. The wind was always less than we would like (except Sam) but tight competition was had by all.

The top boats were a mix, as has become standard, with Hartley picking up another win and having 5 boats inside the top ten, joined by 3 wooden Bonezzis and 2 15+ year old Bob Hoare boats showing just how competitive these long lasting yots still are.

Massive thanks also go to our headline sponsors North sails who not only provided fantastic prizes but are now becoming a strong presence in the fleet. Other sponsors also provided support that allowed us to have great socials and hand out lots of gizits, Thanks to Kingfisher ropes, Hartley boats, BDS-UK, Essex Rigging, Noble Consultancy and Bluewood interiors.

The enthusiasm within the class is as high as ever so please make sure to put next year's nationals in your diary, it will be held 2nd-5th June at Brightlingsea SC.

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

PosSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8Pts
1st2713Sam Barker157312‑17221
2nd695Graeme Willcox2126218‑1222
3rd2706Stuart Jones62‑1819121334
4th716Richard Franks831‑18665938
5th2449Rob Smith54‑10101092444
6th678Thomas Hooton4715118‑2931664
7th2383David Davies‑23236257141067
8th2730Adrian Smith19612‑201887171
9th2704Eden Hyland99882117‑231183
10th2708Ed Presley10(BFD)17732811884
11th2511Iain Horlock11125‑27710271587
12th2619Mike Murley‑Hughes14113304‑3121689
13th705James Spikesley121026121311‑321498
14th2747Tony Brooks1814235‑2824420108
15th2484Gary Langdown3835(RET)DNC3165111
16th2618Stacey Bray‑35161441732624113
17th1652Nick Noble13(BFD)4171634297120
18th2661Nick Curry‑2825191512142018123
19th2702Chris Boshier15152492020‑3021124
20th2714Martin Jones30212213‑335928128
21st2607Carl Tagoe221921191118‑2819129
22nd2420Simon Mussell32(BFD)132214131326133
23rd2315Ben Holden20189291516‑3431138
24th2718Peter Noble16271123(DSQ)251917138
25th2423Simon Dodds2613201423‑331527138
26th2710James Daniels242916‑3724261023152
27th2725Peter Snowdon‑3128252419212213152
28th712Rodger White1730343430412‑36161
29th2733Neil Ferguson71731283222‑3725162
30th666Bill Hooton25‑31273126152422170
31st2572Paul Ross292028‑3322232532179
32nd2407Richard Buttner333329212527‑3534202
33rd2523Liz Potter212632163136(RET)DNC203
34th2729Chris Howe27243025293038(DNC)203
35th2446Daniel Hollands342233262735‑3630207
36th696Tony Cook3735(RET)35RET192633226
37th2404John Greenhalgh3634383835‑391829228
38th2490Paul Green‑3832373634383137245
39th2318Alan Mollatt(DNF)36363236373335245

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