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Noble Marine 2020 - LEADERBOARD

2021 Contessa 32 National Championship at the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Cowes

by Ben Price 19 Oct 17:54 BST 1-3 October 2021
Contessa 32 Nationals at Cowes © Clive Hughes

After a Covid-truncated Nationals in 2020, there was a palpable frisson of excitement for this year's event with 19 boats entered, a record in recent years.

A strong field included multiple-Nationals-winners Blanco, Merak ll and Drumbeat along with won-many-races-but-never-the-Nationals Andaxi. Also competing was the Rogers' family owned boat, Assent, the smallest boat to survive the 79 Fastnet race.

Within the fleet of fully crewed boats were a trio of double-handed entries, Carinosa, Teela and Colemere, who have enjoyed their own, closely fought battles this year within the Contessa 32 Inshore series along the Solent.

The Contessa 32 is legendary for its seaworthiness and stability and this would be tested in the coming days - even the journeys to the start line proved exciting, with Yarmouth based Concerto seeing 10.8 kts otg as she surfed down some swells under genoa only on the way there.

The host club was RORC and with that, coupled with weather that was forecast to be bracing (or as class owners often sagely observe 'good Contessa conditions') the scene was set for an exciting 3 days of racing.

Race 1 commenced in the central Solent to the east of Bramble Bank, with the Race Officer laying a windward-leward course for 2 laps. With winds never less than 20 kts and higher gusts, coupled with some short steep seas caused by wind over tide, the race set the tone for the weekend. #1 sails were left below with #2 and a reefed main being adopted by most boats though spinnakers were hoisted on the downwind legs by most of the fleet and all the crews had a thorough work out.

Andaxi took the win, followed by Merak ll and Drumbeat.

The Race Officer set Race 2 as an around the cans course in the same area with the wind remaining similar in strength. Several of the legs were set to tempt the crews into putting spinnakers up and some were tempted; as one went up, so others followed by the more adventurous boats in increasingly broach-tastic conditions. Even the hugely experienced Blanco and Drumbeat were seen performing some interesting pirouette manoeuvres though the sea flattened towards the end of the race as the tide turned and the conditions became more forgiving.

Merak ll took the win, followed in by Andaxi and Assent.

The Contessa 32 fleet has a rich history of pontoon parties (the boat is 50 years old this year - a statistic that equates to a great deal of gin in real terms) and this Friday night event was to be no exception. Hosted by Wild Thyme under the canopy of Cowes Yacht Haven, the talk was of the challenging conditions of the day and the prospects for significantly deteriorating conditions for the Saturday.

The RO had this very much in mind but set a windward - leward course again for Race 3, albeit several of the boats decided the prospects were a little bit too much and stayed in the Haven for the duration. The racing started with 25 kts gusting over 30 and the driving rain arrived as forecast.

Race 3 was won by Drumbeat followed by Andaxi and Merak ll.

The forecasted strengthening of the wind saw the finely calibrated wind instrument aboard Teela shift from 'Pretty Flipping Windy' to 'Really Very Windy' and the RO agreed, deciding that the fleet had all had enough fun for the day and cancelled further racing as gusts were regularly well over 30 kts and were to top 40 by the end of the afternoon.

Saturday evening saw the fleet invited to the fabulous RORC Clubhouse in Cowes for a wonderful dinner overlooking the Solent, notably last to leave were the crews of the 3 double handed boats, determined to add a hangover to their list of challenges for the final day's racing.

Sunday dawned with similar conditions to Friday and once again the RO set a windward-leward course for Race 4 near the Bramble bank, 3 laps round. Once again the wind built and the enthusiasm for downwind kite flying waned for many of the boats after the first leg, with gusts reaching 30+ kts and goose-winging with poled out genoas being preferred by some.

There was drama on Blanco who had a MOB, with Longay coming to her assistance and ultimately retrieving the crew member who was, aside a soaking, otherwise unharmed.

Andaxi won, followed by Drumbeat then Bugler of Hornet.

With the wind now consistently over 30 kts, the Race Officer cancelled further racing for the day so the 2021 Nationals were over.

Journeys home meant that the excitement wasn't quite over for everyone though, Muscadet de Havelet running back east in front of the wind to Gosport enjoyed some bracing 12 kt + otg surfing under reefed main only. Three of the boats based in the western Solent decided that beating into the wind and waves for several hours sounded less than ideal and stayed in Cowes for the night, though Lymington-based Assent stuck it out and got back on the Sunday evening, somewhat understatedly describing this journey as 'pretty wild'.

Despite a reduced number of races to normal, the regatta was a great success, with boats and their crews in every part of the fleet being thoroughly tested.

Ultimately, Andaxi took their richly deserved first Nationals win, followed by Merak ll and Drumbeat.

In the double handed competition, Teela narrowly beat Carinosa, followed by Colemere.

An excellent competition, competently organised by RORC, to whom praise is due for every aspect of their race management and Clubhouse teams.

Overall Results:
If you finished in the top ten at the Contessa 32 nationals then enter your Gear Guide information here

Pos Sail NoYacht NameSkipperR1R2R3R4Pts2H Pos
1CO701AndaxiMartin & Donna Rouse‑Collen12216 
2CO401Merak IINick Bradley213410 
3CO651DrumbeatMark Himsworth351211 
4GBR5765AssentKit Rogers635519 
5GBR8874Bugler of HornetDarren Ballard764320 
6GBR568GualinRob Duke577827 
7CO682BlancoRay Rouse4481733 
8GBR2958CorafinRobin Holland8912635 
9CO640ConcertoMark Dence10810735 
10CO776NimbusSarah & Charles Hill12129942 
11GBR5500MuscadetBen Price910201251 
12GBR1222Longay IIJustin Biddle202061056 
13GBR5154Wild ThymeAndy Codd1113201458 
14CO711TeelaEllen Catherall20201111621
15CO718CarinosaJo & Keith Sammons20112013642
161370Coh KarekTim Devlin2020131568 
17CO753StarstreakRoger Shinton2014201670 
18GBR590ColomereRob Windsor202020DNF793
19CO671Mary Rose TudorEd & Cate Bell2020202080 

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