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2021 Flying Fifteen South African National Championship at Henley Midmar Yacht Club

by Myles White 28 Jan 11:50 GMT 22-23 January 2022

After several frustrations due to delays brought on largely by Covid, the delayed 2021 SAFFA Nationals were incorporated into the SAS KZN Grand Slam held at Henley Midmar Yacht Club over the weekend of 22 and 23 January 2022. The preceding weekend saw frantic activity at Durban based clubs, Point Yacht Club and Royal Natal Yacht Club as boats were loaded onto road trailers and taken to Midmar. Sadly not all could make it so a few lonely Flying 15's remained in Durban.

Midmar Dam is arguably the best venue for fresh-water sailing in South Africa. The venue is about 15 minutes inland from the city of Pietermaritzburg, and just over an hour from the city of Durban where the Flying Fifteen fleet is based.

News received the day before kick-off was that Craig Deverson had acquired a boat which he would be bringing down from the Vaal for the event. Considering that Mike Coldbeck's super-classic R & G hulled boat was also ready to sail, the reality was that for the first time in a while we were expecting the magical number of 10 boats to be racing. On the Saturday morning however Craig arrived without the boat, a breakage on the trailer prevented her making the trip. Thanks to Mike for making his boat available for Craig and Mel to sail.

Ultimately we had a dam full enough to be flowing over the dam wall and plenty of sunshine with the odd cloud to offer respite from the gamma rays, and a steady Easterly breeze ranging between 8 to 15 knots. In total there were around 62 dinghies sailing — it has been decades since I last saw that many sails on the water together, and there were many, many happy hearts at HMYC as well as on the WhatsApp groups with whom photographs and results were being shared.

On to the business at hand:

Race 1 saw Campbell Alexander and Ralph Thomas take an early lead which they held to the finish without being really challenged, although the rest of the pack was not that far behind. Dave Herridge with his 11 year old son Torben took a safe 2nd place whilst Estelle and myself (Myles) surprised ourselves with a 3rd over the line, uncharacteristically ahead of Patrick Harris and Jeremy Kriek. Gregg Hurter was next with Ian West-Lewis making a welcome return to the F15 fleet, while Stuart Clark and Marek Jansen led the Classics on 'Ffiddler'. Having a tough first race at the back of the cockpit Tim Duguid and his daughter Leah achieved some valuable learning which they put to good use over the remainder of the regatta, but they came in ahead of Dominic and Mark Collett onboard 'Dragonfly,' and then the Deversons.

It has to be stated that both Campbell and myself (Myles) committed ourselves to the left-hand side on the first beat, and for more than half the distance in the light wind it seemed that we had dug ourselves into an extremely deep hole. True to Midmar form though the breeze filled in from the left and we romped into the first mark while the rest of the fleet waited for the breeze on the right-hand side. From then on however the wind stayed steady and true with the shifts becoming easier to read.

Races 2, 3 and 4 saw 'Fullerene' (Campbell & Ralph) together with 'Ffigjam' (Patrick & Jeremy) dominating, with the next 3 places generally being fought over by 'FIT' (Dave & Torben), 'Freyja' (Gregg & Ian) and 'Ffothermucker' (Myles & Estelle).

One of the biggest surprises of the regatta was when the day's results were published — suddenly the fleet was 14 strong and many placings were rather different from what we had experienced on the water. HMYC Commodore Nick Smart explained that the scoring system drew information from the SAS RevSport data base, and wherever sail numbers being used didn't match with what was registered on the data base, conflicting results were derived. This issue was compounded by several boats flying spinnakers where the number on the kite didn't match the number on the mainsail, and with the course dictating downwind finishes the committee boat had no option but to record spinnaker numbers because of mainsail numbers not being visible. After considerable head-scratching we were able to compile a list of the correct finishing positions which was handed to the Race Committee. Corrective action was also taken with the offending spinnakers!

Sunday presented itself as another gorgeous day, and consistent with the forecast, very little wind. The postponement flag was hoisted and the SAFFA AGM took place under one of the boat park Lapas. Unsurprisingly there were no changes to the steering committee, but big credit has to be extended to Campbell for all he has done to tidy up the administration of our Association and get us as up to date as has been possible. Thanks also go to the Herridges for the two new trophies awarded — for top lady and top youth competitors.

Finally the wind filled in from the East again around mid-day and racing got back under way. 'Ffullerene' continued to dominate and led from start to finish, while with just 200 metres to the top mark on the third beat 'Ffothermucker' managed to sneak past 'FIT' and hold on for second. (Dave returned the courtesy in the following race by overtaking us on the run to the finish!)

In races 6 and 7 team 'Ffigjam' got their act together and took two-firsts, but 'Ffullerene' limited the damage by claiming two-seconds. Sadly for Patrick and JK it was too little and too late as the 8th race was called off and the fleet was sent home.

Overall Results:

1 - 3993 - Ffullerene - Campbell/Ralph - 1 1 (4) 1 1 2 2 = 12 - 8pts
2 - 3999 - Ffigjam - Patrick/Jeremy - (4) 2 1 2 4 1 1 = 15 - 11pts
3 - 3867 - Ffothermucker - Myles/Estelle - 3 3 (6) 3 2 4 3 = 24 - 18pts
4 - 4067 - F.I.T. - Dave/Torben - 2 5 3 4 3 3 (DNF) = 30 - 20pts
5 - 3870 - Freyja - Gregg/Ian - (5) 4 2 5 5 5 5 = 31 - 26pts
6 - 3868 - F.F.S.- Tim/Leah - (7) 6 5 7 6 6 4 = 41 - 34pts
7 - 2841 - Ffiddler - Stuart/Marek - 6 (7) 7 6 7 7 6 = 46 - 39pts
8 - 3207 - Dragonfly - Dominic/Mark - (8) 8 8 8 8 8 7 = 55 - 47pts
9 - 3777 - No Name - Craig/Mel - (9) 9 9 9 9 9 8 = 62 - 53pts

Stuart and Marek took the trophy for being the top Classic, while Torben Herridge won the award for the best finishing youth sailor, and Estelle Buys was the top finishing lady. Huge thanks to all for the great sailing and camaraderie, and a standing ovation to HMYC for yet again providing us with a wonderful regatta. Particular accolades to the HMYC ladies who manned the galley at short notice and delivered exceptional food and service. We look forward to sailing our 2022 Nationals over Easter, offshore Durban. Get those repairs done, and don't be shy to replace anything that is looking tired or ragged. The target has to be that we have every boat seaworthy, shipshape and racing over Easter! See you on the water.

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