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Challenger Open at Burghfield Sailing Club

by Marion Edwards 8 May 20:02 BST 6-7 May 2022
Burghfield Challenger Open 2022 © Marion Edwards

It was almost exactly three years since the Challengers' last visit to Burghfield Sailing Club and everyone agreed it was good to be back. Last to arrive on Friday was Graham Hall (270) who had made a quick pit stop at P&B in Northampton to collect a new sail... not for him but for Alex Hovden who was going to be racing his newly acquired Challenger (304) on Saturday. However, with help from Burghfield Sailability, Graham's boat was soon ready for racing.

After a brief briefing: it's a trapezoidal course with the yellow pillar buoys left to port and you all know where the shallows are don't you? (yes, all the sailors had raced here before) six sailors (three local and three visiting) were launched into a nice F3/F4 westerly(ish) breeze.

Race 1 was nip and tuck between Val Millward (312), John Draper (277) and Graham until the last windward mark when Graham got round it cleanly and Val and John didn't (the windward mark caused problems all day). Graham got away to lead to the finish. Val was not happy "how did he get so far in front when I only made one mistake?". John held second place to the leeward mark when Val claimed an inside overlap, sheeted in quickly and got ahead of him to take second leaving John third.

Unfortunately Martin Stone (255) had to retire when his rudder came off. He and the shore crew were left wondering how a spring clip had come to look like that? Fortunately it was nothing that couldn't be fixed with a multitool.

As Neil Bartlett and Murray Palmer (sole representatives in the Bronze fleet and quietly confident of a first place!) returned to shore an errant mainsheet removed Murray's hat... not just any old hat, his favourite Swiss hat... The safety boat searched diligently but it had sunk without trace.

After lunch the fleet set out for a further two back to back races. While in both races there was much changing of places they had identical outcomes with Val relegating Graham to second place and John (Mr Consistent) in third. Martin got the better of Michelle followed by Neil and Murray. Graham explained his problems in race 2 with "I couldn't see where I was going, I had a fly in my ear"!

The fleet returned to shore and enjoyed tea and cakes in the clubhouse (many thanks to Burghfield Sailability). At the end of the day Val had a slender one point lead over Graham with John in third. The Silver fleet was led by Michelle with Martin in second. Unfortunately Michelle had a wedding to attend on Saturday but we were left with the feeling that she would have preferred to continue racing. Neil and Murray led the Bronze fleet!

Saturday morning was a little fraught for some sailors. Those coming from Oxford struggled with an unannounced closure on the A34. John's car decided to sulk but quick thinking led to a switch to the motorhome. The fleet assembled more or less on time.

Although we had lost Michelle, we had gained Alex who was keen to try out his new boat and also Ben Foulsham (272) from Oxford Sailability who was competing in his very first Challenger regatta. There was an even briefer briefing for the new sailors.

The wind was slightly lighter and had shifted more north westerly so the course was relaid but the windward mark remained tricky, as Graham discovered to his cost in race 4 when on the first lap he eventually rounded it in fourth. He managed to overhaul Martin but, despite numerous attempts, he couldn't get passed John (who now had a result that wasn't third!). Val was well ahead.

Race 5 saw Alex take the lead on the first lap (the new boat was going well) but he was overtaken by Graham at the gybe mark and was then picked off by Val and John. Having completed five of the six races Neil and Murray decided enough was enough and retired.

The wind had gradually move round more to the north so the windward mark needed relaying for the final race (but still remained difficult). Val had one hand on the trophy but Graham had an outside chance if he could win the last race. Again it was nip and tuck between them throughout. The outcome only become clear when Val rounded the final leeward mark, tacked and got a gust to the finish whereas Graham tacked a little later and missed out.

However, the real achiever in the last race was Ben. In the first two races of the day he was sixth between Martin and Neil and Murray but in the last race he managed to get passed Martin to take fifth!

So overall winner and winner of the gold fleet was Val, with Graham and John second and third respectively. Martin won the Silver fleet and, as expected, Neil and Murray the Bronze. All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable event.

Thanks are due to the race officer Andy Leigh and his team, and to all the volunteers from Burghfield Sailability (particularly the cake bakers). At the prize-giving it emerged that David Martin had had a knee replaced a mere five weeks earlier so we are incredibly grateful that he and Pat felt able to organise and run the event for us.

Overall Results:

PosHelmCrewSail NoClubFleetR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1stVal Millward 312Rutland Sailing ClubGold‑2111216
2ndGraham Hall 270Rutland Sailing ClubGold122‑3128
3rdJohn Draper 277Burghfield SailabilityGold‑33323314
4thMartin Stone 255Burghfield SailabilitySilver(RET)4455624
5thAlex Hovden 304Papercourt Sailing ClubGold(DNC)DNCDNC44430
6thNeil BartlettMurray Palmer188Oxford SailabilityBronze56677(DNC)31
7thMichele Winch 279Burghfield SailabilitySilver455(DNC)DNCDNC32
8thBen Foulsham 272Oxford SailabilitySilver(DNC)DNCDNC66535

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