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North Sails and Hartley Boats 2022 Contender Nationals at Brightlingsea Sailing Club

by Ed Presley 8 Jun 17:32 BST 2-5 June 2022

Once again it was with great pleasure the British Contender Association was able to bring together the confluence of wind, tide, organisation, scenery, hand-crafted thrill machines, and of course extreme athletes.

The venue for all of this excellence was Brightlingsea Sailing Club who had really delivered on the logistical front to make the event very easy to like.

40 Contenders on the entry list had been slowly eroded down to 36 due to the full pelt nature of their training regimes, a mix of slow speed bike accidents, swollen knee's and post-holiday excess put paid to some top names, never-the-less! The surviving group looked very pokey from front to back. Arrivals on Wednesday evening before the bank holiday commented on the ease of the journey on a light traffic day, and went on to enjoy catching up and speculating wildly about the races to come.

The first morning proper could not have looked better, 10 knots and glorious sunshine, the Race officer made it clear he had a plan, and we were all to get out there in plenty of time.

On course the good news continued, with the wind light but expected to build the Contenders were able to use a handy Fireball fleet to judge the right line position.

The frenzy of a first start with a slight committee boat end bias provided great entertainment, as too many boats clamoured for the right-hand end, however the smarter option was to start at the pin and get out of the tide to the left side of the course. The small group of clever dicks that started at the pin got to the top mark in the good condition, Gary Langdown had won the Pin (see picture) and nailed the left turn with Graeme Wilcox nearby. Being 1st provided much confusion and additional tacks when it was realised the spreader mark was upwind of the windward mark. Heavy over-stander, David Davies led round closely followed by Gary and marginal over-stander Ed Presley. Gary unrolled his trademark offwind wriggle to take the lead back, with Ed taking second by trying his best to copy. Gary eked out a decent lead of 50 yards by the bottom of the course.

Up the second beat the fleet had remembered the tide and largely went left, but this time overstanding cost as much as it should, allowing Graeme Wilcox to move into second and abandoning Ed and Dave down the pack. Down the run Wilcox started eating into Langdown, when they hit Fireball traffic Gary suffered more at the hand of the backmarker and provided Graeme with an impressive comeback win.

More Breeze for No2, but same/same tide, put plenty of pressure on the pin, but not the result as Langdown again nailed the pin end and led the fleet out to the left in his now traditional move. That man, as yet unnamed, Simon Mussell, flexed his err... muscle in the romp upwind and slowly ground down the best starters to lead, with Gary then Graeme proving that the left still had merit.

These 3 used free pumping to extend away from the pack downwind and it looked sown up, however Gary forged out even further to the left upwind to take the lead back at the top. Again everything appeared to settled downwind until Gary entered a Fracas with a nearby Fireball and pushed really very high indeed! This moved enticed Graeme and the furiously pumping Ed Presley to go high as well, Old Mussell sailed a lower (or some would say normal) path to pass them for the win at the final yards. Wilcox recovered a bit to book 2nd, with crazy low reaching Jones through to take 3rd. Langdown reflected on what might have been.

A classy first day in sun and fair breeze was crowned with many prizes and too much buffet at the club's beach front location. All sailors endeavoured to make those who had chosen not to attend rue their poor decision making on the socials. Rumours of breeze began to spread.

BREEZE! The next day revealed the sun still playing, but with plenty of the fun stuff to utilise. This time the Contenders were to start first due to their Speediness upwind in this sort of thing, circa 18-20 knots.

Again the tidal consideration made the line position choice a bit complex, but in R3 at least the left end, going left, seemed to work ok. Ben Hawks, Gary Langdown and Ed Presley hovered here and took off. The change in breeze allowed Ed to end Gary's dominance at this technique to get furthest ahead, that is until the inevitable noise of an advancing bow splash start to ring in Ed's ear. Simon Mussell had an Ok start, but then unleashed unmatched pace. Simon tacked inside Ed on what would prove to be the lay line, but a bit of overstand reaching allowed Ed to maintain an overlap to round first. These two had a fair gap to the pack lead by Graeme Wilcox, The Highcliffe man made his wave experience count and passed to just lead at the bottom. A close battle upwind ended with a final wind shift at the top handing the advantage back to Simon who then kept it until the end.

Down the fleet all sort of challenging behaviours were shining through. Carl Tagoe made his displeasure clear by deliberately capsizing 5 foot from the finish, I assume it was deliberate, why else would you do that?

The dawn of races 4 and 5 could not halt the dominance of Mr Mussell, in both a conservative start was turn to gold by the windward mark In 4, Ben Holden very nearly took the chocolates by choosing a bold right hand passage on the second beat, he was certainly able to pass Graeme Wilcox (who had chosen the favoured left) into 2nd, but Simon was clearly not having any nonsense said about 1st. Graeme's pain was increased as Ed Presley came back from an average start to make the best of the middle, the tide it seem was starting to become secondary to the increase in wind pressure as it was now blowing dogs off chains.

This theory was tested beautifully as in the next race a slight drop in wind found those on the left back in the hunt Nick noble and Richard Batten finding this evenness much more to their liking as they joined 'guess who' at the top. A lovely downwind pack of pumping brought 6-7 boats together at the leeward mark with most choosing to head right now that it was proven to pay, this turned out to be a huge mistake with both Graeme and Nick madding gains on the left to follow Simon home.

A big day on the water ended with a blast home just long enough to test broken bodies. Ashore the crews were met with ice baths and warm down bikes as is the fashion, ensuring this epic day did not bake in longer term injuries. This transitioned to the less fraudulent concept of beer and BBQ, served by a jovial Queenslander with far too much energy, after spending the day ashore to dislodge a troublesome centre board. God speed John 'Crazy' Mclean.

It would be easy to say that the fleet were ready for more of the same but when the RO warned us that day 3 looked 'too big' there was just a smidgin of relief, and lo, so it transpired. The race team were out checking early doors and stayed true to their word as they canned racing for the day, letting the fleet move to the boat park to repair boats, tinker with settings and heal bodies. The main event of day 3 became the superb Championship dinner, that was shared with the Fireball fleet for food, before retiring to take liquor and listen to the comedy styling's of your journalist, as many spot prizes were handed out for any old reason, but generously provided by Kingfisher ropes, Marston Carlsberg and Essex rigging The final days sailing was hotly expected to turn the current form upside down as light breeze was forecast. The lead 3 of Simon Mussell, Graeme Wilcox and Ed Presley would not be safe without considerable skill at the other end of the scale, especially with light wind gods Gary Langdown and Stuart Jones lurking in 4th or 5th.

The ghost of the dominant left took many of the fleet to assume that it would pay, but a very slimline Chris Boshier knew the right had much to offer, it must be his very tidal home club experience. Chris rounded first with Dave Davies, Stuart jones with Adrian Smith in sequence behind. There was place changing going on downhill but another trip to the right for Chris 'Essex Rigging' Boshier cemented his lead once more and delivered a useful bullet. Jones helped himself to 2nd with Adrian 3rd. In other news Simon and Graeme had begun a slow match race, as Graeme attempted to ensure Simon had some big numbers to go with his 4 firsts, it worked quite well as Graeme came in 10th with Simon 12th.

Race 2 became mega light, Mr Boshier did it all again to lead, but this time with Mr S Jones of Bracknell much closer, Nick Curry won the battle of the right to come around in third and these 3 held solid in almost no wind, no easy feat. It couldn't be a National's with at least one Jones victory (actually it often and consistently can), so Chris very kindly let the elder statesman past for the win. A move of such grace that Chris celebrated by headbutting the tower and lost a few teeth, anything to save weight.

A 6th for Graeme gave him enough of a buffer that as long as he did not completely collapse in the last race he would take the title. As it was a very skewed beat meant that those who tacked early at the pin would cruise to the windward mark on port, or at least they would have, for some reason only known to himself, Richard Batten tried a big windward roundup to push the boats above him and gain some space, a logical move, unless you do it several times along the line and then finally take yourself and multiple others over the line on the last attempt, a well thought out, aggressive and totally pointless move.

Graeme Wilcox saw through all of this nonsense and crossed the line on port in a gap further up the line, rounding first except for those OCS'ers. He looked nailed on for a glory lap to the finish, this was only slightly ruined by Nick Noble who picked the second beat perfectly and stayed solid on the last run to take the win, Graeme's second and Stuart Jones third were enough to confirm 1st and 2nd in the series. Simon Mussell picked up a 5th to ensure his perfect 2nd day did not go without reward as he claimed 3rd spot overall.

Congratulations to Graeme, his consistency across the range proved how deserving he is of the title, time to unleash him onto the international fleet to see how he fairs.

The results show many weight ranges in the top ten and this year the boats are a mix up once again, with 1 epoxy Kraus, 3 Hartley's, 5 wood Bonezzi's and most notable, a 20 year old Vinylester hull built by Bob's boat shop taking the win and proving how competitive boats of this vintage still are.

One of the best events in memory will be remembered not only for the great racing and varied conditions but notably for the support of the host club, Brightlingsea, their effort made the merely good into great and the Contender class thanks them for everything they have done.

It is also with huge thanks to our sponsors who had allowed us to provide quality prizes throughout the fleet, Our title sponsor North sails and Hartley boats as well as Kingfisher ropes, Marston-Carslberg and Essex rigging.

The class now look forward to events on the world stage, first for the Europeans at Lake Attersee, Austria in August and then the Worlds in Perth, Western Australia in January.

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

PosSail NoBoat NameHelmFleetCategoryR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8Pts
1695Blue boatGraeme WillcoxGold 12342‑96220
22706 Stuart JonesGoldGrand Master3377‑921326
32420 Simon MussellGold 9111112‑16530
42484Feel the NeedGary LangdownGoldGrand Master244‑2675181151
52708Rebel ScumEd PresleyGold 65238822(OCS)54
61652FundiNick NobleGold 41668319‑24157
72607 Carl TagoeGoldMaster81010‑135612859
82702Essex RiggingChris BoshierSilverMaster & Newcomer1114‑18151212661
92449Red TedRobert SmithGoldMaster‑176131216114769
102383Bit O WetDavid DaviesGoldMaster51215161447(DNC)73
112713 Ben HawkesSilverYouth7‑21519101013973
122315 Ben HoldenGold (DNC)882624102280
132423LauraSimon DoddsBronzeMaster131114111115‑171792
142711LightningDuncan WardBronzeNewcomer1417126151323(OCS)100
152730Extreme WaysAdrian SmithGoldGrand Master199‑24242031412101
16678Willy do itThomas HootonGold 1013169(RET)OCS194106
172263Chi Chi Charli BobbinsRichard BattenSilver 2672354(OCS)8OCS108
18705Pickled DorisJames SpikesleySilver 1815914(DNC)715OCS113
192661Hurry CurryNick CurrySilverGrand Master2420111819(DNC)321116
202733JacquelineNeil FergusonSilverMaster2225222018(OCS)515127
212446 Daniel HollandsBronze 122719172118‑2914128
222751 Richard ButtnerBronzeGrand Master20‑26201013202625134
232729Rabbiting On TooChris HoweSilverMaster162226(RET)DNC162010145
24666DarknessBill HootonSilverGrand Master27182722(DNC)142119148
252747IsabellaTony BrooksSilverMaster2119(RET)DNCDNC251116162
262714Thunderbird 2Martin JonesSilverMaster1523172117(DNC)DNCDNC163
27712Foxy LadyRodger WhiteBronzeGrand Master2524(DNS)DNCDNC23913164
282710ContenderJames DanielsBronzeYouth232825(DNC)DNC172518171
292361 Thomas ColeyBronzeMaster292928252221(OCS)26180
30686I'm AloneNathan McGroryBronzeYouth‑3131292723262820184
31696NO NAMETony CookBronzeGrand Master32302123(DNC)22OCS24187
322490Bad TaidPaul GreenBronzeGrand Master3032(RET)DNCDNC272723209
332718 Peter NobleSilverGrand Master28(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC238
342572StormtrooperPaul RossBronzeMaster(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC245

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