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Challenger English National Championships at Grafham Sailability

by Marion Edwards 14 Jun 2022 11:44 BST 11-12 June 2022
Challenger English National Championships at Grafham © Marcia Carpenter

Thirteen Challengers took part in the English Challenger Championships held during the weekend 11-12 June. The event was organised by Grafham Water Sailability and held at the Grafham Water Centre. There were seven visiting sailors, two of whom were kindly loaned boats by Grafham Water Sailability.

The sun was shining but the wind was blowing. It was predominantly WSWly but with some significant shifts.

Given the wind direction, launching should have been easy but there were some substantial (20+ knot) gusts which made things "interesting". The wind had begun to build before the start of the first race.

In race 1 Nick Bett (261) was hot off the blocks and was first to the windward mark. He was overtaken by Val Millward (312) on the top reach and the pair began to extend from Graham Hall (270) and Alex Hovden (304). Graham decided not to follow Val, Nick and Alex up the second beat and made substantial gains to lead by the second windward mark. A poor tack by Graham at the end of lap 2 allowed Val through and she led to the finish. Graham was second and Nick third.

Dean Abra (289) made a very welcome return to the fleet and sailed a remarkable race under gruelling conditions to come sixth. Neil Bartlett and Murray Palmer (242) came home as the first Bronze fleet boat in seventh though somehow they managed to break their tiller - this is poor etiquette when one has been loaned a boat. Fortunately Grafham Water Sailability's generosity extended to providing them with another boat (which they returned intact on Sunday afternoon).

The fleet returned to shore for lunch. During lunch the wind continued to build and by the time the fleet was due to launch it was gusting 28 knots. The fleet did not launch. During the afternoon people enjoyed the sun, retired to the pub or (in one case) polished their boat.

Thankfully the winds were lighter on Sunday though still with some good F5 gusts. The sun continued to shine. Weather and time permitting, the intention was to complete four races.

The fleet was launched promptly and race 2 soon started. David Driffill (275) was first to the windward mark followed by Nick, who touched it and went off to do his turn, so Graham rounded in second. David led until the second beat when he met Graham coming across on starboard. Graham grabbed the lead and held it to the finish. Nick came through to take second and Val was an uncharacteristic third. In the Silver fleet Pauline Shaw (266) got the better of Dean but despite the lighter conditions Dean was struggling to stay in the boat so he decided to give the next race a miss.

Race 3 saw Val getting into her stride and she led from start to finish. Nick had been keeping up with her but on the second beat his outhaul failed and he retired to make some urgent repairs. This allowed Graham to take second place and Val sailed the final stages of the race conservatively to make sure he could not pass. Margaret Grummitt and Graham Cox (210) in Bronze took an excellent sixth. Sarah Whitelock (264) was seventh sailing her first regatta as a solo sailor and using an electric winch.

The fleet returned to shore for lunch but were soon back on the water to try to complete another two races. Over lunch, Grafham Water Sailability found a pair of "side supports" which are sometimes used by Challenger sailors with poor core stability. These gave Dean much more confidence that he would stay in the boat and he was able to complete both afternoon races.

Race 4 Val got off to a good first beat and extended her lead while the rest of the Gold fleet fought amongst themselves. At the final leeward mark, Alex displayed superior tactical nous and beat Graham to the line by a couple of seconds to take second. After struggling through the race Neil and Murray decided to use the last race as their discard.

Going into the last race, a win for Graham would not be enough as Val would have to be third (or worse) to lose the event. Val soon took charge and although chased hard by Graham, she took the win by about 12 seconds. Alex was unfortunately forced to retire with gear failure and after contemplating a long second beat Sarah too decided to head for home.

So Val retained the Shipwrights Trophy as first overall and she is the 2022 English Challenger champion. Graham was second and Nick third. In the silver fleet Pauline was just two points clear of Dean so was awarded the Anglo Marine Plate. The Bronze fleet was won by newcomer to the fleet Margaret, sailing with Graham Cox. Neil and Murray had to settle for second.

All in all it was an excellent event. At the prize-giving thanks were given to race officers Nigel Denchfield (Saturday) and David Williams (Sunday) and mark layer Naomi Watts - all from Grafham Water Sailing Club. Thanks were also given to Pauline Shaw as regatta organiser, all the Grafham Water Sailability volunteers and the Grafham Water Centre.

Quite by chance, Grafham Water Sailing Club had a professional photographer on the water on Sunday and some of his excellent photographs of the racing can be viewed here.

Overall Results:

The Shipwrights Trophy (1st overall) - Val Millward
Anglo Marine Plate (1st Silver) - Pauline Shaw
Bronze Barometer (1st Bronze) - Margaret Grummitt and Graham Cox
Gail Force Trophy (top Grafham boat) - Pauline Shaw
Judi Figgures Trophy (best Grafham effort) - Sarah Whitelock
John Cranston Trophy (best Grafham non-trophy) - Chris Flowerdew

PosFleetSail NoBoat nameHelm (& crew)ClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1stGold312Legless JesterVal MillwardRutland SC1‑31114
2ndGold270DaisyGraham HallRutland SC212‑327
3rdGold261Last OrdersNick BettRutland SC32(DNF)4312
4thGold275EvelynDavid DriffleOgston SC443‑5415
5thGold304 Alex HovdenPapercourt SC5542(DNF)16
6thSilver266LouisePauline ShawGrafham Water Sailability‑9657523
7thSilver289Elizabeth MayDean AbraIsle of Sheppey SC67(DNC)6625
8thBronze210Dark HorseMargaret Grummitt & Graham CoxGrafham Water Sailability(DNC)968730
9thSilver264Silver Lining IISarah WhitelockGrafham Water Sailability10879(DNF)34
10thBronze242Grafham OdysseyNeal Bartlett & Murray PalmerOxford Sailability710810(DNC)35
11thSilver311JudiChris FlowerdewGrafham Water Sailability8(DNC)DNCDNCDNC50
12thSilver256Gail ForceJohn SimpsonGrafham Water Sailability11.5(DNC)DNCDNCDNC53.5
12thBronze200 Laura Saunderson & Peter SmithGrafham Water Sailability11.5(DNC)DNCDNCDNC53.5

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