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Welsh Open Challenger Championship at Llyn Brenig Sailing Club

by Marion Edwards 20 Jul 2022 05:47 BST 16-17 July 2022
Welsh Open Challenger Championship © Marion Edwards

The Welsh Open Challenger Championship took place during the weekend 16-17 July. The weather forecast was not encouraging with little wind and high temperatures but nevertheless four Challenger sailors gathered at Llyn Brenig Sailing Club. It should have been five but one, regrettably, decided the heat would be too much.

Arriving on Friday afternoon there was a beautiful breeze but this had vanished by Saturday morning. The race officer predicted that the wind would arrive at midday. It did not.

Some of the sailors went on a tour of the reservoir (carefully skirting the exclusion zone around the osprey nest where there were signs of activity). On returning, the race officer declared that racing would commence in the light and variable breeze and set a very small course.

Racing was run from the pontoon which had the advantage that the shore crew could double as (totally untrained) assistant race officers.

At the start of race 1 a wind shift meant the short beat became a fetch and those who started at the starboard end of the line (Duncan Greenhalgh (280) and Graham Hall (270)) were able to reach the windward mark without tacking. Val Millward (312) was uncharacteristically last to the windward mark but by sailing lower and deeper was able to overhaul the fleet on the reach to the wing mark. Duncan rounded the wing mark in second and maintained that position to the finish whereas Graham touched it and had to do a penalty turn leaving him third.

During race 1, the race officer became the mark layer and went off to lay a new windward mark ready for race 2. This caused some consternation among the assistant race officers as the race officer was still the mark layer as Val approached the final leeward mark. Thankfully he returned just in time to supervise the shortened course signal. Duncan was second and Graham third.

Race 2 started promptly with the new windward mark, so the beat promptly turned into a reach. Stephen Thomas Bate (238) was first to the windward mark while Duncan went to the wrong windward mark so was last to the correct one where he managed to hit both it and Val so did his penalty turn. The rest of the lap passed without incident with Stephen holding the lead.

There was a certain amount of chaos (but no damage) at the wing mark of lap 2 where the wind was going every which way and everyone except Val had to do a penalty turn. Val rounded first and took the lead. It was sometime before Duncan, then Graham and finally Stephen managed to extricate themselves. Val was relieved to hear the shortened course signal and took the win. Graham sailed higher and faster than Duncan on the final reach to take second.

Once the boats came off the water a beautiful breeze filled in but there was no chance to consider relaunching for another race as Welsh Water lock the gates to the Llyn Brenig site at 17:45.

So Val was the clear overnight leader, with Graham and Duncan on equal points in second and third respectively. The fleet retired to the pub and conducted a detailed analysis of proceedings.

On Sunday morning the sailors (but not the race officer) were surprised to find a F2-3 southerly(ish) breeze blowing. The decision was made to go out and do three back to back races before it vanished (so naturally it did not!).

The races all had a committee boat start and a finish off the pontoon again allowing the shore crew to double as AROs. The course was trapezoidal.

In race 3 Val crossed the start line first and held the lead in the three lap race until the final five seconds or so when Graham sneaked through to take the win.

At the start of race 4 Val pulled the trigger slightly late allowing Graham to go to windward of her and slow her down even more but Duncan was first to the windward mark. Graham got passed Duncan at the end of the run and managed to hold on to the lead for the rest of the three lap race. Val came through to take second even though Duncan carefully slide down the edge of the pontoon taking the shortest route from the leeward mark to the line.

Going into the last race Graham had to beat Val to win the Championships. It was nip and tuck all the way between Val, Graham and Duncan. At the end of the third lap Val and Graham made the schoolboy error of assuming it would be the finish, even though the shortened course flag was not flying. Both went for the line with Graham crossing first but they soon realised the race officer had decided on a fourth lap. Graham was able to modestly extend his lead to the finish with Duncan pressurising Val for second.

So Graham is the 2022 Welsh Challenger Champion and he got to take his favourite trophy home (the beautiful wooden urn made by the late John Vinnicombe (a former member of the club)). Val came second (just one point behind) and Duncan third. The top three were presented with miniature wooden urns made by Paul Oliver of the club.

Stephen was awarded the David Prentice Memorial Trophy, not for coming last in each race, but for completing all races in a much older Anglo Marine boat weighing 20kg or so more than the White Formula racing machines and not blaming his boat once!

All in all it was an excellent event. At the prize-giving thanks were given to Peter Davies the event organiser, race officer and, when required, mark layer; Selwyn Jones the safety boat driver and Paul Oliver for the urns.

As a wonderful coda, while the fleet where packing up their Challengers for the journey home and the temperature was rising, the race officer distributed ice creams to sailors and shore crew - they were most gratefully received.

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1stGraham Hall270Rutland Sailing Club‑321115
2ndVal Millward312Rutland Sailing Club11‑2226
3rdDuncan Greenhalgh280Bassenthwaite Sailing Club2‑333311
4thStephen Thomas Bate238Annandale Sailing Club‑4444416

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