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Harken 16mm Cheek Block - 416
Harken 16mm Cheek Block - 416

Superspars/Harken Solo National Championship at South Caernarvonshire Yacht Club - Overall

by Will Loy 22 Jul 13:34 BST 16-19 July 2022
Day 4 of the Solo Nationals at Abersoch © Will Loy

HD Sails / Harken Race Day

So we reached the final day of the Championship, only four races had been possible due to the effects of global warming to North Wales and it was not looking good out in the bay on this humid, overcast morning. Moored yachts stood motionless, looking like upturned lollypops sitting upon a glass table and the beach, even at 9 a.m. was filling up like a petrol station with a fuel sale.

Some competitors, conscious that any delay would compromise removal of their Solo from the beach, elected to pack up early, the 1.20 p.m. high tide giving a deadline of maybe 2 hours maximum with a kicker that the beach patrol had already banned access to cars and trailers.

The club was full with denial, anger, pessimism, acceptance and a little optimism, even the locals were bamboozled as to what the heck was going to happen. Sailors shuffled around aimlessly, mobile phones in hand, all online to Met Office, Windguru or XC Weather, none of which agreed with the other.

I perched high on my toes straining to find even a glimmer of hope with which to announce to the gathered crowd. It was then a bit disappointing when some bod on the floor above me pointed toward the south and, like the whale spotter on 'Pequod' pronounced we were saved.

The class flag flicked into life like it had just been subjected to a flypast by Maverick and with the AP removed, the fleet were set to launch. I hastily closed down my Macbook Pro which I had booted up with the intention of formulating a final day paragraph but that ship had sailed so I hastily closed it down, the processor easily handling my surprising demand.

I kitted up, with the last second inclusion of my breathable Gill sailing overall and headed towards the gate launch which was moored beneath the clubhouse. Bear Grylls lives on the nearby Island and I would have been ashamed if I had not been prepared.

On my short journey I bumped into one of the competitors, Rob Gardiner as he stepped into the water in his swimming shorts. One of those who chose to pack up early, Rob was instead soothing the fire which had raged since his decision with Shane MaCarthy to try one of the hottest sauces known to man the previous evening. Even as I stepped aboard, the breeze was increasing at an alarming rate, the crackle of ODL fibres echoing along the shore and announcing its arrival. Rob eased into the water, his tortured expression turning to relief as the water around his waist bubbled and steamed.

Once aboard the launch we motored out but not before being hit by a recorded 40 knot gust which must have been hiding somewhere in Cardigan Bay, it also annihilated a few who had launched early. Sal Erskine Furness was one casualty, capsizing near a moored catamaran and hanging on to it while the mistral passed by, her mast was not so lucky. Ashore there was drama too, Chris Brown was attacked by a paddle board but he still managed to adhere a CB Coverstore sticker on it before resuming his task of holding his Solo down.

Approximately 15 minutes later the wind abated to a steady 24 knots and the fleet made their way to the arena, planing down some sizeable waves in the process.

Race 5 - 20-24 knots - 170 degrees

PRO Malcolm Blackburn was keen to get things under way and with a final start time of 3 p.m, getting three races in would be a big ask. With the gate opened, pathfinder Mark Fuller powered upwind on port with Solos blasting towards him and on the brink of control. The Guard boat was doing its job but I took up a more conservative position on the port side of the gate launch, mainly to reduce the splash back which would have annihilated my Nikon P950. I visualised the waterproof camera cover which sat dry and warm in my Volvo V70, which incidentally was still not talking to me following my 4 night session with the Air B+B whore.

The fleet powered up the 0.6 beat, Davenport quickly taking control of the race, his leverage,/weight ratio in perfect harmony with his rig which was pulled tighter than Dave Lucas's rash vest. Martin Honnor, who had started the day 3rd overall had capsized before the start so had no problem accessing his aggressive side up the lumpy beat.

So, Davenport rounds mark 1 from Jamie Morgan, Fergus Barnham and Andy Davis who was sporting the NSCA transom cam.

Incidentally, Race Day 4 was sponsored by HD Sails and the competitors had all received a really slick HD Sails ODL wallet in which to store their certificate and any other important documents so huge thanks to Taxi.

Alex Alcock, Richard Lovering and event leader Tom Gillard followed as the brutality of the conditions continued to batter the sailors. the run inflicted some damage to sailors dreams of winning a championship race, Dave Winder tested the tensile strength of his foam filled centreboard while the pathfinder ditching it in at the leeward mark.

By the top of lap 2 Davenport had eked out a 25 yard lead from Davis and Lovering. Barnham, Brown and Alcock quickly following. Steve Cockerill, Hopwood, Birkin Walls and Gillard were next around, the reaches would be exciting but not so pivotal as there was still a third lap to complete.

Davenport and Davis extended and engaged in a battle of strength, skill and determination while I did the same in the jury RIB, trying to remain balanced and aboard. Lovering held third with Barnham and Alcock extending on Brown and Cockerill seventh.

The final beat saw little change, the final drama was on the last run, Gillard suffered a rule 42 penalty before finishing ninth.

This could have been a pivotal moment but with the wind dropping to virtually nothing, would a sixth race even be sailed. Weather systems rolled through, accompanied by a bolt of lightening, thunder clap and monsoon style rain. And then it was sunny again.

With a minimum wind pressure reading of 5 mph, the PRO got the fleet into a final start sequence and with Hoppy as pathfinder, anything could happen.

Race 6

Pathfinder Ian Hopwood expertly lined up with 30 seconds to go and with the entire fleet and world watching, cocked it up a treat. Too early, too soon and now in irons, Hoppy had to bail, gybe and harden up before crossing the line 5 seconds late. Fortunately the fleet were at least 50 yards away and so, with the wind dropping all the time, the competitors filed through the gate start. Just over 4 minutes later the race was binned, but not before Steve Ede suffered a rule 42 for something or other.

5 minutes later the PRO called it a day and sent the fleet home.

So, with 5 races sailed and one discard, Tom Gillard is the 2022 Solo National Champion with a scoreline of 7-4-1-1-9. Steve Cockerill is once again second overall with Richard Lovering third.

Thanks to all our sponsors, Superspars, Harken, Winder Boats, Customised Composites, P&B, HD Sails and Goat Marine who made this Championship so special. Thanks to South Caernarvonshire Yacht Club for the warm welcome and Malcolm Blackburn and team for the excellent race management.

All our category winners are listed in the results, congratulations to them.

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

Results can be found on the SCYC website here... (there is a problem with these which may mean that races 2 & 4 aren't showing)

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