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Welsh Open Challenger Championship 2023 at Llyn Brenig Sailing Club

by Marion Edwards 25 Jul 23:19 BST 22-23 July 2023
Welsh Open Challenger Championship 2023 at Llyn Brenig © Marion Edwards

Despite an unpromising (wet) forecast, six Challengers sailors travelled to Llyn Brenig Sailing Club for the Welsh Open Challenger Championship. They came from as far afield as Surrey in the south and Dumfries in the north.

Arriving at the club on Saturday morning there was a lively buzz as RYA training courses were also taking place. There was drizzle all day, sometimes heavier and sometimes lighter but definitely persistent. The wind was southerly(ish) F4 gusting F5 so the decision was taken for the original ARO (Richard Whitehill) to act as Race Officer and the original Race Officer (Peter Davies) to man an additional safety boat (accompanied by Will).

The day's racing was run from the pontoon with the course set around the club's fixed marks: rounding four to port and one to starboard.

At the start of Race 1 Graham Hall (270) and Duncan Greenhalgh (280) found a hole in the wind in the final two minutes of the start sequence and were last over the line. Val Millward (312) and Alex Hovden (304) hit the line on the gun with Alex closer to the pin. Alex grabbed the lead and led from start to finish with Val second. Stephen Thomas Bate (238) and Lynn Steward (115) resumed the tussle they started at a month earlier at Scaling Dam, Lynn came out on top, Lynn was actually sailing Challenger 300 but the sail was rather tired so Duncan loaned her a much newer Sailability Scotland sail that he happened to have with him.

In Race 2 Graham was first across the line and pointed higher for the windward mark and held the lead to the finish. Alex claimed second. Towards the end of the race Stephen's rudder downhaul snapped and he had the ignominy of a tow home.

The fleet returned to shore for lunch with Alex leading the fleet (for the first time ever in a Challenger event). For the afternoon the wind had dropped slightly but there were still some vicious gusts. The course was modified slightly to give a better run.

Thanks to Duncan's hard work over lunch Stephen's rudder downhaul was replaced. A minor problem with Duncan's sail was solved when Graham was able to provide a suitable bobble. Duncan also borrowed Annie's sailing gloves (his own being left in his car at the far end of the car park when collecting the tools to repair Stephen's boat) these turned out be Val's cast-off pair and they ended up bringing him some luck!

Val made a good start to Race 3 and took the lead but Graham managed to take it off her on the second downwind leg. On the third lap Duncan went hard left on the second beat and emerged as leader at the windward mark. He hoped the race would end at the end of the lap but it did not. Both Graham and Val got passed him on the final lap.

Lynn followed the advice of her shore crew and made a good start to Race 4. Alex led at the windward mark but Graham got him on the next leg. With Alex, Val and Duncan fighting it out together and Lynn snapping at their heels, Graham was able to extend. During the second lap Lynn was close on Alex's tail when the wheels comprehensively came off her challenge and she unfortunately ended up with a DNF. Despite having to do a penalty turn for hitting a mark, Duncan gained his best result so far of second.

As the boats returned shore the rain finally stopped (until that is, the fleet decided to leave the pub after an evening's socialising when it decided to rain... hard).

After four races the discard had kicked in and the overnight standings showed Graham had a clear lead. However, with three races scheduled for Sunday his position was far from secure. Alex and Val were separated on countback with Alex taking second by virtue of his race win.

On Sunday morning it wasn't actually raining(!) and while there was a little drizzle at times the day remained predominantly fine. In addition to the Challengers and RYA courses there was also club racing. Llyn Brenig is more than big enough for all of us.

The wind had moderated slightly (F3 gusting F5) and was more consistently southerly which meant a committee boat start. The course was a figure of eight.

Graham won the start of Race 5 and led throughout the race with Val, Duncan and Alex battling out behind to finish in that order. After finishing, Lynn decided enough was enough and headed to shore but Stephen decided to battle on.

Race 6 should have belonged to Val but the wind gods decreed it was not to be. Coming up to the penultimate mark, and with a substantial lead over Graham, she found her own personal wind vortex and spun to a stop. Graham, seeing Val's predicament, just managed to hold his course and avoid Val's stern, round the mark and sail away. By the time Val was able to extract herself there was no opportunity to regain the lead. She was robbed.

Race 7 saw Val get into her stride and she led from start to finish. Graham had a poor first beat rounding the windward mark in fourth. He ended up trading second place with Duncan but managed to be ahead at the finish.

So all in all an excellent (if rather damp) weekend's sailing. Graham is the 2023 Welsh Challenger Champion with Val second. The last time someone other than these two won the championship was 2002. They should really allow someone else to take the trophy home! While Alex had the better Saturday, Duncan had the better Sunday and he took third place by a single point.

At the prize-giving all six sailors were presented with a miniature Llyn Brenig urn.

Peter Davies has been organising the championship for the last twenty years. Not unreasonably he has decided to retire from the role and next year he intends to race instead. In recognition of his support for the Challengers, Peter was awarded the David Prentice Memorial Trophy and presented with a bottle of whisky from the Challenger Class Association. He was also given the Challenger class flag to mark a significant birthday the following week.

Thanks are also due to the Race Officer, Richard Whitehill (Papercourt SC), and to the volunteers from the club, including Andy (Commodore), Will, Kevin and Selwyn, who manned the safety boats and helped onshore. Also to Paul Oliver for the unique Llyn Brenig urns.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7Pts
1st270Graham HallRutland SC‑31111127
2nd312Val MillwardRutland SC2‑32322112
3rd280Duncan GreenhalghBassenthwaite SC‑443233318
4th304Alex HovdenPapercourt SC12‑4444419
5th238Stephen Thomas BateAnnandale SC6(DNF)5555531
6th115Lynn StewardWISH SC55(DNF)DNF6RETDNC37

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