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Noble Marine Rooster RS400 National Championships - Overall Report

by Matthew Sheahan 14 Aug 2023 11:42 BST 31 July - 4 August 2023

In an ideal world a national championship would consist of the widest spread of conditions in which to establish the very best. The 2023 RS400 Noble Marine Rooster National Championships in Mounts Bay delivered just that with a full range of conditions throughout the week from one end of the weather spectrum to the other.

Aside from tackling the conditions, achieving consistency throughout the week in one of the most competitive line ups that the class has seen was an achievement in itself and made for some very worthy winners.

The five-day event started with a light and shifty breeze that was as taxing for the race officer as it was for the 69 crews that were trying to figure out the best way to keep the boat moving in sub 10knot winds and a very awkward sea state. In fact, the challenge had started for many even earlier as they tried to remember how to get the best out of a gate start. This proved tricky for some.

The second day's racing was made slightly easier as the breeze was up a few knots and steadier in direction. But the waves were still a big challenge as an offshore swell from one direction continued to mix with a chop set up by the breeze that had shifted significantly. And while there were wind shifts to be worked, maintaining boat speed continued to be the main focus for all.

With the prospect of losing day three to a gale that was due to sweep through Cornwall the race committee made the decision to run three races on the second and fourth days to make up for the for the lost day.

So, after two days of racing there were five sets of results on the score sheet which provided some early clues as to how the Nationals might pan out, starting with an indication of just how tightly fought this event looked set to be.

In four races there had been four different winners, Chris Eames and Rachel Tilley (1528) took the first win, Edd Whitehead and Ben Whaley (1541) took race two, Ollie Groves and Esther Parkhurst (1526) were winners of the third with Roger Gilbert and Keith Bedborough (1533) taking the fourth win.

It wasn't until the fifth race that one of the top teams managed to replicate their early success. Here it was Groves and Parkhurst that managed to deliver a second bullet in the fifth race.

While this was taken by some as a hint of what might be in store the reality was that all that the fleet actually knew was once the gale had swept through, the weather forecast once racing resumed looked set to provide some punchy conditions.

And as the fleet set out on the third day of racing the full-on foam-up sleigh ride out to the start provided confirmation of just that, Big Thursday had arrived. But as it played out there was more to come.

For some just getting to the start involved a swim. Interestingly, the reasons for dropping the ball were varied from admissions of simply being out of practice, to being distracted by dolphins to such an extent that they had ended up joining them. For others, just waiting for the start resulted in a dunking too.

When it came to the gate start in a breeze that was gusting into the mid-twenties, getting across the line cleanly was a challenge too.

For those that did, settling down into a long hard beat set the tone for the rest of the day. Such were the punchy conditions upwind in the asymmetric sea state that tacking onto port to drain the boat was a popular tactic.

Once again, the top of the leader board was a mix of results as Whitehead and Whaley took the win in race six, Groves and Parkhurst took the bullet in race 7 and Gilbert and Bedborough won race 8, the final race of the day.

By this stage the breeze had pushed up into 25-30knots and had taken its toll on the fleet with plenty calling it a day at two races. But for those that stayed out for the full set, the downwind rides were epic.

With another spread of winners, the score board going into the final day was tight at the top with just three points separating Whitehead/Whaley, Groves/Parkhurst and Gilbert/Bedborough.

"The big breeze was quite a challenge for us because while we have sailed together in these conditions in the RS200 and were quite heavy in that boat, we're light in the 400 and haven't sailed together in these conditions," said Esther Parkhurst. "Gybing was what I was most nervous about, but we did alright and had no swims."

As the post-race stories did the rounds in the bar it was clear that they were in the minority in this respect.

Come the final day, those that had excelled in Thursday's breeze were hoping it would hold up, but the forecast suggested otherwise. Starting in the low twenties the wind was due to decrease to the mid-teens through the day, which is precisely what it did. In doing so, Friday's racing provided the missing piece when it came to completing the full suite of conditions.

The penultimate race saw Groves/Parkhurst take another win with Whitehead/Whaley coming second, a result that put both teams on even points going into the final race.

Meanwhile, Gilbert/Bedborough had finished the penultimate race in fourth which meant that they had to pull a rabbit out of the hat to win overall. And while they achieved a second place in a race that was becoming tricky as the breeze decreased, the battle for the overall trophy was now a match race from the start as Whitehead/Whaley took the upper hand in the last few seconds before starting.

In what became essential viewing after the race, drone footage showed how Whitehead/Whaley had got the hook to leeward on Groves/Parkhurst on the run into the start and forced them up to windward. From there it was a case of defending their position for the next two laps.

"Going into the final race Roger [Gilbert] was out of contention for winning so we were able to focus on Ollie [Groves] and Esther [Parkhurst] and managed to engage with them at the start forcing them high, into some dirty air and back into the fleet," said Whitehead. "But they came back, it was really only towards the end of the last downwind leg that we managed to stretch out some distance on them. It was a pretty full-on race with lots of pressure."

Overall victory had indeed gone down to the wire, Whitehead/Whaley had taken the 2023 National Championships in a week that had been as varied as you could possibly get. But they had also achieved it on their first attempt having only completed their first event in a 400 a few weeks before.

The 2023 RS400 National Championships podium was clear evidence as to just how tight this year's event had been. One point to second for Groves and Parkhurst and just two points from second to third for Gilbert and Bedborough.

Meanwhile, in the Silver fleet Sam Watson and Geoff Edwards (1414) had taken the trophy while finishing 10th overall with Jeremy Stephens and Thomas Kliskey (690) winning Bronze and coming 33rd overall in a boat that was more than 25 years old.

Overall, the message was clear, Mounts Bay had not only delivered once again afloat and ashore but the conditions had been perfect for establishing the very best in the class.

In his victory speech Edd Whitehead paid tribute to the skill and dedication of the race team and all of the club volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the week, as well as thanking the RS Class Association, RS400 committee, sponsors Rooster and Noble Marine and the entire fleet of RS400 sailors.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoFleetBow NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8R9R10Pts
11541G44Edd WhiteheadBen WhaleyParkstone YC(3)1(DSQ)221322316
21526FGL37Ollie GrovesEsther ParkhurstBeaver SC(5)31(7)13131417
31533G33Roger GilbertKeith BedboroughDalgety Bay Sailing Club(6)(11)4132214219
41535G56Tom HalheadPaul HilliarLlandegfedd SC(10)433(10)6563131
51528FGL5Christopher EamesRachel TilleyQueen Mary SC1(26)2664445(15)32
61376G1Sam KnightChris BownesBartley SC8254(31)7656(11)43
71398G9Phil MurrayNeil SchofieldTynemouth SC(32)12(17)511117971072
81479FGL17Chris WebberNicki WebberPevensey Bay SC2710(20)41320(22)17780
91481GM50Howard FarbrotherJack MunnellyLymington Town Sailing ClubRDG(25)919125814(35)583
101414S39Sam WatsonGeoff EdwardsBudworth SC76622(DSQ)8(DNC)10111383
111400GM59James StewartSam ParkerNetley Sailing Club(21)(20)111289117141688
12411GM41Richard CainBarney DearslyStarcross Yacht Club48181114(RET)19118(21)93
131469MSY54Martin PowellArun PowellParkstone YC(30)(23)1314910181291297
141410FGL47Jacob AinsworthKayleigh RobertsTynemouth sc(28)2220(31)1612981019116
151377GM25Neil BevingtonAlan SkeensLee on Solent Sailing Club24522(RET)1815121318(28)127
161532GM68Steve NorburyAndy HillWarsash SC1313(34)172414102415(29)130
171539FLS2Steven BroomfieldJenni LewisLymington Town Sailing Club221923(33)13(RET)13161218136
181239G65Paul CullenMatt SargentWeirwood Sailing Club16(37)1223523(27)192614138
191515OS18Paul BartlettGreg BartlettStarcross Yacht Club1918(24)21221614(DNC)246140
201362GO62Mike SaulOliver Kentyorkshire Dales149261825211617(31)(27)146
211456G53Alex OystonPhilip CowansTynemouth Sailing Club23(31)15131526(40)28209149
221189OS35Steve RestallChris StubbsDowns SC916(55)3471825(DNS)2222153
23767CMS34Chris LarrAbigail LarrDraycote Water Sailing Club20(32)16263219212113(44)168
241004S31Tom PurdonSam PurdonStrangford Lough Yacht Club(39)2425161917(36)181931169
251439FOS63Kevin PodgerHeather ChipperfieldLymington Town SC151082720(DSQ)17(DNS)3243172
261455FG29Garry KnottAmy Hinsliff­smithNCSC112714817(50)45(RET)1648186
27971FLS60Simon KitchenAbbi HooperGrafham Water SC1233312534(38)(37)152117188
281363OS14Ross RyanOliver Ryan­MooreNotts County SC17143732212226(RET)27(40)196
291513MS27Neil ParkhurstIan ParkhurstBeaver Sailing Club3128291028(39)24(34)2820198
301489MS66David SwiftRob BurgessWarsash SC27(40)3292334152633(50)199
311530FOS42John CooperBecci WigleyLymington Town Sailing Club(36)303028262428(RET)2530221
321524FS10Stuart HalmanAnna WalshLeigh and Lowton sc352919(36)30273330(36)25228
33690B32Jeremy StephensThomas KliskeyPZSC(OCS)4273541(DSQ)35292326238
341437BF8Justin SmithSarah BatchelorTynemouth SC(56)(46)3315292041204537240
35880S38Tim Le CouilliardJames Le CouilliardKing George Sailing Club(50)36274238(DSQ)3133388253
321524FS10Stuart HalmanAnna WalshLeigh and Lowton sc352919(36)30273330(36)25228
33690B32Jeremy StephensThomas KliskeyPZSC(OCS)4273541(DSQ)35292326238
341437BF8Justin SmithSarah BatchelorTynemouth SC(56)(46)3315292041204537240
35880S38Tim Le CouilliardJames Le CouilliardKing George Sailing Club(50)36274238(DSQ)3133388253
36506B36Alex ZamariaRob StainesSaltash SC293821432742(DSQ)(RET)3935274
371184B16Christopher SpencerEdward SmithHooe Point Sailing Club(45)413529(43)2929374142283
381493FLOS57Geoff HoldenBernice HoldenLocks Sailing Club33434330403130(RET)(44)36286
39877S45William FindlayPeter GilmoreStrangford Sailing Club40(58)46(58)453232274032294
401417BO64Andy RitchieMalc RitchieHykeham SC483428(DNC)(DNC)3522RET3033299
411435FOS22Matthew SheahanEllie SheahanWarsash SC(53)5242455130232346(53)312
421547FMS30John HobsonRebecca OgdenNotts County Sailing Club3715362433(DSQ)(DNC)DNC4752313
431503MS6Nick DanielsMark AitkenWarsash SC3421415737(DNS)(DNC)DNC3723319
441427FLMS23Carl WhiteheadCarol MilnerFiley S.C25454939393743(RET)48(54)325
451470BMO43Gareth GriffithsIan PeaceIsland Barn(60)(64)4848364151355124334
46573BL58Tim StickleyFlorence KerrLymington Town SC5117(66)47484542(RET)4345338
471179B15Ben MartinDarren CushleyRUYC / Strangford Lough YC42354744464038(RET)50(55)342
481536BO20Jonty ChallisNic AllenLee on Solent386653(DNF)35365231(DSQ)39350
491271S48Peter GreigMike GreigMounts Bay Sailing Club(63)5545624428342560(64)353
50762BFY4Paul McMeekinJane McMeekinStrangford Sailing Club26535038(56)4648(DNC)5438353
511325LS51James LoganPhilippa LoganNotts County SC18(60)4449424749(RET)5949357
521422FG13Bruce MillsAndrea JarmanWarsash SC473965535525(DNC)(DNC)2946359
531521BM3Andy powellChris Rolfewarsash(65)5454465233443649(56)368
541430BMY61Simon MathewsJack FusseyLancing SC526262375049(RET)(DNC)3434380
551501BO11Ken TwemlowGoiz­Eder Aspe­ JuaristiNotts County4150395258(DNS)46RDG(62)61385
561345BF401John WoolcockGemma ORourkeMounts Bay Sailing Club4649404047(DNC)(DNC)DNC5541387
571324BM70Richard WatneyGrant ShoebridgeHISC57(65)5654(64)4839325751394
58856BY12Conor McveighLaurence McVeighStrangford sailing club54565155544447(RET)52(RET)413
591263FOS69David StocktonAnna WarrenWimbleball446138(DNS)(DNC)52DNSDNC4247422
601487BO46Andrew BraySarah BevingtonLee On The Solent Sailing Club (LOSSC)4347595053(RET)(DNS)DNC5358432
611432BM19James AlsopSimon EdwardsQueen Mary SC64516151494350(RET)(DNS)DNC438
621287MS26James BowmanAndrew GladstoneStarcross Yacht Club5544575657(RET)(DNC)DNC5860456
631462BFL28Dennis WatsonNikita WatsonLee­on­the­Solent SC (LOSSC)4963524162RDG(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNC458
641025B7John GabbieErin GabbieStrangford Sailing Club625758(DNF)(RET)51RDGDNS6157468
65603BMO67Mostyn EvansPhil DaviesMounts Bay SC584860(DNF)60(DNC)DNCDNC5659479
661294BO52Mike GrantAlan BirseLargs6167646061RDG(RET)(DNC)6365494
671525BFLO24Martin HartMoira HartNotts County Sailing Club5959635959(RET)(DNS)DNCRDG63495
681201BFLO55Matt GreenSharn WardMounts Bay SC66(RET)(RET)6163DSQDNCDNCRDG62523

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