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Heron Southern Championship at Bewl Sailing Association

by Jo Mayes 15 Aug 2023 12:57 BST 5-6 August 2023
Heron Southerns at Bewl © Jo Mayes

In July when the Committee were planning this event they assumed warm weather, gentle breezes and sailors wearing shorts and T shirts. But Storm Antoni arrived. Leaden skies, heavy rain and a strong SW wind accompanied by multidirectional gusts resulted in the water being covered with white crests which alarmed many crews on Saturday morning.

Five of the eight entries ventured out, although one soon retired. Dave Butler and Emily Clixby, visitors from Welton SC, made an excellent start to the first race and within seconds took the lead. Despite challenges by Matt Pickett from Up River YC and Bill Whillock crewed by Amanda Conrad from Bewl Sailing Association, Dave led the fleet round the triangular course. Dave and Emily were the only crew brave enough to fly the spinnaker, which was snatched from Dave's hands by a vicious gust during a gybe. Watching this race from the shore was problematic as the wind and rain frequently reduced visibility and the boats disappeared from view. Dave finished first and the fleet came ashore for lunch.

The weather conditions remained constant: heavy rain and strong gusts with very occasional breaks in the sky allowing a few rays of sun in the afternoon. With a change of course by the Race Officer Colin Nutt, to give a longer beat, Races two and three followed a similar pattern. Dave Butler established a very early lead and gained on the rest of the fleet as he rounded the course.

On Sunday morning the weather was totally different - a strong NW wind and sunshine replaced the rain. However, several boat still felt the conditions too much and only five set sail. Little Egret decided to practice a spinnaker run to the start line and a gybe. Alas, a boat nearby lost control and their only tactic to avoid a collision was to capsize. They righted the boat rapidly and proceeded to the start line but lost confidence in their spinnaker handling. Dave Butler was the only helm to hoist his spinnaker whenever possible. He dominated the first race, followed by Matt Pickett and Bill Whillock, each trying to overtake the other at all times. In all but the very first race, Matt finished ahead of Bill, usually only by a few seconds on corrected time. Dave and Emily and James and Maggie did not start the final race, leaving Matt and Bill to strive for a first place. Matt sailing single-handed as usual took the gun, a few seconds ahead of Bill.

It can't have been pleasant for the race management teams braving the elements in the committee boat, and competitors found it reassuring to have support boat cover on the water. The shore team provided refreshments during the day, and sailors and their friends enjoyed a convivial meal at the Vineyard on the Saturday evening.

At the prize-giving lunch, Dave Butler and Emily Clixby were awarded trophies for the first, second and third races, and took away the prestigious Bell trophy as overall winners.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClub
110350Dave ButlerEmily ClixbyWelton Sailing Club
29812Matt PicketttUp River Yacht Club 
310343Bill WhillockAmanda ConradBewl Sailing Association
410089James RussMaggie BoltonChipstead SC
58428Nigel LambSean ChapmanChipstead SC

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