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Zippy Zero reports from the Festival of Sailing at West Kirby Sailing Club

by Zippy Zero 25 Aug 2023 16:06 BST
West Kirby Festival of Sailing © Alan Jenkins

Hello all from Zippy the D-Zero. I've returned from the Menai Straits to my comfortable home club and friends at West Kirby Sailing Club and have been indulging myself in a bit of gentle play and rest at our summer's Festival of Sailing.

The event started a few years ago and was supposed to be the International Canoe National Championships, which was cancelled as a nod to concerns about Covid. The visiting ICs came anyway and 5 days of sailing went ahead and became known as the "Not the Canoe Nationals".

I'm a secret IC wannabee. Oh, the sleek lines, even pointier nose than mine and the speed. I have the makings; an open transom, one full batten, carbon spars and a lunatic Owner. I just need to grow a bit and acquire a mobile sofa for my Owner to lounge around on across my cockpit.

This year, the event was opened up to all boats, but the ICs still dominated the circus.

The first day felt like summer at last - a full sky of sunshine and a balmy light breeze. RO Jean-Louis Simons set a course to the outer extremities of the universe, suitable for Canoes of course. The windward mark was a massive green channel marker at the entrance of the Dee estuary. Named HE4, it is a bit of a legend in our boat park, as it often has a fierce white tidal bow wave on it.

Off we all tootled out of the start line in the light winds. I held hands with my big Canoe brothers, criss-crossing with them on each tack up with shoreline, puffing out my full top batten proudly. All was going just great until Dan Skinner and visitor Perham Harding went aground on the invisible shoreside sandbank. I tacked away immediately, having had some severe sandbank moments myself the week previously.

A cacophony of Canoes crossed the estuary to try the middle bank instead, including Owner's husband Andrew Potter and my personal hero Tony Marston, King, President and Godfather of the IC Class, whose boat I model myself upon. After all, his boat is number 333 like me. Put together we could be quite a devil.

Further inshore, sailing in a little known and dodgy channel running beside the marine lake, Mike Hartley in his Falcon and Mike and Anne de St Paer in their Laser 2000 were making great gains against the tide, but I chose to stay with my superhero fleet, checking in with IC333 each tack.

The tide was still running strongly as we approached HE4, so I took Owner on the seaward bank, where I picked up a personal seal, who followed me very closely, eyeballs all a-popping at my transomless rudder arrangement. I thought he was sizing me up for a haul-out, so I told him that I already had enough blubber on board thank you very much. Onwards we trooped for the final assault on the green tower ahead of me, just behind the first two Canoes.

The ICs have a number of different models, which are also differently handicapped according to their modifications. The fastest and most modern are the New Rules canoes and we had 2 of these on the water that day. First around the Big Greenie was the NR Canoe belonging to Dan and next was our fleet youngster Alex Colquitt in his more traditional 1970s Slurp design. Next was another NR canoe; our visitor Perham from Swanage in his red boat, a development of the dragonfly design.

Then followed Andrew in his 1998 Nethercot and close behind was Tony in his 2013 FRP Slurp, who I followed around as close as I could of course. They all shot off downwind with the last of the incoming tide. Very close behind me was Mike in the Falcon, which set it's kite and glided past me making good ground, after originally missing the start by some minutes. The St Paers were not too far behind either, so it was a gaggle of boats that headed towards the finish after nearly two hours afloat.

The race was won by the Falcon, with the Laser 2000 in second and me, little Zippy in third. In Canoesville, Top boat was Dan, followed by Alex and Tony, who sneakily found some fresh wind filling in on the shore side.

For Day two, a very different weather system filled in. It was breezy with big gusts coming in from the South East. I was needing some R-n-R after my busy few weeks of racing and hid my snout under the cover like a recalcitrant teenager as Owner walked past. Not one to be snubbed by a reluctant craft, Owner strode past and rigged up the Contender instead.

More new boats had entered the competition; another Canoe visitor, a couple of Hilbres (a local one design class) and three ILCAs. There were some Canoe capsizes in the launch area which set the theme for the days racing.

Owner and Contender set off in gusts over 20 knots. I pulled the cover over my snout and had a lie in. The stories in the boat park told me my decision had been a wise one. On the first leg, there had been Canoe casualties and after 1 lap, only Alex remained of the Canoe fleet. Andrew's Canoe spent some time snuggled up with "Little Arvor", one of the support start boats which was on its mooring.

I take full credit for getting Owner fit enough to survive the 25 knot squalls that were recorded during the race and she went on to win from Andy bell in an ILCA7 and Alex Colquitt, who struggled with the big seas downwind.

For Race 3, the tide changed and the seas calmed a little. The downwind legs were marginally less terrifying, though the gybe still caught out Alex, with a prolonged flippy capsize. RO Tony Marston shortened course for the lasers, leaving the Canoe and Contender to enjoy another lap. This time, Alex took the win from Liz by a fair margin; the flatter seas being more preferable than the earlier canoe bashing waves. In third was Peter Bramley in his Hilbre, who hadn't seemed to notice the wind. "Oh, was it windy out there then dinghies?" he said on his return.

The next two days were blown off by Storm Betty, so we only had one day left to complete the series. The weekend heralded the arrival of a burst of new competitors. More Canoes - New Rules, Old Rules and I Don't Really Care For Rules types. The Owners stood at the seaward railings, observing the frisky conditions, umming and ahhing and positioning their boats not too far down the slipway just in case. All but one of the ILCAs switched to their radial rigs in anticipation of the building wind.

17 dinghies made it to the start line in very fresh conditions, The wind had swung more Westerly, so the first leg was a long starboard beat, which turned into a fetch and then back to a beat at the end. Andrew's Canoe made it to the windward mark first and shot of downwind to set up a ridiculous lead.

Steve Fleming and Alex Colquitt rounded either side of Liz's Contender and the 420 of George Creasy and David Bromilow took off downwind in the big waves with their kite up. It was all action packed, as Steve capsized his canoe soon into the downwind leg. The 420's disappeared somewhere and Andrew's canoe forgot to round mark 3 and had a small tantrum and lie-down whilst Andrew considered his options (Burn it?) He opted for trying to extract the shock cord out of the mainsheet block and wait for race 5, rather than attempt to run back to mark 3 and doing another gybe.

The second lap was led by Alex, with Liz not far behind and an ever-increasing gap between them and the ILCAs. There was a close finish, with Liz winning by 15 seconds on corrected time over Alex in 2nd and Steve Fleming in 3rd.

Meanwhile, a capsized Falcon was giving both rescue boats a challenge, as all 3 crew were in the water and the boat was unstable as it was so full of water. A decision was made by RO Tony Dangerfield to abandon the final race, due to lack of rescue and the fleet made their way home.

The prize-giving revealed Liz Potter in her Contender was the overall series winner, followed by Alex Colquit in his Canoe in 2nd. Andy Bell came 3rd in his ILCA7 and the Hilbre of Bob Jarvis and Phil Oliver came 4th.

Top IC Sailor was Alex, who won the Worcester Cup which has been in the class since 1907. The first visitor was Perham Harding. Second visitor was Rob Garner from Derwent Reservoir, experiencing his first IC surfing holiday at the Costa del Kirby.

Many thanks to the Race Officers and exceptional rescue teams who recovered all casualties immediately, and the stricken Falcon intact, after a 3 hour mission going on into the evening.

What an epic event.

I'm going back under my covers.

Overall Results:

PosClassBoatNameSail NoHelm / CrewClubR1R2R3R4Pts
1stContenderBojangles2523Liz PotterWKSC(DNC)1214
2ndInt Canoe OD 291Alex ColquittWKSC‑53126
3rdLaser 115777Andy BellWKSC(DNC)27413
4thHilbreHinemoa38Bob Jarvis & Phil OliverWKSC1054(DNC)19
5thInt Canoe ODIcarus257Andrew PotterWKSC7RET(DNC)NSC37
6thHilbreHicotee27Peter BramleyWKSC(DNC)43DNC39
7thInt CanoeDusty321Dan SkinnerWKSC4DNS(DNC)DNC48
8thLaser 200643Steve JardineWKSC(DNC)NSC5DNC49
9thLaser Radial 210047Glyn PurnellWKSC(DNC)NSC6DNC50
10thInt CanoeMidnight Quill353Perham HardingSwanage SC8RET(DNC)DNC52
11thFalcon (2 up)Eddie49Mike HartleyWKSC1(DNC)DNCDNC65
12thLaser 2000 21487Mike & Anne De St PaerWKSC2(DNC)DNCDNC66
13thInt Canoe ODIconic303Steve FlemingWKSC(DNC)DNCDNC367
14thD‑ZeroZippy Zero333Liz PotterWKSC3(DNC)DNCDNC67
15thLaser 309Steve JardineWKSC(DNC)DNCDNC569
16thLaser Radial 216509 WKSC(DNC)DNCDNC670
17thInt Canoe ODWhite Knight333Tony MarstonWKSC6(DNC)DNCDNC70
18thInt 420 54082 WKSC(DNC)DNCDNC771
19thLaser Radial 195Ioannis KoutsokerasWKSC(DNC)DNCDNC872
20thLaser 212Peter JonesWKSC(DNC)DNCDNC973
21stHilbreHigh Hat53Dave PontinWKSC9(DNC)DNCDNC73
22ndLaser Radial 203289Paul BraybrookWKSC(DNC)DNCDNC1074
23rdInt Canoe OD 267Rob GarnerDerwent Resevoir SC(DNC)RETDNCDNC76
24thLaser 3503Ben PotterWKSC(DNC)DNCDNCDNF82
24thSolo 5120Andrew Roberts (DNC)DNCDNCDNF82
24thLaser 1089 WKSC(DNC)DNCDNCDNF82
24thLaser 151359 WKSC(DNC)DNCDNCRET82
24thInt 420 540849 WKSC(DNC)DNCDNCDNF82
30thInt Canoe ODZest332Stuart DawsonWKSC(DNC)DNCDNCDNC96
30thInt CanoeEnd Game326Alasdair AlstonWKSC(DNC)DNCDNCDNC96

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