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UK Open Challenger Championships 2023 at Rutland Sailing Club

by Marion Edwards 20 Sep 2023 10:06 BST 15-17 September 2023
UK Open Challenger Championships 2023 at Rutland © Jon Williams

Twenty one Challengers gathered at Rutland Sailing Club for the 2023 UK Open Challenger Championship on Friday 15 September. There were ten visiting sailors and six visiting boats. Four visiting sailors were generously loaned privately owned Rutland-based Challengers. Equally generously, Sailability Scotland ensured that all the Scottish (and honorary Scots) had good P&B sails.

Last year's young guns had returned. Rory McKinna was sailing "Noinan" (thanks to Graham Hall) and Chi Chian Wu was sailing the class association Challenger "Freethinker". Chi Chian also brought his father who was loaned "Live Wire" (thanks to Nick Bett).

Nine 2.4mR sailors were present for their Inland Championships. As in 2022, the two classes shared a committee boat but each sailed their preferred course: trapezoidal for the Challengers and windward-leeward for the 2.4s. The Challengers had the first start followed six minutes later by the 2.4s.

After the briefing, the fleet were launched in a light southerly(ish) wind and headed out towards committee boat which was anchored off the peninsula for two back to back races.

There was a half hour postponement waiting for the wind to stabilise. This delay suited David Hodson (212) who was late launching having had to take his wife to Peterborough station beforehand.

Although the wind direction was fine at the start of Race 1 it immediately shifted about 30 degrees to be more SWly. This meant that the sailors who had positioned themselves at the port end of the line had a big advantage. Chi Chian (234) and Rory (115) had got it right and headed left before tacking in a wind stream which lifted them to the mark.

They held their positions to the end of the two lap race. Ben Foulsham (272) executed his first port tack flyer and was so stunned by his success that he was unable to capitalise on it! Bill Ridlington (297) (something of a light wind specialist) rounded the windward mark in third but was overtaken by Nick (261) on the downwind leg and they held these positions to the finish. Duncan Greenhalgh (280), Steve Lee (301) were fifth and sixth as they started the second run but they were fighting each other and allowed Graham (270) through. Diana Faulks (288) was first in the Silver fleet and very pleased with ninth.

The race officer started the second race but as the Challengers began to work their way up the beat he could see that the wind was fading and just before the 2.4s started there was a huge wind shift which meant they were unable to cross the line on starboard. The race was abandoned and the fleets sent home. Some of the leading sailors were not happy with the decision but the wind did fade away and the decision proved to be the correct one.

After racing the Challenger Class Association held a short (uncontentious) AGM. A significant proportion of the fleet remained at the club to eat and prop up the bar.

On Saturday, the wind had swung right round coming from the north east and was F3 gusting F4. Again the committee boat was positioned off the peninsula.

In Race 2 Graham started in the second row in a gap by the committee boat, he was first to the windward mark and held that position to the finish. Duncan was second for much of the race but was overhauled by Chi Chian during the last lap and had to settle for third. Alan Bradley (315) led the Silver fleet home. Lynn Steward had been loaned "Red Jester" by Val Millward (thank you) and had her best race in 15th.

By now the wind had swung more northerly and had increased a little with F5 gusts. The start of Race 3 saw David Richardson (298) and Alan getting entangled, fortunately fast work by the safety boat soon saw them separated and able to continue. Chi Chian started by the committee boat. He went fast to execute a very good first beat and led at the windward mark. He went on to take another win.

Behind him, at the second windward mark Nick led from Alex Hovden (304) and Graham. Graham overtook Alex on the downwind leg and Nick on the bottom reach of the last lap. At this point Val (312) was coming up fast but Graham managed to hold her off to take second. Diana had a disastrous race as her shoe came off and jammed the centreboard! Ben was ninth and led the Silver fleet home.

The fleet then came in for lunch to find a difficult landing on a leeshore but everyone was recovered safely.

The race officer planned to have three, not two, races in the afternoon to catch up after Friday's abandonment.

Race 4 should have been another win for Chi Chian as he led at the first windward mark and continued to lead until the final beat, when he mistakenly headed for the wing, not the windward, mark. Graham was concentrating on sailing high and fast and couldn't understand why Chi Chian hadn't beaten him to the windward mark, however he wasn't complaining as he took the lead and his second win. David H, Nick and Val also took advantage of Chi Chian's mistake and they finished in that order, leaving Chi Chian with a fifth which he promptly discarded.

At the first leeward mark, Alex had made contact with Nick and, after doing his penalty, turn dropped out of contention. Rory also lost out when he also had to do a 360 after clipping Duncan. He admitted he was pulling on ropes and not looking where he was going! Xing Ti Wu (185) was 11th and first in Silver.

At the start of race 5 it was Graham's turn to make a mess of things as the first he saw of the sequence was when the Blue Peter was flying. He was unable to sync his watch until the one minute gun by which time it was too late to get in the melee and he started well down the fleet in catch up mode. Chi Chian got away for another win. At the leeward mark on the second lap Val, Nick and Graham had "discussions" about three boat lengths and who was, or was not, overlapping whom.

However, they remained close together and finished in that order. On the last lap Stephen Thomas Bate (238) was being chased hard by Duncan and when freeing off his mainsheet at wing mark managed to get it wrapped round his chest and was almost thrown of the boat. Fortunately he managed to free himself but it was a terrifying incident for him. Ben Forbes (loaned 188 by Alex) had his best race to come eighth.

By this stage the temperature was dropping and the wind still gusting F5 and several sailors decided that Race 6 would be their discard. Bill commented, quite reasonably, that five races in a day was too much for a ninety year old!

In Race 6 Nick was first to the windward mark closely followed by Rory, Graham and Chi Chian. On the second downwind leg Rory took the lead leaving the other three to fight among themselves. Nick took second and Chi Chian overtook Graham on the run in. Diana led the Silver fleet with another ninth.

The sailors retired to the clubhouse for the regatta dinner which was generously funded by Lands' End (Oakham) and an anonymous donor. There was much discussion of the day's proceedings. Duncan commented that it was a fantastic wind but the chop made it very difficult to drive the boat forward. Xing Ti was enjoying sailing the Challenger for the first time and was pleased his results were showing a steady improvement.

As usual Caz Jerromes (313) had much to say about her races but most of it came with the rather unhelpful caveat that it wasn't to be included in the report!

After two days racing Chi Chian had a comfortable four point lead over Graham, who had a three point lead over Nick. The way he was sailing, the championship was really Chi Chian's to lose. Ben Foulsham led the Silver fleet, followed by Diana with Xing Ti in third.

On Sunday morning the wind was down a notch at F3/4 and just north of east and forecast to veer round to the east. Life was easier on the beach. The committee boat was again situated off the peninsula with the windward leg towards the northern end of the dam.

While milling around waiting to go into sequence, David Driffill's (275) rudder downhaul snapped and although he and the safety boat crew (alerted by Val) were able to effect a repair it was not good enough for racing in the conditions and he retired. Unfortunately this breakage meant he had to count a DNC so slipped several places down the overall results.

The start line for Race 7 was quite short and both Val and Graham made poor starts and had to try and claw their way back up the fleet. Graham eventually made it up to fourth. Chi Chian had another win which gave him the championship. Nick took second so was only one point adrift of Graham. The fight was on for second and third. Ben Foulsham led the Silver fleet in both this and the next race.

Race 8 was a formality for Chi Chian but he decided to win it anyway. Nick had a chance to overtake him at the first windward mark but under tacked and Chi Chian was gone. Nick was followed by David H and Graham was in fifth battling with Rory. In the end Rory and Graham managed to overhaul David H and Graham got inside of Rory at the gybe mark on the third lap and took third.

Some rather tired sailors came back to the shore. Unfortunately Chris Keats-Hannan (5) misjudged a tack and drifted onto the shore. Thankfully David D saw her plight and waded in to help her sail off.

So Chi Chian is the new UK champion and by quite some margin. Nick and Graham ended up on equal points with Graham taking second by virtue of his race wins. The Silver fleet maintained their order of the previous evening: Ben Foulsham, Diana then Xing Ti.

The trophies and prizes - courtesy of Lands' End (Oakham) - were presented by the High Sheriff of Rutland, Geraldine Feehally, who definitely added a touch of glamour to the proceedings.

Among the various trophies is the Dan Newton Cup. This was awarded to Duncan (although he demurred) for "going above and beyond" and bringing four additional Sailability Scotland sails to ensure that all the visiting sailors had a good P&B sail.

Presentations were also made to Richard Johnson (Race Officer) and David Newton (Assistant Race Officer), the mark layer, the safety boat crew, beachmasters, and to Val who was the principal event organiser.

Thanks were also given to the event sponsors: Lands' End (Oakham), Hugh Campbell, and the Oakham branch of Tesco.

Trophies and prizes awarded:

Curtis Cup (1st overall) and Thames Water Shield (winner of last race): Chi Chian Wu
Judi Figgures Trophy (2nd overall): Graham Hall
Prentice Pot (3rd overall): Nick Bett
Ayrshire Yeomanry Cup (1st Silver): Ben Foulsham
Rutland Rose Bowl (2nd Silver): Diana Faulks
Model Challenger (3rd Silver): Xing Ti Wu
Dan Newton Cup: Duncan Greenhalgh
Silver Piccolo (highest placed sailor previously unplaced at a UK Championships): David Hodson
Jock Campbell Trophy best under 30: Rory McKinna
Jock Campbell Trophy best over 75: Val Millward
Best unplaced female: Caz Jerromes

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

PosFleetSail NoBoatHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8Pts
1stGold234FreethinkerChi Chian WuChinese Taipei121‑5131110
2ndGold270DaisyGraham HallRutland Sailing Club‑5121444319
3rdGold261Last OrdersNick BettRutland Sailing Club34‑53322219
4thGold115NoinanRory McKinnaClyde Cruising Club2546‑717429
5thGold312Legless JesterVal MillwardRutland Sailing Club8634266‑1035
6thGold301FriendshipSteven LeeRutland Sailability696810(DNC)5650
7thGold212 David HodsonRutland Sailing Club1471026(DNC)9553
8thGold280White KnightDuncan GreenhalghBassenthwaite113139‑1573753
9thGold304LiquidAssetv2Alex HovdenRutland Sailing Club10‑137755101155
10thGold297TrinityBill RidlingtonRutland Sailing Club48141214(DNC)12872
11thSilver272 Ben FoulshamOxford Sailability13149‑159118973
12thGold275EvelynDavid DriffillOgston Sailing Club710810128(DNF)DNC77
13thGold188LiquidAssetv1Ben Forbes 15111113812‑171383
14thSilver288Black RatDiana FaulksRutland Sailability918‑1917119111792
15thSilver185Live WireXing Ti WuChinese Taipei(DNC)1916111310131597
16thSilver313Mach 1Caz JerromesRutland Sailability‑181612141713151299
17thSilver238Skean Dhu TooStephen Thomas BateAnnandale16‑17171616141614109
18thSilver298InspirationDavid RichardsonRutland Sailability‑2020201818151416121
19thSilver315ThunderballAlan BradleyRutland Sailability121215(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC127
20thSilver3Red JesterLynn StewardWigan and St Helens171518(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC138
21stSilver5Yorkshire RoseChris Keats‑HannanOgston Sailing Club19212119(DNC)DNC1818138

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