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UK Tornado National Championship 2023 at Minnis Bay Sailing Club

by Jenny Ball 4 Oct 2023 09:22 BST 30 September - 1 October 2023

Minnis Bay Sailing Club hosted the 2023 Tornado Nationals in unseasonably warm and fine weather for the end of September. Seven Tornados rigged up on Saturday morning and waited for the wind to appear. A little after the first scheduled start time, Race Officer Stuart confirmed he had some breeze out at the Committee Boat and the fleet set off to start racing.

The first race got under way in a very light northerly breeze and a strong tide but the race management team had set a suitably small course for the conditions and the fleet managed to round the windward mark. Unbeknownst to the competitors, Race Officer was picking up radio messages from Whitstable YC just along the coast indicating a significantly different wind direction. So the Race Officer abandoned the race and, sure enough, the competitors found themselves fetching back to the committee boat, rather than the downwind sail it should have been. By the time the fleet regrouped at the Committee Boat, the race management team had already re-laid the course for the now south westerly breeze in remarkably efficient manner.

The re-start for Race One got under way promptly in light conditions but mercifully more than the aborted race. Local sailor Simon Northrop and Megan Smith (Minnis Bay / Grafham Water) got into an early lead off the start and led for the whole race. In what became a theme for the weekend, there were several wind shifts and lanes on the upwind leg which resulted in various changes of position. The downwind leg was all about picking the best route for the tide and positioning the boat to pick the preferred end of the leeward gate. Behind Simon and Megan was a battle between three Marconi SC boats. In the end, Jenny and David Ball came second, John and Caroline Nickalls came third and Jason Clarke and Andrew Dowley came in fourth. A similar battle was taking place between the Whitstable Yacht Club fleet with Robert Govier and guest crew coming fifth, Peter Wilson and Stephen Hodges sixth and Peter King and Henry Beams in seventh place.

Race Two got away promptly and the tide had now turned which created some added complexity or opportunity, depending on your point of view. Simon and Megan took another early lead off the start but the rest of the fleet were snapping at their heels. The windward mark took on even greater tactical significance now the tide had turned, requiring competitors to sail well beyond the normal lay line in order to lay the mark. Judging when to tack back onto starboard to became a key tactical decision in the race. Jenny and David found a nice lift lane on port into the windward mark for the final lap which put them just in front of Simon and Megan. A close downwind tussle ensued with Jenny and David just scraping the win on the line with only a second in it. John and Caroline came third with Jason and Andrew in fourth. Peter and Henry came fifth, Robert and guest crew were sixth and Peter and Stephen came seventh.

By the start of Race Three, the ebb tide had fully kicked in and the breeze had picked up enabling twin wiring at times. The fleet got away with Simon and Megan, Jason and Andrew leading the way whilst Jenny and David and John and Caroline temporarily stalled out on the line. The windward legs were particularly tactical with boats tacking off at different points and resulting in various changes of position. Jenny and David stood on further before tacking and were lucky enough to pick up a lift lane which by the final lap put them at the front of the fleet and they were able to hold on to the lead to the finish. John and Caroline were second, Simon and Megan third and Jason and Andrew came a consistent fourth. Peter and Henry came fifth, Robert and guest crew sixth and Peter and Stephen seventh.

The fleet returned to shore, pleased to have completed three closely fought races, given the unpromising wind at the start of the day. The Class Association AGM was convened by Chair Robert Govier. In addition to reviewing UK activities and class finances, Robert and Simon Northrop reported back on various International Tornado matters from their recent participation in the Tornado World Championships. The fleet thanked Robert for his efforts on behalf of the class over the year. There then followed an excellent dinner and social evening hosted by Minnis Bay.

Sunday's forecast was for more wind and the fleet were pleased to arrive and see a decent breeze across the water. The Race Officer got the first race away at the scheduled start time of 10:30am. A strong flood tide pushing the fleet onto the Committee Boat made start positioning both interesting and tactical. The tide was strong enough to push a boat from the pin to the Committee Boat in very little time at all so simply parking near the line and pulling the trigger was not an option! The result was an interesting dance as the boats endeavoured to position themselves clear of each other (and the committee boat) before the gun went. It was, however, a clean start and the fleet set off twin wiring on the beat. Whilst the tide was favourable for reaching the windward mark, the wind lanes from the previous day were still in play. Simon and Megan took an early lead round the windward mark but the pack were close behind. On the downwind leg, John and Caroline overtook Jenny and David but by the final upwind leg, Jenny and David and Jason and Andrew had managed to sneak back in front of them. Simon and Megan went on to take the win. Jenny and David and Jason and Andrew passed through the final windward gate alongside each other with Jason and Andrew just sneaking second place at the pin end of the finish line and John and Caroline coming in fourth. Robert reunited with his regular crew David Figgis came in fifth and Peter and Henry came sixth. Unfortunately, Peter and Stephen had to sit out the day's racing.

Race Five got under way promptly following a slight tweak to the windward and spreader marks. The strong tide played a strong influence on the start again and Robert and David found themselves shut out at the Committee Boat end of the line. The wind had softened considerably with limited trapezing so there was some tactical lee-bowing to try and lift to the windward mark. Jason/Andrew tacked off early, Simon/Megan tacked up the middle and Jenny/David and John/Caroline stood on further. At the windward mark, Simon/Megan led, followed by Jenny/David, John/Caroline and Jason/Andrew. With a strong unfavourable tide and softer winds, the downwind leg became extra challenging. Standing on in hopefully weaker tide was the logical course but occasional puffs of wind further out sometimes paid for those who gybed early. On the final lap, Jenny/David followed Simon/Megan into shore whilst Jason/Andrew gybed early and John/Caroline gybed to cover them. This time, no additional wind appeared in the middle of the course so Simon and Megan took the win followed by Jenny/David in second, John/Caroline in third, Jason/Andrew in fourth, Peter/Henry in fifth and Robert/David in sixth.

Mercifully, the wind returned for the start of Race Six which got away promptly again with full twin wiring. This time Jason/Andrew tacked off earlier which paid and they reached the windward mark just ahead of Simon/Megan, with the rest of the fleet again close on their heels. Simon/Megan managed to get back in front of Jason/Andrew on the downwind leg but the closely fought duel continued to the end of the fourth lap with both boats approaching the final leeward gate neck and neck. Unfortunately, Jason/Andrew did not clock they were finishing so dropped the kite to start another lap and Simon/Megan were able to sail on to take their third bullet of the day whilst Jason/Andrew still had plenty of time to correct their course and take second. Behind them, Jenny/David came in third, Peter/Henry fourth, Robert/David fifth and John/Caroline in sixth having taken a penalty turn following a port/starboard cross at the windward mark.

The fleet returned to shore after an excellent weekend of close racing in a variety of conditions, expertly run by the race management and safety boat teams.

At the prize-giving, Jason and Andrew were awarded the trophy for youngest combined age crew and were a very close run fourth place. John and Caroline were third, Jenny and David second and Simon and Megan were very deserved National Champions.

It was great to see that the top three placed boats all had mixed crews and there was a wide range of ages across the fleet from age 21 upwards - showing what a great and versatile boat the Tornado is to sail and to race.

The fleet would like to thank Minnis Bay for running such a great event both on and off the water and look forward to returning there in future.

Overall Results:

Youngest combined crew - Jason Clarke / Andrew Dowley, Marconi SC
Third Place - John and Caroline Nickalls, Marconi SC
Second Place - Jenny and David Ball, Marconi SC
First Place - Simon Northrop and Megan Smith, Minnis Bay SC / Grafham Water SC

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