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Selden 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Challengers in the Selden Sailjuice Winter Series 2023-2024

by Marion Edwards 26 Feb 11:45 GMT
Val Millward during the 2024 Oxford Blue © Tim Olin /

Challengers have taken part in the Sailjuice Winter Series almost since its inception and the 2023-2024 series was no exception. A total of seven Challengers took part in at least one event.

Four Challengers were at the Draycote Dash. The forecast was for it to be lively and Graham Hall (270) arrived on the Saturday morning undecided as to whether or not it was worth taking his boat off the road trailer. He did.

Saturday saw four back to back races round a large trapezoidal course with the wind gradually building as the day went on. Graham and Alex Hovden (304) both had an excellent first race coming 16th and 23rd respectively. Unfortunately Alex faded as the day went on whereas Val Millward (312) moved up the fleet. At the end of the day, Graham was surprised to be 21st, Val 26th, Duncan Greenhalgh (280) 36th and Alex 38th.

Sunday saw the wind come up a notch for the two hour non-discardable pursuit race. Graham looked at the gusts coming across the water and decided it was not his weather (these days staying in the boat is his priority). Alex decided to give it a go but soon came back as he knew he wasn't really in control of his boat (even taking into account how much he has adapted his boat and racing techniques to his disability). Val and Duncan both battled it out as the gusts built to 30kts and the gybes became interesting (especially when combined with dodging the capsized boats!). They were rewarded by finishing 8th and 12th respectively.

Overall results (109 entries): Val 16th, Duncan, 23rd, Graham 41st and Alex 56th.

The Datchet Flyer was the next event. Launching and recovering the Challengers at Datchet is tricky unless the water level is high but having received reassurances that it was high, three Challengers entered.

Saturday was wild and windy but racing went ahead. Duncan got off to a poor start with an OCS in race 1 but he stormed back with 8th in race 2, closely followed by Val in 9th. After race 1 Alex decided enough was enough and returned (with many others) to shore. The race officer decided against holding the third race and sent the much depleted fleet home. "Home" was a difficult leeshore but everyone came together to help recover all the boats.

Sunday saw much lighter winds and started with the third handicap race before going into the double points non-discardable pursuit race. After race 3 Duncan could discard his OCS of race 1 and Alex his DNC of race 2. Val needn't have bothered as she discarded race 3! Datchet runs two pursuit races with fast and slow fleets - hence the double points - and the Challengers were in the slow fleet. Alex executed a perfect port tack flier and led the Challengers until his main halyard failed and he was forced to retire. Val and Duncan continued and finished 5th and 7th in the slow fleet race.

Overall results (90 entries): Val 12th, Duncan 22nd and Alex 46th.

The Grafham Grand Prix was one of the first open meetings to welcome the Challenger. This year there were four Challengers. Kirsten Pollock was taking part in the event for the first time in quite some years. In the run up to the event, the weather was looking distinctly marginal but in the end there was a suitable window for racing. The Grafham Grand Prix has three fleets: fast, medium and slow, racing on different courses. The Challengers were (inevitably) in the 50+ slow fleet. Three races were planned. Most of the time the conditions were perfectly benign but not at the start of race 2. During the start sequence a vicious squall, gusting 35kts, hit the slow fleet and there were many capsizes but thankfully not of the Challengers (though Alex's efforts to avoid a capsize were observed by the race officer and he was awarded a spot prize for perseverance). Race 2 belonged to Kirsten. She rounded the windward mark as first Challenger and maintained that to finish 13th.

Overall results in the slow fleet (54 boats): Graham 18th, Kirsten 19th, Val 23rd and Alex 26th.

The Tiger Trophy saw seven(!) Challengers take part. We were grateful for help from a number of Rutland Sailability volunteers especially as one key member of the shore crew had a heavily bandaged finger.

Saturday saw three handicap races. David Driffill (75) made his first foray in to the series. Unfortunately between races 2 and 3 he was minding his own business on starboard when a 420 came along on port and despite much shouting on David's part there was a nasty crunch and the tip of the port sponson made a "nice" hole in the 420 which then limped home. After racing the 420 helm came across to apologise and check on David and his boat which was a kind gesture. Duncan managed to put his buoyancy aid on back to front - no wonder he had required help to fasten it!

The wind was rather too light for the Challengers, though there were a few memorable gusts (and a couple of broken masts - thankfully not Challenger ones). At the end of the day Val was lead Challenger, but down in 50th closely followed by Graham (52nd).

Sunday saw the wind come up a notch or two! All seven Challengers were launched with Jack Alderdice (281) joining the fleet after a long absence. Graham soon decided to come back - reaching to the start line at over 11kts while spilling wind from his sail made him realise these weren't his conditions. There were to be more broken masts. The remaining six boats managed to stay the course and with the clock counting down Duncan (buoyancy aid on the right way round!) caught a gust to surge past Val to be first Challenger in 18th. Alex sailed a remarkable race to come 21st.

Overall results (106 entries): Val 31st, Duncan 45th, Kirsten 48th, David 56th, Alex 57th, Graham 67th and Jack 84th.

The final event in the series was the Oxford Blue. There were only two representatives of the Challenger fleet: Val and Alex both of whom were looking to discard their worst result of the series so far (which they did). Although it was windier than forecast it wasn't windy enough for the Challengers to excel. There were three handicap races with close racing between Val and Alex but in the end Val prevailed - though it was tight in the last race (Val 39th and Alex 44th).

Overall results (102 entries): Val 39th and Alex 55th.

Looking at the Series results and the Great British Sailing Challenge rankings for the different categories, Val clearly had an outstanding series at 13th overall (and 1st Master) as did Alex in 25th. Duncan and Graham were heavily penalised by only doing three events but the results showed there wasn't much between them. All in all the Challengers acquitted themselves very well in what was predominantly a windy series.

Results summary:

HelmNumber of eventsOverall (510 entries)Great British Sailing Challenge rankings
Val Millward513th1st Master, 1st Challenger and 3rd Lady
Alex Hovden525th7th 31‑60 age group, 2nd Challenger
Duncan Greenhalgh341st3rd Master, 4th Challenger
Graham Hall347th6th Master, 3rd Challenger
Kirsten Pollock281st6th Lady, 5th Challenger
David Driffill15TH6th Challenger
Jack Alderdice10TH7th Challenger

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