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North Sails Solo Spring Championship at King George Sailing Club

by Will Loy 16 Apr 09:58 BST 13 April 2024
Mike Barnes racing his 37 year old Beckett build - North Sails Solo Spring Championship at King George © Will Loy

King George Sailing Club welcomed 28 eager competitors to contest the second major of the year and though the number of entrants was lower than previous years, the quality and depth of talent was so impressive that the 227 mile journey to cover this event was a no brainer. The 4 am alarm did little to convince my wife that we were in for a treat, only the allure of a cup of tea bringing her out of her malaise.

The trip was smooth, the mighty Volvo V70 Mk 2 eating up counties quicker than I could consume my bacon sandwiches, only a brief stop at Hook to drop the good lady off interrupted my sailing stories; she didn't even wave goodbye.

Sailors unloaded their race boats in the relative calm of the car park, some had not seen their beloved Solos since the end of last season, tears were shed and apologies made, it was a sight I could not un-see. I loaded up my media kit, which included four brand new Go-Pro type cameras and headed up the steep bank to get a first look at the reservoir, my 2 year old hip replacement handling the incline with impunity, only the burning in my lungs bringing me back to the reality of old age. The breeze was from the west and spread across the surprisingly large stretch of water in various layers of strength. You could say it looked like 'the finest sailing arena in North London'.

Buildings and Pylons of differing heights and shapes punctuated the horizon and would be providing a level of anarchy to the smooth passage of the wind over the race course, the undulating roofing of a nearby warehouse though would be the biggest trouble-maker.

Sailors spilled out of the club's adequate changing facilities in their kit, if they had been a group then they could have been called the Four Seasons, such was the variety of dress code. The club house, filled with the aroma of bacon/sausage baps, deep heat and the sound of banter, pretty much every sports facility on a weekend morning, but with the likes of Cumbley and Davenport both in attendance the anticipation level was far from Sunday morning league.

PRO James Le Couilliard, aware of the benefits of stretching before exercise, ordered the competitors up the steep slope for his race briefing, the boats though would be hauled up by the tractor and so they waited patiently for their owners to return. Splash of Lime, Solo 6017 was first in line, owned by Mike Dray and he was keen to have a photo taken of it leading the fleet so of course I obliged, knowing that it would be his best chance. I passed by some discarded tents at Base Camp 1, Sherpas would go no further but on we trekked, only stopping at the very summit, or in this case, the race box.

I had attached my new 'deckcams' to some of the fleet but having tested the equipment pre-event, was already doubting their ability to provide anything usable. Like a new-born baby I had been beguiled by the bright yellow shapes and shiny housings, clicking 'buy now' was a big mistake. Fortunately, the one decent camera I possessed provided some great footage of Charlie Cumbley, even if it did last only 22 minutes.

Race 1 : 12-14mph 17 degrees

I stepped aboard the media rib (just two years ago I would have categorised this as an extreme sport) and we took up position at the pin end, pleased to see that the PRO had set some pin bias so it would be busy. With the wind tracking further left and still 30 seconds to go, Solos began peeling off into gybes, the outer distance drawing boats towards it like a black hole.

We had drifted slightly behind the line but I think the PRO was still generous at the gun, Cuxson, Brown and Vince Horey looking particularly bow forward and Butler just avoiding the gravity of the pin. Jonathan Swain and Paul Davis were just two of many that had bailed out early and were now punching through the line on port. Cumbley, Davenport and Fergus Barnham had played the percentage game and started 20% further up the line, tacking on to port and already in good shape.

The fleet were in full hike mode and the wind direction provided a nice long leg up to the top mark, some sailors were already wishing theirs were longer and to prove the theory that leverage is King, 6 foot Davenport powered around first with Cumbley second and these two already 30 seconds ahead of the fleet. Brown, Lonsdale, Fergus Barnham, Horey and Swain were in the chasing pack and set off via a short spreader to the leeward mark, the classic sausage, triangle would be the course for today, number of laps determined by speed of the leaders.

My RIB driver, taking a moment away from his mobile phone commented that the wind funnels through the buildings, gains speed over the other reservoir before it hits the irregular shaped roof, from there it does what the hell it likes. I watched as sailors converged at this mark from angles and with an assortment of facial expressions. How Enfield council allowed planning permission for that roof is beyond me.

Cumbley got into the lead at the bottom mark but only by a boat length and these two athletes headed back up the left of the course before tacking into the next lift, all so easy when you have clear air. Lonsdale squeaked ahead of Brown at the left hand gate with Horey, Swain and Jasper Barnham while Fergus Barnham and Butler opted for the right gate.

The breeze had built to 16 mph, plumes of white spray kicking up from the iconic Solo bow profile and some wave action building at the bottom of the course. I wiped some spray from my Nikon P950 lens, swearing at myself for not checking it sooner and gestured to my driver to take us upwind again. As a Spurs supporter he is used to disappointment so understood my frustration at missing some shots.

The PRO stuck to his word and kept the fleet going around for the 45 minutes, Cumbley holding Davenport at bay for its entirety with third placed Lonsdale comfortable. The move of the day was from Class President Guy Mayger who, having rounded eleventh at mark 1, pulled up seven places, likewise Butler and these two rounded out the top five.

Drama for Horey though who capsized just before the finish line after an altercation with Brown, he had been eighth at the leeward mark but dropped seven places. Brown sailed off to the naughty corner to reflect on his actions but later protested his innocence to me.

Race 2 : 14-16 mph

Pin end favoured again and an unlucky Ian Walters found himself stuck on the outer distance mark while the fleet powered over him. Horey, slightly further up the line thought he had nailed the start but was called OCS for being slightly further over it while Davenport and F. Barnham punched out to the left with Cumbley and Lonsdale.

Meanwhile, Horey, fresh from his dip in waters that have 'special scientific interest' was blasting up the beat, his skin, I presume glowing from the sun's rays and not radio activity would round the top mark first, the Spurs supporter's misdemeanour would not be revealed until the absence of a finish gun, until then he could feel like a hero.

Fergus Barnham rounded second with Davenport, Mayger and Swain within ten seconds, Cumbley ducking this groups transoms in sixth.

The gusts were keeping the sailors on their toes with several swims and places to be lost and made down the long run. My drivers mood was less chatty now, his positioning of the media boat had been exemplary but with Tottenham going two goals down, his interest in life was waning, such is the curse of supporting the second finest team in North London.

Top mark second lap and Davenport is in the lead, his upwind technique a lesson in hiking hard, Cumbley like Newcastle-Tottenham is too much for the Horey defence and these two embark on a head to head with two laps remaining. F Barnham, Swain, Mayger and Lonsdale take the next four positions with Lucas and Brown a distance back.

The race and event is decided 200 yards from the final leeward mark, Cumbley hooking into a streak of breeze while P&B jockey Davenport is stranded in a flat spot, the North Sails jockey apologising as he took the lead. Davenport throws in final few gybes but Cumbley is equal to the task and holds for his second bullet. Swain takes third and with Horey OCS, F Barnham and Lonsdale complete the top five.

Race 3 : 12-14 mph

Cumbley controls the pin end and powers off to the left in his borrowed Winder Mk1, he has already won the event so no need to get embroiled at the favoured committee end. Lucas, Swain, Butler and Edel have also chose the left, maybe unaware that Cumbley is just having some fun but the truth will be known when they tack.

There are some strong veins of breeze up the right of the course and Davenport, who played the right rounds the top mark with a healthy lead from F Barnham, Nigel Bird and Brown. Cumbley makes it up to fifth with Lonsdale, Bundock and Mayger on his transom.

The breeze has dropped to 12 mph in the gusts and the fleet begin the long run down to the bottom gate with little chance of a big gain on the leading players.

Cumbley breaks through to third on the next beat but can get no higher with Brown and Mayger behind and Davenport and Fergus Barnham ahead at the gun.

To conclude

The fleet returned to shore, ably assisted by the team of King George volunteers and headed for the luxurious shower, food, drink and the prize giving.

North Sails had generously provided some awesome North Sails merchandise which was presented to some very lucky winners, thank you North Sails for your support of our premier Solo Super Series.

Charlie thanked the club for it's fine race organisation and catering, he is a sublime sailor to film and a great ambassador for North Sails, if someone has a lovely new Winder Mk 2 they can lend him for the National Championship, Brightlingsea then you will get back a finely tuned race machine!

Oliver Davenport in second was a tad unlucky but once again proved he is a talent, it will be great to see the season unfold for him. Fergus Barnham is my dark horse if he attends the Nationals, fit as a butchers dog and with a calm temperament too.

Fair play to Maria E Franco Ferro who was out on her toes all day and competing with the boys and to Mike Barnes who is not only old but raced his Beckett built 37 year old Solo around the course with the passion that makes this class so special.

Next event is the Eastern Championship at the venue for the Champs and I anticipate another stellar cast of sailors so join us, join the NSCA and race Solo.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3Pts
1st6021Charlie CumbleyHISC/TCYC11‑32
2nd6110Oliver DavenportNorthampton‑2213
3rd6011Fergus BarnhamNorthampton SC‑7426
4th5775Thomas LonsdaleWOSC35(RET)8
5th5691Guy MaygerHayling Island SC4‑659
6th6055Jonathan SwainCarsington113(RET)14
7th6074Chris BrownDraycote10‑14414
8th5781Alex ButlerHayling Island SC59‑1114
9th5615Andy CarterLeigh & Lowton SC6‑171016
10th5586Ian WaltersGrafham9‑10918
11th5746Harry LucasGWSC‑1671320
12th5887Jasper BarnhamSnettisham Beach(DNC)81220
13th5324Alex CorbyKing George SC812‑1420
14th6010Tim LewisRYA14‑15721
15th6017Mike DrayHawley Lake SC‑1313821
16th5903Nigel BirdPapercourt S C19‑21625
17th5704Jamie CuxsonShustoke SC12‑191527
18th5835Stephen DickinsonBurghfield Sailing Club2011(RET)31
19th5914Paul DavisRYA1716(DNC)33
20th6053Peter EdelKing George SC(RET)201636
21st6075Martin HodgsonSalcombe Yacht Club‑18181836
22nd5675Maria Franco FerroNorthampton SC‑24231740
23rd6080Vincent HoreyKing George SC15(OCS)RET41
24th5627Richard BundockGrafham Water SC2322(RET)45
25th6064Chris BoltonSnowflakes SC SFSC22(RET)RET48
26th3847Michael BarnesRYA(RET)24RET50
27th5597Jonny WellsEssex Yacht Club21(DNC)DNC51
28th3923Richard BeecheyLeigh on sea25(DNC)DNC55
29th6045Steve EdeArdleigh(DNC)DNCDNC60

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