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K1 Southern Area Championship at Datchet Water Sailing Club

by Hilly King 23 Apr 13:31 BST 20-21 April 2024

The Southern Area K1 Championship were held over the weekend of 20th and 21st April at Datchet Water Sailing Club.

On the preceding Friday afternoon our National Champion and fleet guru Simon Hawkes gave a training session on how to set your boat up for optimum performance and followed this with a video review, discussing the good, the not so good and techniques to improve boat speed which we could hopefully put into practise over the next couple of days.

After a brilliant turnout at Barnt Green SC for our first open meeting of the year, we had another excellent number of entrants, keen to enjoy the sunshine and wonderful expanse of water that Datchet offers. The winds were predicted at force 3 to 4 gusting 5 and true to form delivered as everyone gathered for the briefing. Race officer Derek Lambert explained the format for the open meeting which would consist of three sprint races, followed by two conventional races on Saturday and a further three conventional races on Sunday. However before the races were to start Ian Duke invited the sailors to place a sticker outside on the railings which corresponded to three K1 boat lengths. Contender supremo Stuart Jones, trying his hand at a K1 was bang on estimating the three boat length distance, with the vast majority of sailors interestingly estimating much shorter distances!

The first sprint race was the start of things to come with Simon Hawkes leading with close attendance from Richard Sims, Ian Duke and Jeremy Hudson. The fleet were all very close and place changing in the chasing group was frequent, mainly depending on who caught the huge lifts first and those that maximised the gusts best, which disappeared as quickly as they arrived. The run to the finish was a matter of keeping clear channels and making sure you kept the boat moving during the lulls. Ian pulled up to challenge Simon and Jeremy kept in close attendance, but Simon was not to be denied and took the bullet, Ian second and Jeremy third. The wind from the North gave a bit of a chill to the idyllic conditions but a quick turnaround from the race team kept competitors on their toes.

The second sprint race started with a change of wind direction and a large lift on port tack. Hilly King was first to react and crossed the fleet on port, closely followed by Simon and Ian who then proceeded to play the gusts up the centre of the race course. The chasing pack saw Jeremy, Richard, Geoff King and Graham Butler all reducing the distance to the leaders. Interestingly you could lose five or six places by simply tacking on the wrong header and both Jason King and Mike Becket were victims of wicked wind shifts. However at the front Simon was again taking control of the race with Ian keeping him honest, with Jeremy and Richard still in contention.

At the finish Simon again took the bullet followed by Ian and Richard taking third. At this point the question was who could beat Simon over the water.

The third sprint race was started with the wind reducing to a steady force three and looking more constant in direction. This brought different faces to the front of the fleet with Graham and Mark Stones challenging Richard and Simon to round the windward mark first. The wind shifts caught out numerous individuals including Hilly, Jason and David Pritchett and gave significant gains to Mike, Geoff and Jeremy. The wind was to build during the race and it was noticed that Richard was holding a slender lead over Simon which he extended off wind. Graham and Mark were also closing on Simon so at the leeward mark catching the gust and reacting to the change of wind direction to the finish was going to be key to your finishing position. At the finish Richard took a well deserved win, followed by Simon and Graham in third. A mention should go to Simon Etter, Nigel Salmon, Julian Legget, David Pritchett and Cedric Jacobsen who were all getting to grips with the conditions and were swapping places with each other demonstrating how close racing is across the whole fleet.

The fleet then started the first of the longer races and this time the wind strength was increasing, but still testing sailors with the odd fifteen degree shift. The race started with Ian, Simon and Jeremy leading a small cluster of boats and Richard leading another cluster much lower on the race course. Graham and Hilly returned after being over and set about trying to catch the fleet. As the race progressed Simon had a slender lead over Jeremy with Richard and Ian slightly further adrift. Geoff, Jason and Mark were all making good inroads to the leaders whilst Hilly and Graham were making their way through the fleet. At the end of the third lap Jeremy was poised to take the lead when he decided to sail so much lower than the rest of the chasing pack. Clearly this did not work out as he dropped to third allowing Richard to move up to second and Simon took the win.

The last race on Saturday was an absolute master class by Simon who nailed the start and sailing fast and high had a reasonable lead on the remainder of the fleet. Richard, Jeremy, Ian, Hilly and Stuart (racing again after renewing his broken jib halyard) gave chase and were continually jostling for places. Vicious gusts cut through the fleet but the racing was incredibly close throughout the fleet. After a fabulous race Simon took a well deserved bullet with Richard closing in second and Jeremy in third.

That evening we had a very enjoyable meal at the Ostrich public house who had kindly offered their car park to those staying in campervans. Many years ago the proprietors of the Ostrich had been found guilty of sixty murders and were duly hung their crimes! I am not linking the act of generosity to the crimes... just saying.

Sunday dawned with bright sunshine and no let-up in the wind, indeed the gusts seemed stronger, however we were all used to the wind shifts now and enjoying the fabulous April weather.

I should mention at this point Julian had locked his tiller extension in a friends car so had to construct a rope alternative to enable him to race the three Sunday races.

The first race was incredibly congested on the line but we got away at the first attempt.

Jeremy, Ian and Richard had a slight lead over Simon up the first beat with Stuart opting for a much lower course but flying. As the wind turned slightly more easterly Simon, who was playing the centre of the course established a slight lead, but six boats turned the mark almost in unison. The following three laps of an extended course saw Mike and Geoff up with the chasing pack and a number of turns being completed as the gusts and wind direction caught some napping. The closeness of the racing is a pleasure in the K1 fleet and after an hour of hard racing the winner was again Simon, closely followed by the consistent Richard and Jeremy.

The second race on Sunday was the most tactical from start to finish. On the start line the fleet were evenly spread across the line with Stuart and Richard literally on opposite ends of the line. As the race progressed the boat speed of Simon took him to the front but Richard was keeping him honest, with Jeremy leading the chasing pack, who were all extremely close.

The last beat saw a wide variety of routes up the racetrack. Stuart opted to hug the bank side together with the fast catching Mark, whilst Simon, Richard and Jeremy were playing shifts in the centre and Ian much further over to the left of the reservoir.

A close finish saw Simon win with Richard second and Jeremy third.

The last race saw a steady force 5 across the start line and this time Geoff nailed his start closely followed by Simon and Richard. However this race had to be recalled as the windward mark had broken free due to the prevailing winds. Once the buoy had been repositioned the race team got the fleet away without mishap and this time Simon seemed to have a jump on the rest of the fleet. Half way to the first buoy he had established a lead over Richard, Ian, Jeremy and Mark who was sailing very fast despite it being his first open meeting in a K1.

The wind had moderated to a force 3 but still had the odd gust around force five allowing large gains particularly off wind where going low on the race course was paying dividends.

As the fleet rounded the windward mark for the last time Simon had a clear lead with Richard second, but the other places were too close to call. Once completed Simon took the win with Richard second and Ian third.

Simon was a very deserving winner of the Southern Area Championship, with Richard second, Jeremy third and Ian fourth.

Julian did finish every race with his rope tiller extension in very trying conditions and rightly earned a spot prize for great seamanship.

Other winners of demographic prizes were Hilly, Stuart and Geoff.

The K1 class is sponsored by Ovington Boats who manufacture the K1 dinghy.

All were delighted to see Ian Klyne who helped present the prizes looking fabulous, and a special thank you should go to Rosemary Duke who persuaded her sister to make a fabulous K1 cake for all to enjoy.

Can't wait for our next events which are a training couple of days in Porchester 8th/9th May followed by POSH over weekend of 11th/12th May. Don't forget last year K1s filled seven out of the first ten places!

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