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Stoneways Marine 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Challenger Open at Wigan and St Helens Sailing Club

by Marion Edwards 22 May 10:54 BST 18-19 May 2024
WISH SC Open Challenger Event © Marion Edwards

After a very successful Challenger event WISH (Wigan and St Helens) Sailing Club in 2023 the Challengers returned for the weekend 18-19 May.

The fleet was small with six Challengers representing five clubs. There were five visiting sailors with Mike O'Connor (196), fresh from the recent coaching weekend, attending his first Challenger open meeting.

At the briefing the race officer explained that there would be a committee boat start but a finish on the club line directly in front of the clubhouse. A trapezoidal course was set around the clubs fixed (but moveable) marks. The wind was predominantly northerly(ish) but with huge shifts and even bigger holes ("vindictive" was Mike's word for it). Surprisingly for such a straightforward course with a small number of boats the fleet managed to create a fair amount of chaos.

Duncan Greenhalgh (280) made a good start to Race 1 and was first to the windward mark. Local sailor, and sole representative of the Silver fleet, Lynn Steward (300) was up there as well. On the second lap Duncan managed to hit the gybe mark which did not go unobserved by Val Millward (312) and Alex Hovden (304) and he completed his 360. Duncan then compounded his problems on the next beat by heading for the wing not the windward mark. Alex kindly pointed out the error of his ways but this dropped him down to sixth and he was unable to recover. At the finish Val took the win followed by Graham Hall (270) with Mike taking third!

In Race 2 Lynn was first to the windward mark, first to the wing mark and just ahead of Val at the gybe mark. Five of the six boats arrived at the leeward mark together and Lynn got pushed right to the outside with Graham sneaking in on the inside to round first. This time it was Val's turn to start going to the wrong mark she was put right by Graham but had lost ground and made matters worse by hitting the buoy, leaving her last. However, Val dug deep and over the remaining two laps pulled herself up to third but was unable to catch Graham and Duncan.

The fleet returned to shore for an excellent lunch. Graham had a slender (1 point) lead over Val. Duncan was leading Alex on countback and Mike had a narrow lead over Lynn.

In Race 3 Duncan decided to show everyone what he could do by nailing the start, getting clear air and was never challenged over the four laps to the finish. The rest of the fleet were left to struggle through the doldrums as best they could. Graham managed to go from fifth at the start of the second beat to second at the windward mark (more by good luck than good judgement) and clung on to it to the finish. Oddly no-one went to the wrong mark and no-one hit any of them either!

Unfortunately Duncan had family commitments and left the rest of the fleet to Race 4. Everyone decided to arrive at the windward mark together and the result was slow speed chaos. First Mike and then Val were seen to peel away because there was no room for them. There was further confusion on the run Graham decided to do a 360 for no apparent reason allowing Val and Alex through. It later transpired that he wasn't sure if he'd heard "Protest!" in the melee at the windward mark (he hadn't) and decided to make sure he was in the clear.

After four races the discard had kicked in and the overnight standings showed Val was leading Graham but only on countback. Third (Duncan) to fifth (Mike) were separated by just three points. Still with three races scheduled for Sunday and the forecast indicating lighter winds, nothing was certain (not quite true as sole representative of the Silver fleet, Lynn was confident of her win!).

There was much discussion of how the day had gone.

Graham said the day was "a case in point for when in front, extend, extend, extend because on the next lap you won't get that luck" and also that "All had their moments and lost it!".

Mike commented that he did not hit a buoy and that it was one of the few rules he did not infringe! He also blamed Graham (a little unfairly) for his fifth in the third race when he followed him on what turned out to be a poor route to the wing mark!

Following last year, most of the sailors knew what the "Hotpot Supper" would entail and stayed for the evening meal. No-one had any excuse to return to their home or hotel room hungry!

Those arriving at the club in plenty of time for breakfast (bacon and egg barms - at least this year we all knew what a barm was!) found Scotsman's Flash had a depressingly glassy surface. The wind began to fill in so the volunteers dutifully turned all the boats through 180 degrees to face it before putting the sails up... the wind mischievously did a 180 but fortunately it was light enough not to be a serious concern and it soon flipped back again.

The race officer set a slightly smaller trapezoidal course. At least the light winds meant that launching off the leeshore was easier than usual.

Duncan led for the first lap of Race 5 but lost out on the second beat which was almost windless and allowed Graham and Alex through. Going into the gybe mark on the third (final) lap Duncan luffed Alex to sneak back into second place and protected his position to the finish.

Val took the lead at the start of Race 6 with Graham following. Graham was becalmed on the second beat allowing Alex through. On the third beat the tables were turned and Val and Alex were caught out by a windshift close to the windward mark. Val held her lead but Graham and Duncan came up on a different wind allowing Graham to take second, with Alex managing to keep Duncan behind him to take third.

Race 7 was the decider. Val had to win to take the event (on countback) otherwise it would go to Graham. Duncan carefully synced his watch and lined himself up for a port tack flier. Val was close to the committee boat pointing high to keep Graham out of the prime spot. On the gun two things happened. Duncan hit the line but there was a second "hoot" and he assumed he was OCS and span round - unfortunately it was a "hooter" malfunction and he wasn't OCS but his race was essentially over. Val bore away to pick up speed giving Graham space to come through above her on a gust/wind shift. He stole the advantage and led from there to the finish. Mike's thoughts on this race were "If in doubt follow Val, but not so close as to cause umbrage" and in doing so he gained two places to take third. Alex lost out big time on the final beat because he didn't follow Val!

All in all, an excellent but tricky weekend's sailing with huge snakes and small ladders. Graham managed to find more ladders than snakes to take a narrow win. Val was second by a comfortable margin and Duncan just managed to keep Alex behind him to take third. With two third places Mike showed the potential to upset the established order. Lynn had moments of brilliance and managed to keep in touch with the gold fleet sailors.

The prize-giving was presided over by John Riley who was responsible for introducing the Challenger to WISH SC. Thanks were given to the Race Officer, Neil Hornby, and all the volunteers from the club who contributed to making the event such a success (especially those in the galley).

Overall Results:

PosFleetSail NoBoatHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7Pts
1stGold270DaisyGraham HallRutland SC‑21221219
2ndGold312Legless JesterVal MillwardRutland SC1331‑41211
3rdGold280White KnightDuncan GreenhalghBassenthwaite SC621(DNC)24419
4thGold304LiquidAssetv2Alex HovdenPapercourt SC444333‑521
5thGold196Better NewsMike O'ConnorHuddersfield SC3‑55455325
6thSilver300 Lynn StewardWISH SC5‑66566634

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