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Craftinsure 2023 LEADERBOARD

Supernova National Championships 2024 at Plas Heli - Runners and Riders

by Alex Reeve & Chris Hawley 16 Jun 22:23 BST
Cliff Milliner - Supernova Nationals at Paignton Day 2 © Phil Jackson / Digital Sailing

The UK is facing some big decisions in the mid-summer period, but surely the most important question is who, out of the 100+ entrants, will win the Supernova National Championships at Plas Heli? With just a couple of weeks to go, we took an opinion poll to determine who we think will be giving a victory speech and who will be losing their deposit.

Note: Whilst this article focuses on the "front of the fleet", there's expected to be great competition throughout and we expect to see some stellar performances from some people not named in this article.

Returning champions

Cliff Milliner is the current Sea, Inland and Winter champ. Can he complete the set and hold all four trophies at the same time (has anyone ever done this?)? Cliff has won the nationals many times before and was only beaten into second place by a point last year, so you wouldn't bet against him.

Sam Knight was third last year and now sails at Lyme Bay, for some reason preferring it to Birmingham. All that practice on the sea will stand him in good stead, and he's a former champ in both the Supernova and the RS400, as well as previous Steve Nicholson trophy winner. He'll go well in all conditions, most especially if the wind forgets to blow.

Matt Thursfield won the windy championships at Plas Heli in 2022, so he has form for the venue. Rumour has it he's fallen off his bike and injured himself, proving that sailing is the only safe form of transport.

Mark Hartley last won it ten years ago, but he does have the advantage of building these boats, so he should know how they work. He likes a breeze and is tall enough not to need to swim if he falls out. He recently denied that he'll change the sail design again if he doesn't win.

Mike Gibson is another multiple champ, winning at Porthpean when the class first ventured on to the sea. Quickest in shifty, flatter conditions he's still capable of winning races. He'll be up there throughout and near the end.

Other Platinum sailors

Alex Hagan Collins was fifth last year after zero practice. This season he's done an event or two, including coming second at Cotswold, so he may fancy his chances for top spot.

Steve Hawley is a perennial top ten sailor whose economical hiking style usually gets him near the front. Gate starts mean he'll find it harder to start at the wrong end of the line, so that should help.

Gavin Young is always on or near the podium and has won more open events than you can count. He's fast and adaptable in all conditions, and capable of scything through the fleet.

Hugo Hansen won his first Supernova open this season and has the advantage of youth. This year may be too soon for an overall win, but he'll be up there if it's lighter winds, and is surely a future champ.

Will Gifford has reinvented aspects of Supernova sailing and was credited by Cliff Milliner at the Inlands for how he now sets up his boat. Will is fast in all conditions, but especially loves a good breeze. A possible winner.

Chris Hawley and Alex Reeve assume they're in the Platinum fleet due to an admin error, and don't expect to trouble the leaders except for help pulling their boats up the beach.

Gold Fleet

Sean Ricketts and Peter Mackin will expect to beat at least some of the Platinum sailors (see the two immediately above), and both love a good breeze. Mike and Tony Critchley have plenty of experience and usually put their boats in the right place on the course. Fellow man of Lancashire steel, Andy Flitcroft, hasn't been seen much on the circuit this year but may find his form in the right conditions. Alan Bishop, Chris Williams, Iain Wilson, Ian "Bruce" Howett and Richard Lambert are all consistently quick too.

Silver Fleet

There's a wealth of experience in the Silver fleet. Look out for Paul Undrell, Ady Davies, James Gerwat, Nick Whiles, Kevin Reed and David Cann to put in some good results. But a good tip is perhaps the youngest sailors in the whole fleet, Ollie Crocker and Tom Williams, who surely won't be in the Silver fleet for long, being young, fit and fearless.

Bronze Fleet

Always hard to guess who'll rise to the top in the Bronze fleet, particularly with the new divisions. Charles Felgate was fast last year, and Serena Stewardson and Liz Felgate will likely be challenging too. Ashley Keniston and Geoff Turner (in the first ever Supernova) are sea sailors and a good bet as well. The great thing about the Bronze fleet is that a decent string of results can get you the win, which is a real motivation to do well.

There's also the Beginner fleet which will see a new champion crowned.

So, there you have it; a lengthy list, but with such a big and enthusiastic fleet it's hard to know who'll emerge near the front. What we can say with certainty is that the fleet will have a great time at Plas Heli, both on the water and off it.

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