Thorpe Bay, Essex hosted 60 entrants for the Sprint 15 National Championships sponsored by GJW Direct Insurance and Windsport. Entrants came from far and wide including Isle of Wight, Wales, Devon, the North and the Essex area. We were particularly pleased to welcome seventeen sailors competing in the Nationals for the first time and five youth entrants.
The event comprised seven races over three days, in increasingly breezy conditions!
Day 1 saw the lightest conditions with a reasonable Force 3. Race 1 saw Paul Grattage lead for the first lap but was eventually overtaken by last year’s National Champions, father and daughter team Sean and Sophia McKenna who went on to win the race. David Ball held on to third place, followed by Stuart Snell, Kevin Kirby, Liam Thom and Jack Tindale - putting in an impressive performance as a newcomer to the Sprint 15 fleet. Andy & Finley Webb were also doing well until their mainsail split in half – but they managed to borrow another one and get out in time for the next race.
Race 2 saw a slight strengthening of the breeze and with the tide turning, there was a mass bundle at the windward mark where those coming in on port found themselves tacking inside the oncoming starboard fleet and being pushed the wrong side of the mark. Paul Grattage established an early lead which he held on to win the race, followed by Sean and Sophia, Kevin Kirby, Stuart Snell and Kevin Dutch. The fleet headed in after a great afternoon’s sailing.
This year, Chairman Awards were introduced to commend individual competitors who had achieved something notable – sponsored by Elmore Homes and supplied by TCS Chandlery. Saturday’s winners were Yvonne Pike for capsizing on the finish line and Tom Gurney for putting in a great performance despite being half the size and a third of the age of an average Sprint 15 sailor.
Day 2 dawned with more sunshine and a decent Force 3 - 4 which was due to fall away during the afternoon so the fleet were keen to get the three races in. Kevin Dutch led the first lap – was overtaken by Sean and Sophia on lap 2 but got back in front to win the race – followed by Kevin Kirby, Sean and Sophia, Liam Thom and Jim Bowie. The wind had strengthened for the start of Race 4 and those who held the line out to the left hand side of the beat got to the windward mark first. David Ball developed an impressive lead by the end of the first lap – followed by Jack Tindale, Paul Grattage and Gary Sverdloff. But Sean and Sophia were chasing hard and by the end of the fourth lap, had managed to pull through to take the lead – followed by David, Paul Grattage, Liam Thom and Kevin Dutch.
Race 5 started in normal wind conditions – but was swiftly overtaken by squally conditions that had somehow been omitted from the forecast! Sprint 15s cope pretty well in such breezes but that did not prevent Sean and Sophia from capsizing and a number of others calling time and heading home. The Race Officer shortened the course after one lap – seeing another win for Kevin Dutch, followed by Paul Grattage, David Lloyd, Andy and Finley Webb and Chris Tillyer.
With a full on onshore breeze, landing sixty boats on the beach proved tricky or entertaining depending on your point of view. Sunday’s Chairman’s Awards went to Gary Burrows for his boat sailing off the beach by itself when he went to help someone else land – and had to be chased hard by a support boat to bring it back. Gary Sverdloff won an award for sailing over the concrete groin before being thrown off his boat – which then needed to be sailed back by a safety boat crew. The final award went to Sophia McKenna for enjoying her capsize despite being thrown well clear of the boat (and rescuing the burgee).
The fleet enjoyed a three course Class Association Annual Dinner in the evening and compared notes on aching muscles and bruises! Entertainment was provided by local band The Runaways who covered an excellent range of music – a must when fleet members are aged between 13 and 74.
Day three was breezier from the get go and two races were completed in strong wind conditions which resulted in some retirements during the course of the day and, unfortunately, some damage. Sean and Sophia sailed a text book race to win race 6 with David Ball taking second place from Chris Tillyer when his toestrap broke. Race 7 saw Robert Finch take the lead for the first two laps chased hard by Paul Grattage, Kevin Dutch and Andy and Finley Webb. Kevin Kirby capsized at the end of lap 1 and Aaron Kirby (no relation!) capsized on top of Kevin whilst trying to avoid him – but no harm or damage done. Kevin Dutch pulled through to take his third race win, followed by Paul Grattage, Robert Finch and Andy and Finley Webb.
The fleet headed ashore after a great weekend of racing. Chairman’s Awards went to Aaron Kirby for capsizing on top of his namesake and to Jack Tindale for sailing a superb first time Nationals until his boat was unfortunately damaged.
Prizegiving was led by Sissy Dewhirst – and massive congratulations to Sean and Sophia McKenna, from Shanklin – National Champions for the second year in a row. Congratulations also to Paul Grattage, Shanklin in 2nd place, Kevin Dutch, Seasalter in 3rd, David Ball, Marconi in 4th and Kevin Kirby, Marconi in 5th.
Other notable achievements include:
A big thank you to Thorpe Bay for hosting a fantastic event both on and off the water – and thank you to our sponsors GJW Direct Insurance, Windsport and support from Elmore Homes and TCS Chandlery.
2018 is the 40th Anniversary of the Sprint 15 and we look forward to our National Championships taking place from 22nd to 24th June 2018 at Weymouth.
Click for: Full Results with all Sub-Competitions