Sprint 15 Sport Nationals at Yaverland Sailing and Boat Club
21st-23rd September 2019
The weather leading up to the Nationals at Yaverland was not the usual balmy, calm conditions that we are used to on the Isle of Wight and 36 hours of strong easterlies had built the waves up into the “unpleasant” category. Nigel and Fiona Denchfield, our race officers were less than keen to spend their afternoon on a bucking bronco of an anchored yacht and opted for the warm tranquillity of the Yaverland race box on dry land. A windward - leeward course was set just as Paul Grattage turned up on the kayak which he used to get from his yacht that was going to be the committee boat. Paul had sailed the boat single-handedly from Southampton with no furling gear or auto-helm just in time to be told it wasn’t wanted.
Paul capsized his kayak in the surf.
The easterly gusts were well into the 20s for the 2pm start with the course leaving the sailing club to port on the way to the windward mark. Anthony Gray could not join the fun as he had pulled a massive wheelie near the beach while trying to launch through the surf.
Paul Grattage exploded off the line, as he usually does in windier conditions, and it was clear that Paul, Fraser Manning and Hector Bunclark were in a class apart from the rest of the fleet as they accelerated away. Paul was first around the windward mark but had to retire with a broken traveller car leaving Fraser to show us all round the course. Stuart Pierce was initially up with the front runners but he couldn’t maintain his place downwind. Fraser kept his lead from Hector throughout the race with Ed Tuite Dalton finishing in third ahead of Liam Thom and Chris Tillyer.
Paul joined us for the second race with a boat borrowed from “The Other Liam” Bunclark. Again he made the early running ahead of Fraser and Hector but threw it all away by capsizing. Liam Thom, Ed and Chris fought it out for the minor places with Paul working his way back through the fleet. Fraser won the race comfortably with Hector second, Liam third, Chris fourth and Ed fifth. Paul capsized again at the last mark and finished in tenth place. Jan Elfring celebrated his eleventh position by being unwell all over his trampoline.
Paul took his yacht to Portsmouth for the night but managed to get it back to Yaverland in time for the 10.30am start on the Sunday. The wind had dropped and turned to the south west which is off-shore in Sandown Bay and the sea state was much flatter than on day 1. A trapezoid course was set and the starting sequence was signalled on time with only four boats near the start. Fortunately for the others the fickle zephyr swung to the south and then dropped and there was an hour’s postponement. The course was reset and the wind built nicely to allow the first of three races to get going in trapezing conditions.
Fraser held the lead from his fellow North Devon sailor Hector for three laps with Paul (who was reunited with his original boat), Liam and Ed behind. However Hector got ahead on the last lap to take the win.
Race 4 followed promptly and this time it was Paul’s turn to dominate. Paul led Fraser, Liam, Anthony Gray and Ed throughout the four laps and took his first bullet of the regatta. Fraser came in second ahead of Liam with Ed pushing out Hector and Chris Murphy.
A few sailors had had enough after two races and went back to the beach. Jan Elfring was one of them. Unfortunately while he wandered off to get his trolley his boat decided it wanted to join the others having so much fun so it sailed out to sea without him. Jan jumped on Christine Roman's boat with her and they set off in pursuit. Jan's boat was tricky to snare and they had to wait until a RIB captured it.
Paul got to the windward mark first in Race 5 ahead of Ed and Liam and extended his lead throughout the race to the finish. Liam got ahead of Ed on the first downwind leg and managed to hold the position for the four laps. Ed lost out again on the final run of the race when Fraser overtook him. Hector came in fifth.
This left Fraser holding all the aces going into the last day with Hector and Paul both needing two wins each to take the silver home.
Paul had his fourth capsize when trying to paddle out to his yacht after the dinner on Sunday night. He never found his yacht in the dark and had to sleep at his father’s house a full mile away.
The third day of the regatta saw increased winds with white caps everywhere and gusts from the south south west of over 30 knots. Many sailors chose not to use their jibs and others stayed ashore. We were joined by former national champions Sean and Sophia McKenna who had been too busy at the weekend to race.
Race six was initially started with a rare general recall for our fleet and Nigel went straight to a black flag for the restart.
Fraser had the worst possible start to day 3 when he had both a collision with his father’s boat and had a failure in his trapeze wire and capsized. That’s the story that was told to me anyway and the quality of the tale is more important than its veracity.
It is often assumed that people at the front of the fleet know what they are doing. Frequently, however they are just fast on a boat. That was certainly the case on race 6 when a good proportion of the fleet followed Paul well past the lay line to the first mark and allowed those sailors that were looking where they were going to make up ground. In spite of his overshoot, Paul rounded first ahead of Liam and Chris Tillyer with Sean and Sophia stuck at the windward mark with their main sheet wrapped around one of their rudders. Liam and Chris were both sailing without jibs and were able to make this work by travelling less distance than the two-sailed boats both up and down wind. Chris, Ed and Sean/Sophia had a close battle all the way around with Hector in the mix all the way. Paul finished first to keep the regatta alive with Liam second to keep the possibility of a podium finish open for him. Sean came in third but at the short windward leg to the finish line Hector hit the buoy and Chris made it back up to fourth by fetching the line ahead of Ed and Anthony who both had to tack.
The regatta thus went down to the last race with Paul needing a bullet and Fraser just needing Paul not to win.
Paul, Fraser and Hector all got away well at the start but again overshot the lay line. Liam rounded the windward mark first but was quickly overtaken by Fraser on the downwind leg and Fraser never lost his grip on the championship after that. Paul finished the first lap in a lowly eighth and despite moving steadily through the fleet he was never going to catch Fraser. They crossed the line with Fraser taking the win and the championship ahead of Paul, Liam and Hector. That would have knocked Hector off the podium but Liam had been over the line at the start.
Heavyweight: Jan Elfring
Pictures by Alan and Mary Howie-Wood
Click for: Full Results with all Sub-Competitions