40 Sprint 15 sailors made a very welcome return to WPNSA in Weymouth for our 2021 National Championships – a nine race, three day event from Saturday 26th to Monday 28th June.
Many competitors took the opportunity to travel down on Friday to extend the weekend – (it’s the only type of holiday we are likely to get this year after all!) – and were blessed with champagne sailing conditions with glorious sunshine and a decent breeze.
On Friday afternoon, eight people also took part in a pre-Nationals coaching session run by Tom Phipps from Windsport – our official class manufacturer and supplier.
Tom led a brilliant session with some boat rigging tips ashore and then various water-based exercises to sharpen up tacking, gybing, sighting the start line and pulling the trigger on the start gun. David Ball, Training Rep who had co-ordinated the session and Jenny Ball, Events Secretary snuck aboard the RIB with Tom to do very important jobs like hold flags and take lots of photos. They also marvelled that for each exercise, a different individual “trainee” actually did what they were supposed to whilst the other seven not so much. Following a great debrief ashore, the eight participants left very happy whilst Tom was run ragged around the boat park fixing and helping lots of Sprint 15 sailors to get their boats regatta ready.
The weather forecast was not all promising for the weekend – with variable winds and plenty of rain, cooler temperatures and not much sun. So it was a pleasant surprise on the first race day to find some sunshine, mild weather and a light but sailable breeze. In fact, the forecast suggested the breeze might get up to 11-12knots later in the afternoon – so with three back to back races planned, it was all looking very promising.
Bryan Drake was our Race Officer for the weekend – his first time with the Sprint 15 fleet – and the WPNSA Committee Boat Gyrinus was on station to set the fleet off for the scheduled start time, racing in the harbour. Race 1 got off to a clear start and some of the fleet got their first lesson that Gyrinus creates quite a wind shadow at that end of the line. Those that started closer to the pin found that the left hand side of the course also paid. Stuart Snell rounded the windward mark first, followed by Jenny Ball and the rest of the pack not far behind. Once round mark 2, the fleet had an interesting time trying to locate mark 3. An aqua-marine buoy is quite hard to spot against aqua-marine water, and the backdrop of the distant harbour wall. The length of the run and the lightish breeze meant the fleet had plenty of time to look for it but did make for an interesting fanning out of the fleet. Eventually it was found and the RO decided to finish the race after one lap with Stuart first and 2nd, 3rd and 4th placing for Marconi Sailing Club with Jenny, Kevin Kirby and Jon Pearse.
For Race 2, the wind shifted in the final part of the start sequence to several cries of anguish, particularly for those who had held back from the line at the Committee Boat end. Jim Bowie was fine as he had started at the one minute signal by mistake and had not clocked the U flag so made elaborate but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to exonerate himself by rounding both ends of the line. Meanwhile, youth helm and two up entry, Sophia and Sean McKenna had made a great start at the pin end of the line and tracking out to the far left paid off. They went round the windward mark first and despite chasing from a small number of competitors just behind them for two laps, their lead was unassailable. Stuart Snell worked his way up to second place, followed by Scott Wilcox and Chris Tillyer.
Race 3 was a clear start and also took place in light airs as the stronger forecast failed to materialize. Most of the fleet tracked left again but a few headed right and this time round it paid off. Keith Persin found himself in front heading to mark 1 and only Stuart and Chris managed to sneak round the mark in front of him on port. Liam Thom did a great job on the downwind leg to move himself into contention and went on to take a closely fought win, followed by Stuart, Chris and Simon Giles in his shiny new boat.
The fleet headed home after thanking the team on the Committee Boat team and anyone else in the Safety Boats that they happened to see – much to the bemusement of the race management team.
After heading back to their accommodation to get showered and changed – the fleet returned for the Class Association AGM – mostly lured by the offer by WPNSA to open the bar/table service early for the meeting. The AGM was informal and efficient and may have broken a new record for shortest time. If not, it’s the Event Secretary’s fault for rattling off all the other events taking place this year that she would really like people to turn out for.
After the AGM, the fleet enjoyed a lovely evening meal served by the WPNSA catering team. Whilst we could not mingle between tables the way we normally would – it really did feel like a return to near normal again being able to have a sit down indoor meal with good friends at a sailing event. We were also pleased to be joined for dinner by the volunteers from the safety boats, committee boat and shoreside safety teams as a joint thank you from WPNSA and the Sprint 15 Class Association.
Sunday morning dawned with the least mid-summer weather imaginable. Lots of rain overnight and more forecast for most of the day. The winds were also blowing a steady 26 knots plus creating interesting conditions out in the harbour, although the breeze was due to settle down to a F5 – 6 by lunchtime. With four back to back races scheduled, the Events Secretary proposed a short postponement to align with the forecast. Whilst not a popular decision with one or two quarters in the fleet, the majority were supportive and after less than an hour, most of the fleet set off, although some chose to sit out the first race and see if any carnage ensued before venturing out.
Race 4 set off in a great breeze which helped make up for the light winds of the day before and also flipped some of the positions at the front of the fleet. Sophia and Sean again got off to a great start near the pin end and headed left which was favourable. After battling round for three laps, Mark Aldridge took the win, with Sophia and Sean in second, David Ball in third and Steve Sawford in fourth.
For Race 5, the rest of the fleet came out to play once they realized everyone was intact and boats were not in matchsticks. It was an eventful start. In their bid to get a clear lane on the busy start line, both Richard Chidwick and Jenny Ball were U-Flagged – unfortunately only finding out when reading the “whiteboard of doom” on the back of the Committee Boat coming through the end of lap one. Additionally, Jim Bowie found a shackle pin on his tramp which had fallen from his main halyard. So his sail was falling down the mast whilst the halyard ring and shackle was still firmly attached to the hook at the top. With the help of the RIB, Jim’s boat was capsized and the halyard ring, hook and sail were all put back together again – but unfortunately at the expense of his race. Fortunately, this was the only rescue required all weekend.
Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet who were actually racing properly set off. By lap 2, Mark Aldridge had established a clear lead to take his second win. A stellar performance from Gordon Deuce put him in second place – and regretting that he had not sailed the first race after all! They were followed by Angus Cook and Hector Bunclark from North Devon with Liam in fifth. Towards the end of the race, the fleet were also treated to a tremendous downpour of rain which must have made the volunteer race management team feel that they deserved a pay rise.
Race 6 proved again that the downwind leg was as much of a deciding factor as the upwind with lots of fleet place changes. Rob Wilson put in an amazing performance rounding Mark 4 in second place and finishing 6th overall. Mark Aldridge went on to take his third consecutive race win, with Steve Sawford second, Paul Craft third and Liam Thom in fourth place.
As forecasted, the wind had softened by the start of Race 7 and the fleet set off for the final race of the day. About three quarters of the way to the windward mark, the wind shifted significantly – the first time that day which was a surprise given all the different “weather” that had passed through during the course of the day. A lot of the fleet had gone right or up the middle and found themselves broad reaching into the mark whilst those who had banged the left corner found themselves unpleasantly in the wrong place. The reach from mark 1 – 2 became a run and the next two legs were, obviously, also all the wrong way round. All of which made for lots of shifting places. Liam and David fought a close race with Liam taking his second win, followed by David, Mark, Geoff Tindale and Chris Tillyer.
The fleet headed home after four great races in five hours of sailing – a testament to the impressive racing turnround of the Race Officer and the mark layers. On a wet, gloomy and breezy day in midsummer – the competitors were even more grateful for this.
The Class Association Dinner was held in the evening – another welcome return to normality. The catering staff were particularly patient as we all sat on wrong tables and tried to remember what meals we had ordered – admittedly several weeks ago when we entered. Much of the evening was spent consulting forecasts for the final day of racing and trying to find one that involved more than two knots and where the wind would not be going round in circles all day. It was another great evening and enjoyed by all.
The final day of racing dawned on Monday with seven races in the bag and two to go. The Championship still had much to play for and a further race would trigger another discard which could change fortunes across the fleet.
The Events Secretary and WPNSA Race Management team held their daily briefing early on Monday and pooled forecast data with local knowledge. The first race was scheduled for 11am. The forecast showed nothing until a potential 5-6knot breeze around 12noon for about 2 hours before it went round in circles and fell away again. The Events Secretary is a self-professed optimist with the weather – so proposed another short postponement to see if the 5 knots came in. The Race Management team duly set up a rota of RIBs to sit out in the harbour and take regular wind readings. The fleet got their boats ready and reminisced about the same situation three years ago where no breeze materialized at all on day three and we had to go home early.
But around 11:30, on cue, a breeze appeared from the right direction and the race management team out on the course were getting very promising readings between 5 – 10 knots so racing was on! The fleet set off in shorts and t-shirts as if it was late June (which it was) and marvelled at how different the weather was from the day before.
Race 8 started in a good, if not exciting, breeze which required tactical thinking to pick the right way upwind, in particular. A lot of the fleet went left although the few that went right seemed to do OK. True to form, Liam picked the right way up the course to come first with Stuart second and Mark third. Gary Sverdloff put in an excellent performance to come fourth, despite one youth sailor trying port hand ramming tactics at the windward mark on the second lap with a resounding bang that most of us heard. But no damage done and both boats able to finish appropriately, so all good.
With another superbly quick turnaround from the race management team – race 9 got underway in a softening breeze. True to form, much of the fleet went left again but a few souls ducked the boats on starboard and headed right. When they tacked back onto starboard, they found the left hand fleet had sailed into even softer breeze. Pete Richardson – true to his boat’s name “Bandit” – had pulled out a lead around the first mark with Jenny close behind and the rest of the fleet following. Jenny, Pete and Geoff Tindale had a very tense, if not very quick, downwind leg to mark 3. Geoff and Peter then had their own private race from marks 3 to 4 which deviated quite some way from the layline. On the final leg to the finish – Jenny tacked to clear the back of the Committee Boat and checked the “whiteboard of doom” to ensure she was not U-Flagged again. Despite a significant shift that lifted Geoff and Pete to the finish line, she managed to keep in front to take the race win. The rest of the fleet had rapidly pulled in by now but lots of the front runners ended up mid-back and vice versa.
The fleet headed home, very happy to have got all nine races in and very appreciative of Bryan Drake and all of the race management team for making it happen so efficiently.
The prizegiving was held outdoors and led by the Events Secretary, Jenny, (the Chair being temporarily unavailable due to non sailing related injury) who expressed appreciation on behalf of the competitors to Tom Phipps from Windsport, the caterers, Peter Allam and all the team at WPNSA and Bryan Drake and all the race management volunteers ashore and afloat.
Spot prizes were awarded to Rob Wilson, Gordon Deuce, Geoff Tindale, Daren Fitchew, Gary Sverdloff and Pete Richardson for stella individual race performances. And also to Jim Bowie for his UFD round the ends and losing his main halyard shackle pin. And becoming a household sail number with the entire WPNSA race management team. It is a distinct possibility that there will be a perpetual spot prize at future Nationals entitled the “What Jim Did This Year” trophy. Watch this space.
The important trophies were then handed out: Youth trophy to Sophia McKenna, Over 50 to Mark Aldridge, Over 60 to Scott Wilcox and Over 70 to Stuart Snell. The Heavyweight trophy went to Jon Pearse, the Pro Am and Most Improved trophies went to Jason Clarke and the Most Persistent Trophy went to his sister Jemma Clarke.
We then proceeded with glassware for 12th place upwards and the metal ware for race winners and the top of the fleet. Sophia and Sean McKenna took the 2 up and Race 2 winner trophies.
Liam Thom took second place overall and winner trophies for Races 3, 7 and 8.
Mark Aldridge was race winner for Races 4, 5 and 6 and was also the single handed champion and Sprint 15 National Champion for 2021.
The Sprint 15 Association would like to extend its heartfelt thanks to WPNSA for hosting and to Bryan Drake and all the volunteers for enabling such good racing. We would also like to thank all the competitors who turned out to support this event in such interesting times. Also thanks to Pauline Love as chief photographer for the event and to Tom Phipps at Windsport for the Coaching Session and for supporting the event across the whole weekend. We also discovered he can make top notch paper aeroplanes.
We are delighted to confirm that our 2022 Nationals will be hosted by Windsport at Restronguet from 9th to 11th July 2022 and we look forward to competing in “home waters” for the class.
Pictures by Pauline Love
Click for: Full Results with all Sub-Competitions