2015 UK 49er National Champs
This past weekend saw the running of the 2015 49er Nationals at the world famous Hayling Island Sailing Club. The format of the event was a training day on the Thursday, where the class provides a coach for the day at no expense to the competitors. Then the Friday Saturday and Sunday were for the actual event. The training was conducted by Simon Hiscocks, 2 time Olympic medallist and past world Champion in the 49er class. So with his expert eye watching over the fleet, there were some good tips learnt by all at the debriefing session.
Thursday saw a “Mini Series” held, where 6 sprint races were held, which would then be counted as a single result towards the overall National Champs score. It was held inside Chichester Harbour which brought in some local knowledge about tides and sandbanks. We started the first few races at high water, so neither od these were much of a problem, but by the later races it was important to keep an eye on how far you went on Starboard off the start line, after an FX helm and crew found out that Pilsey Sands were not as softs as the Race Officer (RO) made out in the briefing as they both flew around the forestay when their centreboard hit and they were left walking around the boat to get back in the race. The second race this happened to the Hunter Brothers as the tide washed out quickly. It was a great day of 15-20 knot winds and tight racing with the top 7 boats trading places on each leg. By the end of the day James Peters & Finn Sterrit had done enough to be leading by one point over Rory and Neil Hunter with the Canadian team of David Mori and Justin Barnes in third. We finished up in 7th.
Saturday dawned with the wind out of the South West and a bit more than the Friday. The RO decided to keep the racing in the harbour as the sea state out in Hayling bay was already up. Now having to share the, already confined waters of the harbour, things got a little entertaining. The first race got off to a good start with different tide directions at each end of the line, so the game plan was to head out to the channel as quick as possible and get into the outgoing tide. We had some good first beats, leading around the mark for a race or 2, only to have our rusty boathandling undo our good work. In the lead, we gybed away at the weather mark to make sure we didn’t sail over Winner bank, but the local knowledge of James and Finn, allowed them to sail straight over and with them the rest of the fleet followed. We had good upwind speed which help us keep the pro teams honest. After the first race the Ro changed it from a 2 lap race to a 3 Lap race. With the building outgoing tide, things started to get a little interesting. Winner bank was now too shallow to sail over, and the tide rushing out of the harbour in the main channel, which happened to be just to leeward of the weather mark, meant that the bear away at the top was pretty full on, and then a quick hoist and gybe to ensure you didn’t run into the bank. Most team had a swim here during the afternoon, and by the end of the day it was a case of making sure you just kept the mast pointing up. In the last race we tripped up in the gybe and ended up getting the kite in a knot, which meant we had to finish the rest of the last run without a kite, but in 25 knots, this isn’t too much of a handicap and got ourselves a race finish. At the end of the day James & Finn had done just enough to keep the one point buffer on the Hunter Brothers and David & Justin had closed right up on the leading duo to tie on 9 points with the Hunters. We finished off the day with a 6, 5 &5 to bring us up to 5th overall.
All to play for on the last day with 5 races on the cards. And for anyone who has ever been on a 49er, 5 full races in a day is not for the faint hearted. This time we were sent out into the bay in a building South Easterly to race off West Wittering. With minimal tide in the first couple of races, we again showed great speed and good starts to round the first weather mark in the lead. A wrapped mainsheet prevented the bear away from happening on cue, which let a few teams through. But by the bottom we had made most of the places back and gained a couple up the next beat, only to have a big switch put us on the back foot in the final quarter of the beat. This put us on the tails of the bunch, but back into our customary 5th place. The wind and tide built through the day and by the final race it was very bumpy and quite shallow over the bank, meaning that it was easy to get it wrong. On the final race, we managed to trip over a wave in the final gybe on the first run, with the mast on the ground we had to make sure we got the boat up in one piece. By the time we got upright, we had been washed almost back to the weather mark, so we called it a day and headed back home with the leading pack not far behind us. We finished with four 5th and a DNF to round off the regatta.
The regatta was won by the Hunter Brothers, who had defended their National title, with James and Fynn in second and the Canadians in 3rd. We finished in our highest UK Nationals position of 5th overall, and very happy with how we were going, and handled the conditions. Our next major regatta is the World Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Thank you to Southern Ropes and Elvstrom Sails UK for your continued support. If you know of any company who may be interested in contributing something towards the astronomical cost which this type of regatta involves, please don’t hesitate to contact us on RSA49er@gmail.com.