Andy Davis wins HARKEN Inlands, Patrick Burns wins Solo 6000
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
HARKEN National Solo Inland Championship 2016
Pre Event Coaching
Friday 16th September dawned cloudy and wet at Rutland Water where 20 sailors enjoyed the free coaching day, traditionally the pre-curser to the Inland Championship. The NSCA team of coaches, led by Pete Mitchell provided lot's of on water exercises and off water theory which was consumed by the trainees with much enthusiasm.
The trainees had been split into three groups, based on the various standards, Derek Jackman oversaw the beginners and remarked that they were better than they themselves thought. Dave Mitchell and Steve Ede looked after the intermediate group and Graham Cranford Smith and Pete Mitchell put the advanced group through their paces.
The moderate to brisk breeze tested the trainees boat handling skills, while the driving rain tested the coaches resilience. Unfortunately the one casualty of the day due to H2O inhalation was my Fujifilm F1 which meant no video highlights of the weekends action! Jackie and team at Rutland Water provided a wonderful evening meal of steak, peas and chips, not forgetting the peppercorn sauce, which was very appreciated.
Saturday Day 1
The various weather channels were predicting 12-20mph Saturday and this was realised and gratefully received by the 79 entrants. I was disappointed as the Class President, but, with 3mph forecast for the whole of Sundays racing, I should not be so hard on myself.
HARKEN Race 1
With my filming skills curtailed due to camera ill health, I resorted to rigging up and headed for the race area, nervous and suffocating slightly, my sailing attire had seemed to have shrunk over the last 7 months since it last saw action. With velcro fastenings loosened and Optimum time piece set for go, the fleet compacted into the start zone. There seemed to be bias towards the port end and with many of the fleet over at the gun, the inevitable recall followed. I believe the second start under the U flag was also canned so for the third attempt the black flag was released from it's bindings, its dark shadow casting its spell over one poor so and so but otherwise all clear. I had worked a nice pocket to make a good start near the middle and powered off in full hiking mode...which lasted about 20 seconds before resuming a more placid sitting position. One of the beauties of the National Solo is it's lovely comfy decks and deep cockpit which become your friend when your legs get tired. My quadriceps soon recovered and I went back into hike hard mode, albeit at the cost of a dozen or so places. My forward motion was also hindered by the peculiar feeling when you go over the whirlpools that frequent Rutland Water which should really be avoided. I squinted into the strong gusty northerly, the yellow windward buoy just visible and the leaders approaching fast. Yep, they were that far ahead already. My vision of winning one of the "first to the mark" HARKEN wholly hats was pushed to the back of my mind..for now. Andy Davis, reigning National Champion had nailed the first beat with Mike Sims in second and Oli Wells third. Davis had gone right, Sims Left, that is Rutland, right there. PRO David Rowland must have been chuffed, a start line where the leading pair start at opposite ends is the race officers dream, and it had been realised. The first leg of the triangle was very deep and the fleet compressed as the wind filled in from behind. On water jury, Steve Watson was on hand to police the fleet and unsurprisingly, there was only Rule 42 rule breakers all day. The look of surprise on Ian Hopwood's face after his foul play resembling the look on a Pope being accused of atheism. Davis and Sims held position for the remaining legs with Tom Gillard pipping Wells for third. Martin Frary found some form to finish next, from Chris Brown sixth.
HARKEN Race 2
A quick turnaround and another recall/black flag start resulted in one more BFD for the result sheet. The breeze was holding at around 10-12 mph and with some gathering cloud which I automatically factored into my grey matter. I was holding station, playing centreboard position and mainsail angle and making a nice little pocket for my start. With thirty seconds to go my plan was shot down with the arrival to leeward of event leader Davis. The starting made easy 101, "find a muppet to start near" unsettled me a little and I tried to avoid eye contact. No point in letting him see I'm having kittens. Out of the start and I was "holding lane" as they say these days. Davis is a joy to watch and I did....as he sailed away. I obviously need to work on my photography/racing mode but it is easy to lapse into spectator. I also seemed to find myself on collision course with the whirlpool again. Chris Brown had made the best of the starts and after working the beat and hooking into one of the odd left handers that sometimes shoot out of the creek, rounded first to collect the HARKEN "first to the mark" hat. Shane McCarthy was in the mix with Davis, Sims and Steve Denison in his Winder with capping conversion which the class are looking at. Davis took the lead up the second beat but Brown regained the lead at the top, the training from the previous day was paying dividends. Davis was having none of it and took the lead down the run and held for the third lap to take another bullet. Denison, Sims, Gillard and McCarthy completed the top six.
HARKEN Race 3
The wind had freshened and with some cloud coming across from the right the fleet were congregating towards the committee end. With many years of Rutland experience under my belt and obviously knowing better than the seventy eight other sailors, I headed for the pin end. Hotshots shook their heads and wished me well, offering their precious food and drink for my long journey to the windward mark. I declined and powered off left, my earlier vision of a HARKEN hat rekindled like a school boy romance with a girl called Tracy. After five minutes on starboard I craned my neck over my right shoulder, yep, the fleet are still there. I looked ahead, past the Water tower which I used as my layline reference into the mark and prepared to tack. The shift came about 3 minutes later than I had liked and saw me reaching into the top mark, unfortunately, straight into a line of starboard tackers. One of the drawbacks of the modern ODL/MAX sail is that you see lot's of angry faces through the ultra thin laminate. I made a hole, tacked and did my turns accordingly. Mark Lee claimed the HARKEN "first to the Mark' hat and with such a cherub like face, it will suit him this Winter. Davis, Gillard and Ian Hopwood, who shook off the dizziness from his earlier R42 turns were next around the mark with the other seventy five competitors doing their damnedest to catch up. Davis and Gillard extended over the next three laps with Gillard unable to break the National Champion's grip. Hopwood took a well earned third from Ewan Birkin Walls, Mike Sims and Pete Mitchell.
So overnight Andy Davis would lead the HARKEN Solo Inlands with Tom Gillard second, Mike Sims third, Chris Brown, Steve Denison and Ewan Birkin Walls.
No fleet retired to shore and prepared themselves for the evenings 60th Anniversary Party. The National Solo fleet are not known for the wild social get togethers, unlike the Merlin and Scorpion fleets there is so much more decorum. For this special event the NSCA pulled out all the stops, hiring a band and providing food and free bubbly. Our Hon. Treasurer was unfortunately unable to attend the event though we believe the dark room and flannel have calmed him down now. Jackie, Gregg and the team at Rutland provided us all with a lovely meal and "The Peas" band were awesome. Not to be outdone, I myself gave one of my speeches to thank Jack Holt for his vision of building a "little singlehander". The thunderous applause I would presume was for Jack, and rightly so.
The evening's climax was the draw for Solo 6000, a brand new Winder Boats National Solo with Selden Spars, HD Gold sail, Harken hardware, Creation Covers and Hiking Straps , CB Trailer Combi and one years free Insurance from NSCA Insurer, Noble Marine. The package worth over £7500 would go to one of the 848 members of the NSCA. Our Hon. Secretary stood by with laptop so we could ring the lucky winner "live" from Rutland. Jackie, Rutland's catering manager plunged her slightly sweaty fingers into the pot, initially pulling two slithers of paper but gravity and fate at last had their moment in the spotlight and it was the name of Patrick Burns that echoed through the bar. A split moment of silence then a shriek from the audience. Amazingly, the winner was one of the competitors and to top that, had come all the way down from Scotland for the event. There could not have been a more appreciative winner and very vocal with it. There was much sympathy for Kev Gibb, his long time fellow sailor and travel companion who would now suffer hours of Patrick's chirpy voice on the long journey home. The winners speech was indeed gracious and his thanks to all sponsors is echoed by members and NSCA committee.
Sunday dawned with no wind and none forecast. After an hour postponement the decision to can racing for the day was made and there were no protests from the sailors. With all three races counting there were some hard luck stories but overall the weekend was a complete success.
Andy Davis continues to impress with his skill and is an absolutely worthy HARKEN National Solo Champion 2016. Along with the overall results there were other winners.
Mark Maskell was 8th overall and first Veteran
John Steels was 36th and first Grand Master
Brian Fisher was 57th and Septimus winner Jarvis Simpson won the Plate Series
John Ball was 37th and first Vintage boat of which there were 7 entries.
Next year we will run a Vintage Championship as a separate event and I have the Vintage Event Leader rash vest ready for it!
Apologies for lack of a video report, the camera is in a bag of rice now.
Massive thanks to HARKEN for the prize fund which was incredibly generous and was warmly received by the competitors. Thanks as always to Phil Kilburn at NOBLE MARINE who continue to offer excellent insurance cover for our Solos.
The Inlands also forms part of the Super Series, sponsored by North Sails which will be concluded at Oxford at the EOS, October 29.
Will Loy President NSCA