Sunday, January 1, 2017

National Solo Review 2016

It has been another memorable season for the National Solo Class and with 2017 fast approaching, just time to reflect on some of the highlights.

2016 celebrated the 60th anniversary of this Jack Holt design and we honoured this by holding a free draw to all NSCA members for Solo 6000. The prize package was put together by Dave Winder of Winder Boats and NSCA Committee member Nick Hornsby and included a new Winder FRP hull fitted out with Harken hardware, Selden spars, HD Gold Maxx sail, Creation covers and hiking straps, CB Trailers combination trailer and one years insurance from our class sponsor Noble Marine. The draw was held at our Inland Championship, sponsored by Harken and Patrick Burns from Scotland was the lucky winner. He also happened to be attending the event and was so chuffed he was seen buying a round of drinks later that evening. The NSCA committee were also pleased as it meant we did not have to transfer the prize up to Edinburgh. A big thank you to all the suppliers who provided their goods at heavily discounted prices, I hope we can repeat this in 10 years for Solo 7000!

We did intend to hold a 60th celebratory event earlier in August with a format that would include a pursuit race based on age of hull and there were some hotshots who had purchased pre-2000 built Solos specifically for this event. There was also interest from some members who would not normally attend a “major” event as they feel uncompetitive against the modern FRP counterpart.

Unfortunately the weather forecast of strong winds meant postponement and with the season slipping by, a vintage series within the Inland championship was arranged. John Ball won this series, racing his Gosling built wooden Solo to 39th overall ahead of the 10 boat vintage fleet. The NSCA committee are looking at an event in 2017 for the pre-year 2000 fleet as there does seem to be interest.

I was fortunate to be elected as NSCA Class President at the Selden Nationals 2015 in North Berwick and with the average presidential reign lasting 3 years, my learning curve in diplomacy and economics is steep. Little did I know what my first year in the position would hold.

Early in 2016 I was made aware that there were concerns from some quarters of the membership that the National Solo could be impacted by the emergence of a new breed of single handed dinghy designs, lighter construction, easily righted following capsize and gentler on the shins when manoeuvring in the boat. The NSCA received some interesting ideas on how the National Solo could be improved, with little impact on costs. Importantly, all the possible changes would need to be optional and no speed increase would be gained from each change. Among the ideas were, Reduction of width of capping (removal of toe holes) Tiller allowed to operate over the transom. False buoyancy tank to aid lower flotation of hull in water when capsized. Reduction of correctors (no plan to reduce the overall weight of the hull in the future). The Committee spent some months in consultation with members and builders and a survey was conducted amongst the 900 odd members to which there was a 45% response.

The subject was discussed at the classes AGM in July and a hull with reduced capping was provided for competitors to view at the Inland championship. Interestingly, while the Solo looked sleek and the increased cockpit room would certainly make for easier tacking and gybing, there was an overwhelming feeling against this fundamental change to the look of the National Solo. On further discussion with members, there was very little support for this and the reduction in buoyancy, as it was felt that the hull could indeed be righted more easily but would be full of water so slower to get back up to speed. While the tiller over the transom idea has been aired at AGMs more times than I can recollect, the look of the Solo would change dramatically. NSCA Chief Measurer Gordon Barclay and myself met with RYA Technical and their view echoed committee and members misgivings, Bas Edmonds summing up the RYA position that these possible changes would effectively alter the DNA of the class and, if rule changes were ever put forward of such weightiness then a vote from the whole membership would be highly recommended.

Therefore, the NSCA committee, after some serious thought and investigation decided not to support any of the proposed changes to the National Solo. If anything, the whole process of looking at what the National Solo offers, the support it has from around 900 members, the history of 60 years of one design racing under it’s belt and a genuine love for the Solo with all it’s eccentricities has just made the class even stronger. New builds have taken off and interest is at an all time high across the UK, Holland. There is support in Portugal and France and we hope that taking our Nation’s Cup to venues such as Carnac will encourage fleet growth in these countries.

On the racing front it was another great year for the class with average turnouts at the major events exceeding 2015. Just to recap and re-affirm why the Solo is the class to race;

Noble Winters Chew Valley 52

Springs Draycote 70

Nigel Pusinelli WPNSA 47

Superspars Nationals Pwllheli 83

Nation’s Cup Medemblik 56

Southerns Bough Beech 44

Scottish Champs St Mary’s Lock 37

Harken Inlands Rutland 79

It is a personal target of hitting the magic 100 entry for the Inlands and Nationals and I was disappointed with this years attendance but there were mitigating factors and these included a resistance to visit Pwllheli from some of the fleet who would rather have gone to Abersoch. Having visited both venues I can confirm that the fog is equally thick on both parts of this beautiful coastline when it chooses to. I am assured that the launch and recovery mats will be in place for our next visit, hopefully in 2021. I am also aware that there are some members who are unable to attend in school term (no, not the kids,) so we have chosen dates and locations for 2018/19 that are compatible to those that wish to take the family and also to teachers who sail Solos.

View from Behind the Camera

2016 was a mixed bag of conditions and not particularly stella from a photographers stand point. The Noble Winter Championship, had it been held on it’s original date, would have provided some great action shots but with gusts of 37knots ravaging Chew Valley, I doubt there would have been many boats on the water. The re-scheduled event, held in more benign conditions was won by North Sails Charlie Cumbley sailing his well seasoned Speedsails Mk5.5 with North 3DL. The Spring Championship, held at a stronghold of Solo sailing, Draycote, attracted 70 sailors and a moderate breeze produced some great close one-design racing, exactly what the National Solo is all about. Cumbley took the win from HD Sails Andy Davis. It is interesting to note that these two sailors have both done their time in the Solo with 8 and 15 years under their belts.

With the NSCA policy of on the water judge in place, Steve Watson ensured fair play across the course. I had swapped my camera for a Solo for the day and very quickly realised how the fleet have improved over the last few years, another advantage of having some of the best UK sailors in the fleet. As a class with so much choice in hulls, sails and equipment, we do benefit from attracting professional sailors to the Solo and these sailors have always been happy to share tuning info, tactics and techniques, the result is we all become better sailors. Across the UK there are Solo fleets and Area Series, organised by the NSCA and very strongly supported. In the Midlands, Area rep Nigel Davies reported that there were 23 qualifiers with average turnouts of 24 which is a big jump from 2014 when the number of qualifiers was 5. Utilising the Solo website, Facebook and hooking up with awesome sponsor Rooster ensured that coverage of events was up to date and easily accessible, well done Nigel. Thanks also to all our reps for your time and efforts, keeping the National Solo on the map.

Area winners 2016

North Sails Super Series Andy Davis

Rooster Sailing Midland Area Chris Brown

Winder Boats Northern Area Steve Denison

Southern Area Martin Frary

Eastern Area Alan Bishop

Western Area Guy Lonsdale

Sea Series Iain McGregor

Thames Valley Series Tim Lewis

Sailingfast Scottish Series Andy Hutchinson

Back to the 2012 Olympic Venue

We ventured to the home of UK sailing, Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in June and while cloud cover and unusual light winds jaded my retinal experience through the fuji viewfinder, the action was still stimulating. Mike Sims took the Nigel Pusinelli Trophy home to Carsington, it is only a matter of time until he captures the biggest prize in the Solo calendar. We have shaken up some venues for 2017 and so we will take this event to Hayling Island before returning to WPNSA in 2018. It was nice to see some more youthful faces at Weymouth, Jack Hopkins, Fergus Barnham and Craig Williamson certainly made their mark at the front of the fleet and off the water the “snapbacks” and low hung jeans made a fashion statement. 30 years ago I was doing the same, how time flies.

Superspars National Championship

The new club at Pwllheli is undoubtably stunning and once the fog had cleared, the beauty of the Snowdonia National Park made a fitting backdrop. There were still some glitches to iron out but the staff did all they could to please the 83 helms and families. The now familiar black flag start sequence was disappointing, not helped by some negligible start line angles but once underway, racing was keen and with on the water Jury man David Battye in attendance, there were few misdemeanours. Pwllheli saved the best conditions of the week until the final day but by that time Andy Davis had already just about sewed the event up. We look forward to returning, hopefully in 2021 as long as the club can ensure clear skies and a nice F3-5 with the classic Cardigan Bay swell!

Harken Inlands

With a very dodgy forecast for day 2 it was touch and go whether we would re-schedule the event but with a decent breeze forecast for the training day on Friday and Saturday, a band and the draw for Solo 6000 due to take place in the clubhouse at Rutland Water, we were set for a compelling weekend. The training day, while plagued by constant rain and some strong winds was another complete success. The NSCA coaches, headed by North Sails Pete Mitchell split the sailors in to three groups based on experience and worked on all the elements of sailing the Solo. With the galley providing plenty of sustenance off the water the trainees had a great day and readied themselves for the main event. 79 entries and with the forecast for Sunday (which would materialise) predicting no wind, it became a three race shootout. Andy Davis dominated the event taking 3 bullets from Tom Gillard (North Sails) and Mike Sims. Mark Maskell was first Veteran in 8th (50-59), John Steels first GM in 36th (60-69) and Brian Fisher 57th, Septimus winner (70 and over). Well done to all. I once again took to the water to compete which limited my photographic opportunities and with my Go Pro left in my sail bag, meant no video report. There is no doubt that media coverage is essential to maximise exposure of your class and I am proud that the NSCA continues to push this boundary of publicity.

What is next?

Drone footage has certainly expanded peoples understanding of sailing but has some big restrictions. The cost of hiring drone and cameraman for even a day is painful on the bank balance. Alternatively, purchase of a drone could end in tears if the “pilot” is less than expert and the drone, if not heavy enough will struggle in even moderate winds. The cost of the drone also increases with it’s weight. That said, there is definitely some positives for looking into an NSCA drone and it would be much cheaper than obtaining satellite coverage! I do intend to sail more in next season but have already received offers from budding film makers to hold the camera at events in 2017.

So, with me or someone behind the camera next season, we will provide some great exposure of ‘on the water’ action, a nationwide UK area series, the North Sails Super Series of majors and over 75 clubs up and down the UK supporting National Solo sailing, it looks like another huge season ahead. Massive thanks to all our sponsors and suppliers who continue to keep the National Solo vibrant but especially Noble Marine who provide us with round the clock protection for the boats we love to RACE. If you are interested in going Solo then look out for a trial day in your area through 2017.

Some of the 2017 Major Events

Noble Winters Draycote 25 February

Springs Oxford 29 April

Scottish Champs Largo Bay TBA

Nation’s Cup Medemblik 5-6-7 May

Welsh Sea Champs Abersoch 27-28 May

Nigel Pusinelli Trophy Hayling Island 3-4 July

Solo National Championship Royal Torbay 9-14 July

Inland Championship Rutland 9-10 September

EOS Grafham 14 October

Midland Champs Draycote 1 April

Southern Champs Felpham 20-21 May

Northern Champs Burwain 10-11 June

Eastern Champs Leigh on Sea 24 June

Western Champs Salcombe 28-29 October

 

Will Loy President NSCA

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