Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Fifty six Solos' made it to the line for race 1 of the Nation's Cup, hosted by Medemblik Sailing Centre. There were some last minute cancellations from Dutch and UK representatives but this in no way detracted from the level of fierce competition on it. The relaxed Dutch way of life was apparent from the off, no race briefing, "you have the sailing instructions, off you go". I was to be filming the event and waited pensively on the ample jetty as the fleets of Solos' and OK dinghy's set off. A tall chap rocked up in a big yellow rib, my ride, but instead of welcoming me aboard he passed me the keys and kill cord and left me to it! I did have to sign for them and since the club had been the victim of the theft of all their rescue rib outboards the day earlier, some form of paper trail seemed prudent. Fortunately for me, Jim Hunt was available to drive me to the race area since he had broken his OK the day before in preparing for the OK event. Jim, multiple champion in multiple classes does not hang around and the steep Ijsselmeer chop was no match for his accelerator arm. The OK would be using the same course and set off after one general recall leaving the way clear for the Solos' who's start followed a similar pattern. Race 1 The breeze was at 7-10 knots and punching through the awkward chop would be the quick way to the back of the fleet. The course would be the triangle /sausage and at the top of a long first beat it was Jonathan Swain who came in from the left of the course with Andy Davis a close second. Mike Sims, Nigel Davies, Peerke Kortekaas (NED) Steve Graham and Matt Howard in seventh. Davies dropped low and immediately took the lead. The reaches were low on gains or losses as the pressure and wave action was negligible. The beats were a whole different story and the trick was checking compass bearings rather than being tempted into tacking on a perceived header. Swain seemed to take a higher line but Davis was happy to go bow down and get into the next shift quicker and held for the win. Matt Howard hooked into a nice left hander and pipped Sims on the line with Nigel Davies fifth. Race 2 The breeze increased, the cloud muffling the suns rays and chilling the waiting sailors as the OK fleet set off. The PRO John Borsboom shortened the length of the top mark considerably but I doubt this warmed the sailors hearts. Unfortunately a general recall and increase in pressure brought the OK fleet round the leeward mark as the Solos' set off. A frustrating sight as those thinking they were in a clean lane found themselves effectively in the eighties. Dave Mitchell had made a complete pig's ear of the start but was at the pin end and a big left hander provided him with clear air away from the OK fleet which he exploited to round first. Great job Dave! Ian Hopwood rounded with Davis on his inside. Howard and Pete Mitchell were fourth and fifth as the breeze kicked up the classic Ijsselmeer chop meaning downwind gains were in play. As Keith Milroy from the Highlands rounded sixth, I swear I could hear the faintest sound of bagpipes in the Northerly wind. Up front Davis had taken the lead by the wing mark, sinking low and working his little socks off while others took the high road. Howard was into second and these two extended on the pack. Hopwood and Pete Mitchell were unto third and fourth and first beat genius Dave Mitchell was relegated to seventh. The beats were hard work and despite Howard's supreme fitness and angry face, he could not break through the sublimely smooth Davis style. Pete Mitchell took third, enjoying the physical effort required to keep the Solo driving through some very steep slabs of Ijsselmeer. Hopwood took a well earned fourth from Sims and Dave Mitchell. Race 3 There were some tired expressions as the fleet prepared for the final race of the day and with the breeze at 16-18knots, the fleet set off for mark 1. Unusually, the ends of the line were empty with the majority, like sheep on a patch of dry ground, congregated in the middle. The OK fleet had provided a good indicator of which way was quickest and the Solos' followed suit, holding out to the left for a considerable time. The trick was going far enough, that, on tacking you could clear the OK fleet as they reached down to the wing mark but not over lay the top mark. Howard took command, obviously keen to get back to shore asap as the temperature continued to drop. Chris Brown and Martin Frary were next around the big orange buoy from Davis and Hopwood. Davis again sank low in the deep troughs of Dutch water and had got up to second by the wing mark. Howard and Davis continued to extend on the chasing pack but Davis could not break through the Finn Olympic coach's death lock. Elsewhere in the fleet there were gains for those that had trained for such times, when the muscles are beyond aching and the cold numbing effects of the highland injected northerly have found their way through the barriers of water-proofing to the very flesh. Howard took the bullet from Davis who was on energy conserve and Martin Frary who was lapping up the breeze. Mike Sims was fourth from Pete Mitchell who, just before the line, decided on ducking rather than chancing the cross. So as the fleet returned to shore and with the prospect of three races tomorrow in stronger winds, the repair process was underway. beer and lot's of it. Andy Davis leads the Nation's Cup with 1-1-2 from Matt Howard with 3-2-1. Mike Sims sits in third with 4-5-4 from Martin Frary 13-7-3 and Ian Hopwood, 15-4-5.
The fleet awoke to the predicted 18-20 knots of arctic air and white caps,accentuated by the muddy waters of the Ijsselmeer. Once clear of the breakwater the competitors were surprised, some relieved and some disappointed to be greeted by a tame 12knots, still bloody cold though. Race 4 Andy Davis led into the top mark, having worked the middle of the course with Innes Armstrong, Mike Sims and Jonathan Swain just behind. Pete Mitchell was in tenth and Matt Howard was an uncharacteristic twentieth. The breeze was building and with the sun shining your cameraman was in a happy place. This was not to last as, to my horror, a little red light flashed onto my LED screen reminding me to charge my camera battery. I switched from video to stills and focused on the money shots. Davis controlled from the front and extended on the fleet to win with Sims improving to second by the gun and Howard an incredible third. a big shout out for Hans Duetz who flew the flag for the Dutch to finish fourth ahead of Swain. The breeze was increasing having been initially compressed by the passing cloud, according to my rib driver, Jim Hunt. There were already some little sad faces, robbed of all colour from the brutality of icy baths but with two races still to complete, there would be no respite. Race 5 Ian Hopwood nailed the beat and just managed to round ahead of Guy Mayger and Howard. Fray and Pete Mitchell completed the top five though the fleet were bunched up. Mayer was in the lead by the wing mark but Howard was hot and past him by the leeward mark. There was some carnage as sailors bore off to gybe, the IJsselmeer chop deciding who would live or die. The waters, only 7 metres deep was making a mess of masts and wind indicators and once buried, outside assistance was required. Howard gave a masterclass in Solo sailing and had a comfortable win from the fast finishing Davis and Mayger who had a blinder. Martin Frary and Dave Mitchell completed the top five Race 6 This was full-on sailing and with casualties removed from the course the sequence for race 3 began. A committee favoured end start and Davis, in the bright orange 'Leider" vest stood out from the fleet like a tulip in a field of cabbage. Davis was showing no signs of fatigue and took a commanding lead by the top mark. Sims and Frary were also revelling in the physicality of the conditions rounding second and third. The whole fleet blasted down the reaches, hearts pounding and knuckles white with the cold. Howard was in fifth at the gybe but binned it, potentially handing the championship to Davis. The beats were torture and the run to the leeward mark full of treachery but the sailors earned their beer tonight and will fall asleep aching but satisfied. Davis consolidated for the win from Sims and Frary. Jonathan Swain and Pete Mitchell completed the top five. So, as the fleet headed into shore and hail began to fall it would be Andy Davis who is leading the event with just two races to complete tomorrow. With a 1-1-1-1-2-2 scoreline he has done enough to secure the title, Howard has 1-1-2-3-3-10 and two discards so even two bullets will not be enough. The consistent Sims is in third with 2-2-4-4-5-6. Frary, Pete Mitchell and father, Dave Mitchell fill the top six. Tomorrow the forecast is for more wind, more cold and more pain. My camera will be charged and my fingers, gloved.
The fleet set out from the negligible protection of the harbour and broad reached out to the starting area. The track was covered in white horses, each one packed a punch and the sailors were in for a beating. Andy Davis made an inauspicious start from midway down the line, and Matt Howard was to windward but both were victims of a big left hander which saw Ian Hopwood take a healthy lead around the top mark. Dave Mitchell in second, I would say enjoying the conditions but the flash of teeth as he passed me was of grimace rather than happiness. Sims inherited second at the gybe as Mitchell binned it and moved ahead of Hopwood by the top leg. Meanwhile, Davis and Howard who had rounded in the teens were motoring through, riding the waves like Valkyries. Howard would finish no better than fifth while Davis worked through Hopwood to attack Sim's lead. The final beat saw a hail storm pass through the track, the frozen H2O stinging any exposed flesh and reminding competitors that Medemblik is on the same latitude as Norwich. Sims covered Davis, tack for tack, the gusts testing boat handling techniques and hiking strap mounting points but both sailor and equipment did not fail. Sims took a well deserved victory from Davis and Hopwood, who, as an ex pro rugby player, was accustomed to high levels of pain. The OK fleet had made their way back to the starting area but the Solo fleet were waved in to shore. There were few who were disappointed with that decision. On shore and with numbers crunched it was no surprise that Andy Davis would be crowned Nation's Cup Champion 2016. His score read 1-1-1-1-2-2-2 and he is undoubtably becoming one of the Solo greats. Matt Howard retained second overall with a score of 1-1-2-3-3-10-5 from Mike Sims who is now a serious National Championship prospect with 4-5-4-2-6-2-1 A huge thank you to the Dutch Solo Class Association who have made the UK fleet so welcome and to Medemblik for the impeccable organisation.
|16||Gilles de Combe||544||105||22||23||18||22||15||15||13|
|34||Roel den Herder||610||233||38||35||26||20||DNS||DNS||DNS|
|35||Pieter Jelle Jongejans||553||241||18||39||42||28||DNF||DNS||DNS|
|36||Huub de Haas||558||244||28||38||33||31||DNS||DNF||DNS|
|38||Andries de Muijnck||565||248||20||25||32||DNS||DNS||DNS||DNS|
|39||Armand de la Rie||537||251||24||27||29||DNS||DNS||DNS||DNS|
|48||Claar van der Does||587||311||DNS||DNS||DNS||26||DNS||DNS||DNS|
|56||Dirk van der Zee||593||336||53||55||DNS||DNS||DNS||DNS||DNS|