Saturday, July 23, 2016

Raceday 1 Sponsored by ROOSTER

Plas Heli Commodore Bob Lowe welcomed around 80 Solo sailors to the wonderful new sailing facility in the north of Wales. While the rest of the UK bathed in sunshine, there was little chance of sunburn in Pwllheli, the mountain fog blighting the sky. Sailors rigged and waited on the beach and like a brides vail being lifted at the alter, the fog rose to reveal....grey skies. ROOSTER hikers were on show, pads in place and ready to protect the hamstrings and maximise righting moment but the notion of hiking was a little optimistic. I motored out to the race area and boarded "Banzie" the Committee boat for the week. PRO Mike Butterfield completed his checklist and awaited the fleet to the arena. 6-8 knots across the course from 185, that's just a little westerly of South and a little light for everyone but with a minimum of 5knots, we would be racing.

Race 1

The line had a slight port bias and there was no pulling the welsh sheep over their eyes, result, general recall. Mike re-callibrated the line by dropping the pin end boat back 50 metres and we were into a black flag start. A large part of the fleet still hit the left pin end but Tom Gillard (Winder Mk1/North ST2K) and Pete Mitchell (Ovington/North P2) who had tacked off at the committee boat would round first and second with Andy Davis, fresh from his win at Merlin week, who had worked the middle of the beat. Tom would be receiving the Presidents Beer Voucher for nailing the first beat. Vanda Jowett, our only female competitor was next around from Ollie Wells. Young Peter Ballentine from Salcombe was next around from sailing legend Tim Law. The course was triangle/sausage, normally with the wind below 8 knots we would be on a windward/leeward course but the swell, or remnants of it allowed some wave action, albeit limited by the presence of Jury boat, and judge David Batty. There were some train crash first beats and with little chance of improvement, it would have been human to have them put down. Up the second beat, since this was where the action was, and with a just about perceptible increase in pressure, Gillard extended his hiking position and his advantage. Ollie Wells was the big mover and was up to second at the top mark, or would have been if he had not panicked and misjudged the lay line, gifting Davis the inside lane. No matter, by the bottom of the sausage and with a shortened course finish in sight, he was in second. Davis looked like he had caught a Jellyfish and dropped to fourth with Pete Mitchell gaining to complete the podium. Jowett finished a very creditable fifth and was revelling in the light winds and awkward chop. Vanda uses a Needlespar Fat Boy Slim/North ST2K and this rig was proving very effective. The fleet re-grouped, wounds were licked and minds re-focused on race 2.

Race 2

The breeze had gone west to 200-210 and the pin boat was re-positioned further upwind to sweeten the left side. Clean start under the black flag and this time, like the Referendum vote, a very even split. Mark Lee and Vanda Jowett were hard left while Andy Davis who had started just down from the committee boat and on the line worked the right with Ian Houston and Pete Mitchell. After 15 minutes the leaders rounded with Davis first from Jowett and Kevin Gibb. Guy Lonsdale, Mark Lee and Tim Law completed the top six. The fleet headed off to the wing mark, sails filling and stalling in the light breeze, or "awel" if you are Welsh. Davis extended gradually over the 2 laps to win with Jowett, Lee and Lonsdale, all in a holding pattern while Gibb was spat out of the back. Steve Denison, 7th in race 1 would finish 5th, with Peter Ballentine who was battling with a shredded mainsheet, 6th from Law. Tom Gilllard would add an 8th to his score with Pete Mitchell and Steve Ede completing the top ten. The rescue teams escorted the fleet in to the smooth sandy beach as the veil of fog once again descended over the course. Back on shore and with the results crunched even before the last boat hit the shore it would be usual suspect Andy Davis who would be leading the Championship with a 4-1 scoreline. Vanda Jowett could sell her 5-2 while Tom Gillard sits in third with a 1-8.

Tonight the fleet will celebrate or drown sorrows, with any luck, and if there is any fairness in the lottery of prize draws, Horey, Brown and Bonner will be picking up some amazing prizes from Raceday 1 sponsor ROOSTER. Gillard and Davis collect their free pint for their first beat prowess and there will be some booby prizes for moments of blondness.

The forecast for tomorrow is not promising but with the AGM in the social program, excitement and drama are guaranteed.


Days 2 was CB Trailers Raceday

Don't trawl through the various reports, you have not missed any of the action! Day 2 and Day 3 at the beautiful location of Pwllheli have been disappointing from a sailors point of view. The fleet were kept on the beach on Monday, the weather stations prediction of a max of 6 knots was realised early in the day and the PRO Mike Butterfield put us all out of our misery by 1pm. With such a wonderful backdrop of the Snowdonia National Park the competitors reunited with their partners and set off to sight-see, top up tans or donate funds to the Plas Heli bar takings.

The AGM was held in what can only be described as the best venue we have ever frequented. The sailing club's wooden decked amphitheatre with dinghy park and welsh mountain range in the background and the sun briefly illuminating the committee before disappearing to the west. I will save the detail of the results of this meeting with NSCA members asap.

Day 3 was North Sails Raceday but although the forecast was for breeze from the south east at around 6-8 mph and increasing to a heady 21mph by the late afternoon, this would not come to fruition. After a 2 hour delay the fleet did launch but with two aborted starts under our belts and the wind strength dropping below the minimum limit of 5 mph, we were sent ashore for the day. I was able to apprehend Pete Mitchell from North Sails and he gave an impromptu tuning session. Tomorrow is another day with light winds forecast but high expectations of three completed races.  

Race day 4, Sponsored by P+B

Let me take a moment... breath in, breath out. Quite a day on the water, 6 hours on the water and just 1 race completed. The fleet had been released from the beach and hopes were high for the day as the sun and westerly breeze welcomed the fleet to the race area. The PRO for the day Henry Wright stood atop "Banzei" calculating wind bearings and wind speed data.

Race 3 (first one of the day) The direction was 210-230 and was forecast to move west through the day, this resulted in a righthand favoured end and standard recall. The black flag was hoisted and the line reset with some port bias. The grouping at the pin end was something Eric Bristow would have been proud of but the PRO was not impressed. The breeze was holding at 12-14mph and with the Welsh mountain range as a backdrop we went into the countdown. With 20 seconds to go there were numbers over and at the gun 14 unfortunate souls were slain. The remainder were recalled. Another start sequence and a large contingent still pushing the PROs patience envelope. There should have been numbers taken but the fellow on the congested pin end boat fell down and so no BFDS but another general recall. The fleet lined up for the fourth attempt, still port biased and busier at the pin end than a strawberry seller at Wimbledon. While the reported wind shift at the committee boat was 9-10 degrees, there was a much larger shift everywhere else and at the gun a synchronised tack onto port. Andy Davies and Mike Sims popped out of a gaggle and lead into the top mark in a very one sided beat. Behind there was a massacre and no way back into the race. The wind stayed left resulting in a tactless starboard reach to the righthand leeward gate mark. Davis extended on Sims who was now mounting a comeback following his lacklustre start to the campaign. Steve Denison was up to third with Ian Hopwood, Peerke Kortikaas (HOL) and junior Alex Corby 6th and Grand master Ray Collins was a commendable 7th. The second beat and downwind leg remained one sided but, with the PRO on knees and looking for absolution, it finally went right to provide a square beat and run. Davis won by a convincing four and a half minutes from Sims, Denison and fast finishing Peter Ballentine. Steve Ede was next to finish from Kortikaas, Ian Hopwood, Mark Lee, Pete Mitchell and Alex Corby. Those who had been black flagged included Vanda Jowett, Tom Gillard and Ollie Wells, all who were front runners in the championship race.

Race 4

This is where things get a bit hazy and my will to live starts to waiver. Despite repeated attempts and more black flags than there are sheep on the lush green landscape that surrounds this neck of the woods, we could not get the race started. The fog that had blighted the start of the regatta snuffed out the breeze and pulled the direction through many compass bearings and with only 3 knots recorded across the course and a couple of hours of waiting, a large part of the fleet elected to go towards the beach. With no foreseeable breeze on the horizon the PRO cancelled racing for the day. In a final twist, and as the fleet were towed in, the wind increased to 12 knots and inflicted a low blow to the balls.

Ashore we were kept busy with protests but with the cold facts confronted and analysed by Commodore Bob Lowe, Class President Will Loy and awesome Jury man David Battye, the race would stand. So Andy Davis leads the event from Steve Denison, Peter Ballentine, Pete Mitchell and Mike Sims.

The bar in the evening was packed with competitors, all hoping to win the P+B 50% discount voucher (worth £450) which would be put towards a brand new P+B mainsail. Andy Fox was the worthy and extremely excited winner. Andy Bayliss and Andrew Hyland won two awesome P+B sail bags worth over £70 each. I will now retire with a pint and a cold flannel and dream of clean starts, happy sailors and Kylie Minogue.

Raceday 5 Sponsor is HD Sails

After a very late night and one too many drinks in the lavish Pwllheli bar, I awoke to the sound of a particularly vocal Seagull. A waft of breeze through my partially open sash window peaked my enthusiasm to get out of the bed that had been my sanctuary from the hell of yesterday. At the marina there was a buzz as competitors readied themselves for another day of general recalls. Out on the race course PRO Mike Butterfield made final race checks and taped prayer mats to the deck of "Banzei". The wind was at 200 degrees and at 12 knots across the start.

Race 5

A starboard bias on the line produced the first general recall and two further attempts under the black flag resulted in a number of high profile casualties, Chris Brown and Steve Ede among them. With the fourth attempted start finally away, the 82 sailors powered upwind, the Pwllheli swell and sunshine combining for some near perfect racing conditions. You could see the anguish that had been painted on to the competitors faces disintegrate and on Banzei, the prayer mats were rolled up the stowed away...for an hour or so. First to the mark was Ollie Davenport on a mission after a DSQ on day 4 with Tim Law second, Andy Fox, Ian Hopwood, Pete Mitchell and event leader Andy Davies in sixth. Law gained water at the gybe mark and moved into the lead with Davies up to third. Good wave technique was a pre-requisite if you wanted to make places and there were some with skills and some with spills. Law held at the top and Davies nipped inside Davenport to move menacingly into second. Mike Sims was in fourth with Pete Mitchell fifth and with Steve Denison in the works Winder hull, second overall and in sixth in the race, relishing the downwind legs. Law, no stranger to a high pressure environment used all his skill to deny Davies another trophy for the cabinet and held on the shortened course for the gun. Davenport showed his talent to record third with Sims, Mitchell and Denison completing the top six.

Race 6

After a short delay we were into another set of start sequences which we hope to include in our SIs in future. That would be; 5-4-1-recall-5-4-1-recall-5-4-1 start. Eventually the fleet were off and the pressure was holding at 12knots. Iain McGregor was elated at rounding first and could almost taste the "first to the mark" beer on his parched lips. Davies rounded second from Hopwood and Dave Mitchell with Davenport and Sims in close pursuit. Davies was in the lead by the end of the lap and extended on the second beat as the wind tracked right. This time the PRO was on the ball and had dropped a new top mark accordingly. The race played out over the remaining legs and at the gun it was Davies who recorded his third bullet of the series in convincing style. Davenport was second from Tom Gillard, Pete Mitchell and Mike Sims.

Race 7

As the last competitor crossed the finish line the start sequence began. From my lofty position on the "media" rib I counted at least thirty sailors with feet up and lunch laid out on the dinner table that is also our centreboard capping. I appreciate the PRO wanted a clean start and the super quick turnaround certainly reduced the chance of BFD so he was actually doing them a favour. There were chuckles and giggly faces from those at the favoured pin end but in a now familiar ironic twist, the wind went right at the gun and those still wallowing near the picnic area, cleaned the crockery away and hardened up to cross ahead of the beggars on the left. Davies played the right middle of the course, never too far away from the rhumb line and eased around the top mark with Leo Dixon in second who was having a blinder and Hopwood third. Sims, Ollie Wells and Dave Mitchell were all up close and personal and the fleet peeled off behind them down the generous reach. The wind was down to 10 knots so clear air was critical and going low was not a big gain maker. Davies controlled the race over the next three legs and romped to a facile win from Sims and Dixon. Steve Denison and Tom Gillard had worked the gust and wave combination to finish next from Wells Mitchell and Peter Ballentine. The fleet returned to the beach after the shortened third race, the PRO keen to ensure the fleet had enough energy to pull their boats up the beach.

I do hope the local council can get the sand removed from the slipway soon, albeit too late for the 82 competitors here.

I do need to make some clarifications that, while tedious to the average reader will soften the blow to this who were black flagged in yesterday's second race. Sunday we completed race 1 and 2. Race 3 was postponed and sailed on Wednesday. Race 4 was postponed and will be abandoned or not re-sailed until all other races have been sailed. We completed races 5-6 and 7 today and, with an earlier start time of 10.30am we will attempt to run races 8-9 and 10. So, we will hopefully have 9 races completed by lights out tomorrow.

Andy Davies has just about wrapped this SUPERSPARS Nationals up and with a day to spare. Peter Ballentine is 1st junior in 6th with Oliver second junior in 7th while Tim Law is 1st Veteran in 8th. Iain MaGregor is 1st Grand Master in 19th and Vanda Jowett is 1st lady in 28th.

Tonight is the Class BBQ at the club and at 9pm is the daily early bird prize giving which will be sponsored by HD Sails. Fittingly, top prize is a one on one coaching session with Andy Davies. There are also some spot prizes for "where's Wally" and the President's beer tokens. Free food, two free beers and free prizes, no wonder the bar takings are up.


Raceday 6 Sponsorship provided by Milanes Foils.

The final day of racing dawned with grey skies and supposedly light winds. Pwllheli now resembled almost any other UK town in the hight of summer, discarded chip wrappings tumbled down the street like tumbleweed and puddles of water collected on uneven pavements. I followed the path of a leaf as it worked the wave pattern of ripples to its destination, breeze on? At the club, competitors slowly readied themselves for the days racing in a rather melancholy fashion, already contemplating their twisting journeys along roads that could feature in "Top Gear". PRO Mike Butterfield was keen to get the race course laid and racing off on the revised start time of 10.30 and so the fleet were released promptly at 9.45am. It was soon evident from the Jury rib, which incidentally would also be my media ride, that there was a surprising swell and good pressure, contrary to all the weather stations normally accurate forecast.

Race 8 On the course there was 13 knots and, following a clean start the fleet were in play. The intention was for a triangle-sausage course so the windward leg was 0.75 of a mile long and had everyone hiking hard as they battled to be first around. Tim Law took that honour and, after bending my ear in reception with regards to race management he was leading from the front on how to sail fast too. Tim has decades of yachting experience behind him, and I mean decades, so his advice is always worthy. Ian Hopwood, Andy Fox and Event leader Andy Davies were next round. Tom Gillard, Pete Mitchell and Martin Honour filled the next three positions as the fleet set off down the fabulous wave patterns of Pwllheli. Law held at the gybe and Gillard and Davies were through to second and third. The second reach was just as fun as the first, the angles set by the PRO proving accurate. The second beat was a hard test of stamina and the leaders held their positions and drove downwind to finish in this order. Pete Mitchell and Ian Hopwood completed the top five. Oliver Davenport and Peter Ballentine, the two youths fighting for the Turnbull Trophy which is a Silver Cigarette box finished sixth and seventh.

Race 9

The wind was shifting considerably, first the right looked good, then the middle and then the left, yep, it was going hard left. At the top it was Chris Brown who had done little right all week but would claim the President's Beer Voucher...probably the only prize that he would be collecting for his weeks efforts. Law was second and his steely blue stare was turning anyone near him to stone. Those that had gone middle and right were left stranded as the wind continued tracking left leaving Gillard and Davies in the low twenties. Mike Sims who had rounded in fourth worked his P+B powered Winder downhill to take the lead at the gybe with Law, Martin Honnor, Steve Ede and Peerke Kortikaas (HOL) were improving with Davies and Gillard making up places like Bonner makes up stories. They were both inside the top 10 at the bottom. The windward mark was moved right as the wind veered, now the breeze was from out of Abersoch, which kept Brian Holland happy. Law and Sims exchanged the lead down the last run to the finish with Sims gaining the inside lane and a few lengths advantage to ease his nerves. Gillard was just not close enough but took his second third of the day. Peter Ballentine secured first junior with fourth from Kortikaas and Davies with Martin Honour and Hopwood just behind. Race 10 could not be started, I will save you the details but something like recall, BFD, recall, BFD, recall. The wind continued right and reduced to 3 knots, as predicted but three hours later than anticipated.Finally, fireworks were ignited and burst from Banzai's deck, signalling the end of the regatta.

So Andy Davies wins the SUPERSPARS Solo National title and sailed impressively all week, in all conditions and without any BFDs to his name. A sublimely smooth technique, excellent tactical guile and his very relaxed approach has once again got him to the top of the pile.

Congratulations to our younger competitors, Ballentine, Davenport and Corby who have shown high skill and responsible drinking manners, we need to change that attitude.

Tim Law is first Grand Master, despite my misguided action's to try and keep him younger and once again showed us that age is just a number. First First Veteran is Martin Honnor and first lady is Vanda Jowett. Paul Hoad won the first Solo under Sail number 4000 and Ross Lonsdale was first wooden boat despite the "all white" disguise that had alluded my attention. Well done to all competitors, it was a privilege to film you all racing.

NSCA President’s Closing Speech.

We have had a wonderful week at this, the SUPERSPARS 60th Anniversary National Championship. It has been difficult on the water for both competitors and the race team, and especially difficult for the Principle Race officer, Mike Butterfield. Thanks also to Henry Wright who stepped into the PROs Duberry’s on Black Wednesday and dealt with some very difficult situations, on and off the water. Unfortunately the rescue teams main action was to tow the fleet in and ensure Vince Horey was safe following his capsize on “windy Thursday”. The only casualty on the water was the lad on the General Recall rib who is now on medical leave with a repetitive strain injury. Thanks also to Neil and the team for allowing me onto the Committee boat and providing myself with a media rib and competent driver. My last driver was Jim Hunt who obviously had never done a RYA Powerboat course, I still have the bruises to prove it. Neil may lack eloquence in his vocabulary but he knows how to get the job done and is a real assist to Plas Heli. We thank you, Bob Lowe for your hospitality this week and hope we can return one day. There were many emotions each day as we came off the water, frustrations did sometimes, boil over. Fortunately, the sanctuary of the club bar was only 600 metres up the sandy beach, and by the time the sailors got there, they were all too knackered to moan. All the bad memories were soon extinguished with a nice cold beer and the warm smiles from the bar team. Every day were all received the friendliest most efficient service. Even Kevin Gibb’s big scary face could not break the Welsh resolve to make us happy. Donna and the whole bar and Catering team are a credit to Pwllheli Sailing Club.

Many thanks to David Battye, our “on the water” jury and “off the water” protest man who has an incredible knowledge and perfect delivery of it to the competitors. There were very few infractions of the rules but his presence was much appreciated.

I would like to thank my committee for their contributions which are not just this weeks event but over the entire year. Gordon, Alison, Sam Steve, Phil, Robert and Chris, your efforts to get the fleet of 83 Solos measured was necessary and was as efficient as ever. Thank you from myself and the fleet. Many thanks to Simon Bevan at SUPERSPARS for your generous sponsorship. Congratulations to Ross Lonsdale, winner of a new Superspars M7 mast and Paul Bottomley who won a new Superspars B1 boom. 

Well done to Ian Noble who won a new Milanes rudder, Andy Fox who won a half price P+B mainsail, Peter Ballentine who won a coaching session with Andy Davis and all the other lucky Early Birds.

Thanks to our Raceday sponsors, ROOSTER, CB TRAILERS, P+B, NORTH SAILS, HD SAILS and MILANES FOILS, your generous prizes ensued the bar was packed out every evening.

Finally, thanks to Noble Marine who keep us on the water every week.

Next, we move on to our "celebration of the National Solo" event, Draycote Water, 20-21 August. Full details at

Will Loy President NSCA

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