Tom Gillard wins Noble Marine Winters

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Noble Marine Winter Championship 2020

The hastily rearranged Noble Marine Winter Championship was finally held at King George Sailing Club on Saturday 14th March in conditions which tested both competitors and the PRO’s patience.

I had arrived at my destination via the M25, a much smoother journey than my last foray into the big smoke just a few weeks ago to attend the Dinghy Show. On that occasion I had explored the peripheries of the North Circular, experiencing some of the diversity of this multicultural population and a variety of road manners usually associated with Eritrea and Libya.
The briefing was…brief and excitement built to a crescendo for the draw for the NSCA transom cams. I had already acquisitioned the demo boat for location of Cam 1 with Peter Edel the lucky helm. Patrick Overs was selected from the hat as was Tom Gillard who was sporting a hang over from hell. As with all the athletes, even the smallest amount of alcohol can have a detrimental effect and Tom’s lack of conversation confirmed he was digging deep not to puke.

The sailors, I will call them the Covid 19, had ventured from locations as far away as Ireland and were greeted by predominately light winds from the south, south west, south east, repeat. A light shower produced an initial increase in pressure which also biased the line towards the pin, resulting in a number of general recalls and the odd AP. PRO Tony Cooper remained his usual chirpy self, reconfiguring the start line and significantly shortening it to reduce any possible advantage as the wind continued to fluctuate.

Race 1
The fleet were away under the black flag with no offenders, Gillard nailing the pin end…just as those on the right hooked into a nice right hander. Ewan Birkin Walls had gone hard right of the start with Fraser Hayden, Mark Maskell and last weeks Broadwater winner Roger Bennett in close behind and they must have been feeling like winners already. I had been given use of a club rescue boat and my driver skilfully placed me at the top mark just in time to catch Nigel Thomas who got the shifts just right round first from Tom Lonsdale, Walls and Bennett. Hayden and Peter Edel in the demo boat were next with Gillard deep in 12th. The wind strength was 6 knots and Thomas led the fleet out to the wing mark….unfortunately it was a windward leeward course. Thomas and Lonsdale were the big losers while Birkin Walls took the lead. The second beat was another game of roulette, Bennett judged the lay line perfectly to lead from Walls with Gillard going right and beating the house to round third. Walls, Gillard and Mark Maskell, who had also been a big mover uptake previous beat broke through over the subsequent laps and this was the finishing order with Lonsdale and Davis completing the top five. My media driver pushed the outboard motor to max and we made our way down the length of the course, the root moulded hull ploughing a furrow a dutch barge would be proud of.

Race 2
Slightly committee biased with Gillard bossing it, Davis and Shane McCarthy were pinned below and wanting to tack out. Vince Horey was in a horrid place in the second row but Walls and Bennett who were slightly late on the gun were able to tack out to the right. There was more pressure on the right of the course, the smoke trail from the local chimney provided some indication as to the direction but it’s irregular oscillation was not so easy to interpret. At the top mark it was Walls with Bennett and Maskell on his transom, Walters, Gillard and Davis were next around as the breeze fluctuated in strength.
The twin leeward gates provided a nice tactical choice and sometimes the gamble of going to the further mark gave enough separation to get into a beneficial shift. Walls and Gillard had a good tussle over the three laps but at the gun it was Gillard from Bennett with Walls 3rd. Markell added a 4 to his race 1 3rd with Davis a consistent 5th.

Race 3
The breeze was down to 5-7 knots and the fleet were away first time, a lovely clean start with all the competitors evenly spaced along the line and Gillard pushing his bow forward after a textbook ‘pulling the trigger’ manoeuvre. Local boy Horey was finally amongst it and rounded first with Edel and Gillard right on his tail.
Before racing, Horey had pointed out to me the roof of their new stadium, whether I was supposed to be impressed I know not but I did muse to myself that the implementation of the cancellation of all football matches had at least halted Tottenham’s slide down the league. Gillard had the lead by the bottom gate with Walters opting for the further mark which took him right as you look up the course. Gillard rounded the top mark with Bennett, Maskell and Walters all gaining places as the fickle breeze toyed with the fleet. The downwind saw Davis choose the now out of favour left hand gate, possibly in an attempt to self isolate which he took and by the finish he had worked himself up to 2nd with Gillard 1st and Lonsdale 3rd. Walters and Edel completed the top five.

So, overall another title for Tom Gillard who was now feeling a whole lot more chatty than he did at 10am. As with all the great sailors I have known who like a beer, Carveth, Payne, Hunt and Davis, Tom has shown he is able to call on all his concentration to produce the best performance when needed. Walls has some good pedigree and the bullet in race 1 confirmed he is a class act, he must have been elated as he went for a swim at the end of racing. Davis, despite limited time in the Solo over the past year is still right on the pace and I am looking forward to seeing the new development HD sail he has in the pipeline.

Thanks to Noble Marine for their generous sponsorship of the NSCA, thanks to the team at King George S.C. for laying on a good event, despite the astounding developments that we all face over the coming months.


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