Forty two Sprint 15 sailors gathered (socially distanced) at North Devon Yacht Club (NDYC) at Instow on Thursday the 24th September for the Sprint 15 Sport Nationals – the three day regatta for single-handed Sprint 15 catamarans with main, jib and trapeze.
Three sailors could not attend owing to Covid 19 concerns but the excellent and efficient Covid 19 Management plan adopted by NDYC put the local community and the sailors at ease. This was a higher number of entries than 2018 when NDYC last played hosts with 45 signed up competitors, with 5 youth sailors amongst a strong fleet. East coasters Marconi SC turned out in force with their current Una Rig National Champion David Ball and his sister Jenny Ball leading their challenge for the team title.
Owing to force 6-8 winds and the practicalities of managing Covid-19 safely, the race team decided to cancel racing on Friday, giving sailors a chance to snap up much needed parts from Tom Phipps in the Windsport van and pursue other activities such as cycling up the Tarka Trail and taking advantage of the beautiful location in dazzling sunshine.
On Saturday, the first race was set off on an incoming tide at 11am by Race Officer Jonathan Miles in a force 5 gusting a full 6 northerly wind, with a modern Olympic upwind / down course in challenging tides and gusts. Local NDYC youth sailor, Hector Bunclark, set off like a rocket but took a swim on both lap one and lap two, leaving Paul Grattage (Shanklin SC) to blast away to take the bullet, with Fraser Manning (NYDC) 2nd and Liam Thom 3rd (Shanklin SC) all laying down markers with Sam Heaton (NDYC) 4th and Steve Sawford (Rutland) 5th. This year, the association had re-introduced the new Sport Mode Team Trophy and early on it was clear that Shanklin SC and NDYC were on for a battle.
Liam Thom got the best of the starts in the second race (which was now a Triangular 2 lap course), in slightly lighter conditions of F4 to F5 than the earlier race but was eventually passed by Fraser Manning who took the honours on the line. Paul Grattage battled through the fleet after a poor 1st beat to take 3rd place from David Ball in 4th and Hector Bunclark in 5th.
The third race of the day was sailed on a triangular course with a downwind finish. Three-time runner-up Steve Sawford (Rutland SC) and Jon Pearse (Marconi SC) flew off the start line and, after the windward mark, were several hundred yards ahead. A special mention goes to Ben Penny (NDYC) who at 17 years old, stormed up the 1st beat to round in 4th place. For over a lap Jon was ahead but Steve was waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Paul Grattage again transformed a poor start to sail through the fleet and, by the end of the race, had nearly caught Jon Pearse. The race was easily taken by Steve Sawford from Jon Pearse and Paul Grattage, with Chris Murphy (Shanklin SC) in 4th. Meanwhile, local favourite Fraser Manning, after ending up completely beached by a wave on Crow Point having attempted to go into shallow water to get out of the tide, had dropped back to 5th place.
To catch up from Friday’s cancellation, a fourth race was held on Saturday with a different triangle course now in place after the wind had backed some 30 degrees, in an outgoing tide, in conditions that had some full F6 gusts along the top of the course. Paul Grattage flew off the line but wildly overstood the layline leaving Hector Bunclark, who came through the fleet on the first beat (after a poor start) as if he had a motor hidden away in a hull. Fraser Manning also sneaked past Paul. Hector was at ease at the front and blasted away to take line honours, with Fraser Manning finished 2nd and Paul Grattage 3rd. Sprint 15 legend Mark Aldridge (Grafham SC) had his best result of the series finishing 4th, to ensure honours were well spread around the fleet at the end of day 1 with Sam Heaton in 5th place.
Overnight positions were: Fraser Manning ahead of Paul Grattage but equal on points, Liam Thom third and Steve Sawford in 4th, all separated by just 7 points.
Sunday arrived with less wind forecast, with a north westerly force 3 to 4.
In race 5, an Olympic “triangle sausage triangle” was set by the race officer team with a strong incoming tide causing some confusion amongst the fleet as to which side of the course to take. Grattage got away well, opting to go right up the beat and led from start to finish ahead of a flying Jenny Ball and Hector Bunclark. Fraser Manning was in 4th place and Scott Wilcox (Stewartby WSC) made 5th place.
Now, many were wondering if this was going to be five times champions Paul Grattage's chance to regain the title which has eluded him since 2017. The first race on the last day had significantly shuffled the overall scores with the discards and results moving the leaders’ positions about as they competed for the podium.
The scoreboard with 5 races and only one discard was Paul Grattage 8pts, Fraser Manning 9pts, Hector Bunclark 16pts, Liam Thom 17 pts, Steve Sawford 18pts. Paul needed to win or hope Fraser was outside the top 2 places so Fraser couldn’t retain the title he won at Yaverland last year. With one more race and one more discard Paul and Fraser were in a duel for the title. Hector, Liam and Steve were all able to win the third place on the podium. Paul knew either a win would give him the title or making sure Fraser was outside the top 2 in the last race would also give Paul the win.
In the final race, the beat was stretched to create a long windward leeward course. Fraser Manning went for broke and went to the left of the start line, whilst the majority including Paul Grattage went right up the beat. Steve Sawford sailed up the middle and rounded the mark first. Fraser’s gamble paid off and he rounded closely in 2nd with Paul having to put an extra tack to get round the mark to squeeze round in 3rd.
Steve never lost the lead, and with it secured 3rd place. Paul knew he had to pull out all the stops on the last downwind leg and to the finish line but in doing so, allowed Liam Thom to squeeze past him into 3rd position in the race, enabling Liam to be 4th overall. Despite Fraser having to do turns for a port/ starboard penalty, he finished in 2nd and took the Championship for the 2nd year running.
Hector Bunclark (5th place) won the Youth National title for the 5th time, Jenny Ball was first lady and George Love (Carsington SC), was the first over sixty helmsman. Scott Wilcox and Ian Mounce (NDYC) took the Pro-Am trophy and Sam Heaton the heavyweight trophy.
NDYC won the Team Trophy with Shanklin SC 2nd and Marconi SC 3rd.
The event was supported by several sponsors, including the Commodore Hotel, Windsport, The Quay Inn and Johns of Instow.
With a similar excellent race and Covid management structure in place at NDYC, the next event planned to take place at Instow on the 25th October is the South West Sailing Series Event, The North Devon Wrecker. See www.NDYC.org for details.
Author Liam Bunclark / NDYC
Pictures by Martin Penny.
Click for: Full Results with all Sub-Competitions