Dart 15 Sport Nationals at Shanklin Sailing Club sponsored by Spinlock and Wightlink Ferries.
Started with a whimper and finished with a roar
The first day of the Dart 15 Sport National Championship started in perfect sailing weather with a flat, dark blue sea, force 4 and wall to wall sunshine. Twenty-nine boats entered including eighteen from the host club.
Race officers Nigel and Fiona Denchfield set a trapezoidal course with a windward mark well away from the cliffs of Shanklin. One of the Young Pretenders broke his trapeze gear and managed to capsize just before the warning signal. The boat was determined to stay up-side-down and set off towards Bembridge with the tide despite assistance from patrol boat crew and several competitors. When the boat was eventually righted it was in need of maintenance and it was sailed in by Shanklin commodore Yvonne Pike who very kindly gave the Young Gun her boat for the rest of the day.
The wind had shifted so there was a delay before the first race actually got away and the perfect breeze dropped to light airs in the last minute. Simon Giles tacked onto port as soon as he was clear of the committee boat and he opened up a good lead over Angus Cook and Jason Clarke with Sean McKenna working his way towards them. Simon kept his lead to the last mark as the race was shortened before the wind misbehaved and shuffled the order. Sean crept through to take the first win ahead of Angus, Jason and Simon.
Despite sailing a boat that looked like it had seen active service in at least two world wars, Paul Grattage rounded the first mark in the lead in the next race with Liam Thom and Jason close behind. Paul was overtaken by the two skinnier sailors on the downwind leg and the pair of them had a very close three lap race with Liam the faster downwind and Jason catching up on the windward sections. Jason got too far ahead on the last beat and won his first Nationals race with Liam close behind ahead of Sean, Angus and Steve Sawford.
Between races 2 and 3 there was an almighty downpour complete with thunder and those sailors in summer sailing gear were possibly regretting their choice of attire.
Mark Aldridge led round the first mark in the third race ahead of Sean, Simon, Liam and Steve Sawford but Liam got ahead on the second run. The windward end of the course was getting very shifty and most sailors were repeatedly tacking on the shifts. It paid to be lucky as well as good and places were swapped continuously. Liam maintained his lead to the finish with Steve second ahead of Jason and Sean.
The top three positions were separated by a single point after the first day’s racing with Jason in the lead and Liam and Sean split on countback.
There was a barbecue at the clubhouse after sailing and the bar was drunk dry, mostly by the North Devon Yacht Club sailors who were camping in their cars.
The forecasts for day three looked distinctly marginal so it was decided to add an extra race to Saturday’s schedule and try to get four back to back races in.
Sean and Angus lead Jenny Ball, Liam and Hector Bunclark around the first lap of the fourth race but Liam managed to creep ahead of Angus on the run. Sean took the win after two laps, beating Liam, Angus, Jenny and Jason.
The developing sea breeze was taking the wind towards the south west but the wind strength was variable for the start of the fifth race. The drop in wind took everybody apart from Yvonne by surprise and she was the only one anywhere near the line as the class flag went down. She was caught by Sean at the windward mark but the two of them had a good lead over Paul and Jason. The wind shut down on the short beat to the finish of the shortened race and it looked like the early leaders would drift away from the line as Liam and Simon caught up with them. There was a complete slow motion melee at the committee boat but Sean eventually managed to squeeze through, inches ahead of Paul with Jason beating Liam. Simon had looked like he might win the race at the pin end as everybody else was floundering but he finished in fifth in the end.
Paul had a good start again but Jason and Liam resumed their battle in the three lap race six with Jason ahead on lap one. They were determined not to mess each other up, well aware of the multiple threats from behind. Sean worked his way up to third on lap two but Angus got ahead of him on the last lap with the windward mark proving a randomiser yet again. Liam again had the edge on the runs and took the win ahead of Jason, Angus, Sean and Paul.
The pin end was proving tricky to set for race seven and there was a very compressed line at the start which meant we had to sail like proper sailors to get a decent position. Jenny made the early running ahead of Jason but it was Hector, Angus and Jason who were fighting it out in the end. Liam and Sean both found themselves in the middle of the fleet but Liam managed to work his way forward to eventually take third in front of Jason with Hector getting the win ahead of Angus.
The results after day two were as close as the day before but this time Liam had the single point lead from Sean with Jason and Angus still very much in the hunt.
There was a three course meal dinner at Flanagans in Sandown after sailing complete with live music and some dancing from the people who weren’t at the top of the score sheet.
The forecasts for the last day of racing had all proved accurate with a southerly force 6-7 building through the night and this had kicked up waves every bit as high as the 1.7 metre forecast. The committee boat had already been sent home so if we were going to have racing it was going to have to be started from the shore. Nigel set a windward-leeward course with a start line consisting of a 200m speed limit buoy.
It proved very difficult to get a transit because Nigel was invisible from the outer mark until he put his orange flag up and most of the fifteen sailors who launched didn’t bother to get a sighter. Several sailors went out and came back in again including Sean, who was feeling feverish anyway.
Paul definitely knew where the line was and he exploded off the start, out on the wire immediately with Hector, Simon, Sam Heaton and Liam trying to keep with him in what was quite fierce conditions. The waves were seriously steep and it was possible on the beats to completely take off if you weren’t careful. You could also run down the waves too quickly and smack into the next one if you didn’t manage to steer around big drops.
Several of the sailors had opted to leave their jibs behind and those that did were able to sail a much safer, straighter angle than those with both their sails.
Jason managed to pitch pole his boat on the first run and although he righted it quickly it put him to the back and out of contention.
Paul was absolutely flying but he came unstuck when he overlaid the start-finish line and had to reach into it, pitchpoling in the process. Meanwhile Simon, who was sailing with the one sail, had taken over the lead and was never going to be caught, taking the win that was denied him by the fickle wind two days earlier. Hector and Liam were both having issues with trapeze harnesses and this allowed Sam Heaton to storm past to take second. Liam finished inches ahead of Hector with Paul, Jason, Chris Murphy, Nick Guest and Andrew Dean the only finishers.
Race nine started the same as race eight, except with only nine starters, with Paul disappearing but he had Sam close behind with Liam and Chris trying to hang on. Again Paul capsized, this time when tacking at the windward mark and this allowed Sam to disappear off with an unassailable lead. Liam and Chris finished second and third but were on the course side at the start so Jason took second place, Hector third, Paul fourth, Nick fifth and Andrew Dean the sixth and extremely creditable last finisher.
This left the results on a knife edge but Liam just edged out Jason by two points despite his last race OCS. Sean and Angus both discarded the last two races to finish 3rd and 4th with Paul and Simon 5th and 6th overall.
Thank you to our sponsors Wightlink and Spinlock and to the many volunteers that enabled the event to take place.
Team Prize: Shanklin Sailing Club
Pictures by Sophie Pike
Click for: Full Results with all Sub-Competitions