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National Championships Full Report

At Mounts Bay Sailing Club, Marazion Sponsored by Allen Brothers, Harken, North Sails, Pinnell and Bax, Rooster Sailing, Selden, Speed Sails, The Boat Repair Centre and Winder Boats An impressive 90 Boat fleet assembled for for a great week's racing off the Cornish coast. The forecast was for a mixed week weather wise and that's how it turned out. The entry list was littered with past National, European and World champions from the Fireball and other classes. The competition was expected to be fierce and it was. All races were sailed on a triangle/sausage/triangle/sausage course with gate starts.

Sunday. Race 1 was sailed in a Force 3 with waves rolling in from the south west. Former World champions and winners of the 2002 Nationals at Mount's Bay, Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend, led at the windward mark and held this to the finish. Martyn Lewis and Richard Byne, back in a Fireball after several years out, held 2nd for a long period only to be overtaken by 2006 European Champions Andy Smith and Jonny Mildred, who subsequently lost out to the fast finishing Derian and Andy Scott.

For race 2 the wind had built to force 4. Again Howarth and Townend led by taking a clear lane out to the left of the beat, but were later overtaken by Dave Wade and Ben McGrane and current World champions Matt Mee and Richard Wagstaff. Wade and McGrane won the race on the water but were subject to a protest hearing for an incident at the windward mark. The protest was dismissed and so they held onto their winning score which was to prove cruicial later in the week. Mee and Wagstaff finished second and Howarth/Townend third. Howarth/Townend were overnight leaders, followed by DJ Edwards and Andy Thompson in second who had a consistent day with two fourths. Smith/Mildred held third with a 3,6 scoreline. Defending National Champions Tom Jeffcoate and Mark Hogan scored 6 and 9 and were 7th overall. An interesting week was unfolding.

Monday. The lay day was taken early following prior consultation with the fleet in view of the predicted high winds. The wind arrived and was coupled with poor visibility and rough seas. Those who had a little too much Pimms at Buddy night went back to bed, others went surfing.

Tuesday. The forecast was for strong westerly winds and they arrived, gusting up to 30 knots by the end of the day. The previous day's swell was still rolling in from the southwest but the wind further west, this made for difficult sailing conditions particulary upwind. Dave Wade and Ben McGrane won both races to put them top of the leader board at the end of the day. For some the highlight was the dolphin pod joining in on the 2nd gate start of the day.

Wednesday. A hard day on the water. The fleet launched on time for an 11 o' clock start. Race 5 was sailed in a south westerly breeze of 12 knots combined with a building swell bringing tricky conditions. Edwards and Thompson took the gun followed by Smith/Mildred and Mee/Wagstaff. Low cloud brought shiftier conditions and the visibility had reduced enough at the end of the race for the fleet to be sent ashore for half an hour. Race 6 was started only to be abandoned after a large right hand shift. After the course had been re-laid Adam Whitehouse and Mike Pratt led initially but disaster struck near the finish with an expensive capsize. Smith/Mildred took the gun with Kevin Hope and Russell Thorne second and Tom Jeffcoate and Mark Hogan third. Overall this meant that Wade/McGrane led from Smith/Mildred on count back, with both teams on 12 points. Howarth/Townend and Mee/Wagstaff within 3 and 5 points respectively .

Thursday. Instead of the expected 10 knot westerly breeze the morning saw a very light easterly forming in Mount's Bay. Visibility was low and the fleet took on tea and pasties in preperation for the afternoon's race. The postponement flag remained hoisted until 2.30 when the fleet launched. Race 7 was started in marginal trapezing conditions but was abandoned on the first beat after a 35 degree shift to the right. With the wind shifting through 40 degrees the fleet retired to the shore to enjoy a great barbeque in the sunshine.

Friday's racing was on flatter water and in shiftier conditions than the rest of the week as the wind had tracked round to the Northwest. Race 7 saw fleet new boys Ross Kearney/Dave Hynes lead for a lap but they were eventually overtaken and fell back. Of the leading contenders DJ Edwards and Andy Thompson were unable to complete any races as their rudder was ripped off by a collision with an object in the water, chief suspect Mr A Dolphin. Andy Smith and Jonny Mildred had another consistent day but a 5,6 was not enough to challenge for the title. Matt Mee and Richard Wagstaff had a good day posting a 1st and a 3rd. But the real battle was between Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend and Dave Wade and Ben McGrane. Howarth and Townend posted a 2nd and a 1st meaning that to beat them Wade and McGrane needed to place 3rd or 2nd in the last race, having been 3rd in the first race of the day. Eventually Wade and McGrane squeezed into 2nd giving them the title by one point.

After having been 2nd at a number of Fireball championships over the years, including this years Worlds Dave looked delighted to have won. Racing was tight throughout the fleet with the silver and bronze fleet titles not being settled until the last day. Simon Kelsall and Tom Williamson (Staunton Harold) gave Simon Lomas-Clarke and John Piatt (Weston) a run for their money in the silver fleet. In the bronze fleet Nick McLeod and Matt Rawson had a storming last day to overtake David and Michelle Ryder for the title. In a week of tough conditions, even for the front of the fleet, a mention must go to Stewart and Lesley Scarff who won the Typhoon Perseverance Trophy - last boat on points to complete all the races. They finished 69th overall - and there were many pairings above them who retired from races!

Posted: 25/08/2008
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