2007 National Championship Brightlingsea

It was an expectant fleet that convened on the Essex Coast at Brightlingsea Sailing Club for the 2007 National Championships. The forecast for the week looked good for a full championship's racing and an excellent social programme had been pulled together. So who were the pre-event favourites? Matt Mee and Richard Wagstaff had won at Chew Valley, Shoreham and Hayling Island, and with a number of big names saving themselves for the World Championships in Switzerland, they looked the team to beat. 2003 winner Kevin Hope crewed by Russell Thorne had won the previous week's French Nationals off the coast of Normandy. Regular championship performer and former champion Vince Horey had recruited Tornado sailor Stuart Bithell, and the addition Jonny McGovern and Ben McGraine (who had managed to borrow a boat and sails from various parties) further added to the mix. Of the local fleet Penny and Ian Gibbs looked to be leaders of the pack. First timers at the Fireball Nationals Tom Jeffcoate and Mark Hogan were also looking to make an impression after some good form on the open circuit.

After measurement on Saturday many competitors enjoyed the first of many excellent meals courtesy of the galley staff. On Sunday morning competitors were greeted with sunshine and an offshore breeze and the fleet launched early to get the feel of the conditions.

Race 1 was sailed in a shifting fresh force 3-4. At the top of the first beat the leading boats came from the left hand side but after 3 laps Matt Mee and Richard Wagstaff had pulled through to first followed by Tom Jeffcoate and Mark Hogan in second with recent parents, the Gibbs' in 3rd.

Race 2 was sailed in a steadier force 3 and saw Jonny McGovern and Ben McGraine lead to the wing mark. An unfortunate capsize let Vince Horey and Stuart Bithell take the lead which they held to the finish, despite Mee and Wagstaff's best efforts to draw them into a tacking duel on the last beat, which nearly proved costly as Becky Priest and Tim Saunders found extra lifting pressure on the right hand side of the course and clawed back the leaders just missing second on the line. Team Mc recovered to 6th.

For Monday's racing the sun once again greeted competitors but the offshore breeze was more shifty than on Sunday. In race 3, Tom Jeffcoate & Mark Hogan led from the windward mark and held this to the finish. Keryn & Gary Henwood-Fox rounded second and a three-way battle with Matt Mee & Richard Wagstaff and Becky Priest & Tim Saunders ensued, finishing Priest 2nd Mee 3rd and Henwood-Fox 4th.

Race 4 saw more variable breeze with some big holes as a sea breeze tried to set in. The leading group of three boats (Matt Mee & Richard Wagstaff, Vince Horey & Stuart Bithell, Jonny McGovern & Ben McGraine) had a 200 metre plus lead that was slowly reduced by the end of the race. Mee & Wagstaff pulled away to win from Horey & Bithell with Priest & Saunders taking third. A tight battle for fourth saw McGovern & McGraine hold out from Kevin Hope & Russell Thorne and Derian Scott & Andy Scott. After racing competitors enjoyed an Italian themed buddy night in the clubhouse.

Tuesday saw a good Force 3 sea breeze and plenty of sun once again. The tide provided a challenge to the competitors resulting in numerous recalls in both races. Race 5 was sailed in a typical Brightlingsea sea breeze gently building throughout the race. The first four boats enjoyed very close racing throughout the whole race. Jonny McGovern / Ben McGraine maintained a slender lead throughout but had to maintain a tight cover on the three boats behind at all times. Matt Mee / Richard Wagstaff pulled up to second on the last beat followed by Tom Jeffcoate / Mark Hogan and then Vince Horey / Stuart Bithell. Fleet new boy Matt Findlay crewed by Richard Anderton began to show promise with a 5th place.

Race 6 eventually got under way after 2 recalls and 9 competitors sent home for an early bath under the shadow of the black flag. Mee / Wagstaff lead from start to finish. McGovern / McGraine were hot on their heels at the windward mark but a poor spinnaker hoist saw them drop back to fourth. Jeffcoate / Hogan pulled up to finish second in front of local hotshots Penny Gibbs / Ian Gibbs. Tuesday night saw the AGM followed by local crew Kerrie Forsters brave attempt to consume the top row of the bar for charity, which proved as interesting as the local band's efforts to remove the ear drums of sleeping locals several streets away. Wednesday's layday saw the wind continue, providing the opportunity for spontaneous winner-stays-on match racing in the Brightlingsea training Topaz fleet. With the tide high spectators were able to watch victory claimed by Stuart Bithell.

A brief dalliance with the sea breeze on Thursday ended as the land breeze took over requiring the course to be re-set. This steadied into a F2-3 and racing got under way. Race 7 saw Derian Scott / Andy Scott lead from Jonny McGovern / Ben McGraine at the first mark, both teams held these positions through to the finish. Vince Horey / Stuart Bithell climbed into third with Tom Jeffcoate / Mark Hogan fourth. Local boats Andy Bines / Kerrie Forster(5) pipped ‘Ozzie’ (The Commodore) Aldridge / Drostan O’Reilly(6) on the line. Several of the leading boats had poor races and used up a discard.

Race 8 saw Kevin Hope / Russell Thorne lead at the first mark but they dropped back to third by the finish. The race was won by Horey / Bithell with Jeffcoate / Hogan second. A close battle at the finish saw McGovern / McGraine (4) pip Matt Mee / Richard Wagstaff (5) and Becky Priest / Tim Saunders (6).

The fleet launched earlier for racing on the final day but had to wait for the wind to steady and for the race team to select the best area for racing. Race 9 got underway with tension high as only a few points separated the leaders. Tom Jeffcoate/ Mark Hogan took victory, placing them on the same points as leaders Mee and Wagstaff. Horey and Bithell also kept the pressure on with a second. Race 10 was to be the showdown. At the first windward mark it was Jeffcoate/Hogan 1st, Horey and Bithell 2nd and Findlay/Anderton 3rd. Findlay attacked hard and got to 2nd on the first set of reaches. Mee and Wagstaff rounded a few places back and also attacked hard on the first lap taking places before the leeward mark. Racing was tight for the next two laps with the leaders never getting clear. On the top reach of the final lap Findlay/Anderton rolled Jeffcoate/Hogan and lead round the leeward mark. By this point Mee and Wagstaff had pulled through to third and proceeded to drag race Jeffcoate and Hogan out to the left side of the course. Findlay/Anderton held on for the win with Jeffcoate/Hogan keeping tight cover to the finish to take the title. Horey/Bithell recovered to sixth with a shredded mainsheet and took third overall. The winners celebrated with champagne, table football, beer, curry and dancing fit for a rugby scrum.

Full results available at the Fireball website.

The lady helm trophy was as always, hotly contested with 5 lady helms in the top 11. Becky Priest just held off Derian Scott to take the prize with a very respectable 5th overall. 1st lady crew was Debbie Tuckwood.

The association had generously provided those U21 with free entry and there were fifteen youths sailing with more mature sailors, as well as four all U21 boats. Matt Mee was first U21 Helm and club mate Stuart Bithell took the U21 crew prize. Racing for the silver fleet and bronze fleet prizes was very close all week.

1st Silver Fleet: Paul Aldridge and Drostan O' Reilly
2nd Silver Fleet: Simon Lomas Clarke/John Piatt
3rd Silver Fleet: Richard Pepperdine/Simon Forbes

1st Bronze Fleet: Chris Walker/Dan Walker
2nd Bronze Fleet: Dave Islin/Tony King
3rd Bronze Fleet: Christine Slater/Graham Slater

Brixham Trophy: Paul Aldridge/Drostan O' Reilly
Typhoon Perservenance Trophy: Kirsten Claiden-Yardley/Andrew Jarvis

1st Novice Helm: Richard Pepperdine
1st Novice Crew: Tony Everitt
1st Helm over 50: Veronica Falat
1st Crew over 50: Ben Falat
1st Classic Boat: Tim Riley/Chris Tuckett

The event was ponsored by Pinnell & Bax, Speed Sails and Craftinsure, to whom the fleet are most grateful.

A huge amount of thanks must also go the host club who put on a fantastic event. On the rare occasions the course was out, the marks were quickly repositioned by the race team. The shore team were always ready to collect and launch trolleys. Vast amounts of excellent food was made available to competitors at every opportunity and the bar was open whenever required. Most importantly everyone had great week's sailing.

Next year the fleet heads southwest to Cornwall and Mounts Bay Sailing Club in mid-August.


1st G 14960 Tom Jeffcoate Mark Hogan Notts County SC   2.0 (7.0) 1.0 (8.0) 3.0 2.0 4.0 2.0 1.0 2.0 32.0 17.0
2nd G 14919 Matt Mee Richard Wagstaff Hollingworth Lake SC h21 1.0 2.0 3.0 1.0 2.0 1.0 (13.0) 5.0 (6.0) 3.0 37.0 18.0
3rd G 14920 Vince Horey Stuart Bithell King George SC c21 5.0 1.0 (7.0) 2.0 4.0 5.0 3.0 1.0 2.0 (6.0) 36.0 23.0
4th G 14926 Jonny McGovern Ben McGraine Hollingworth Lake SC   7.0 6.0 (24.0) 4.0 1.0 4.0 2.0 4.0 3.0 (8.0) 63.0 31.0
5th G 14954 Becky Priest Tim Saunders Staunton Harold SC L (9.0) 3.0 2.0 3.0 7.0 6.0 (12.0) 6.0 4.0 9.0 61.0 40.0
6th G 14941 Derian Scott Andy Scott Chew Valley Lake SC L 4.0 4.0 (19.0) 6.0 6.0 7.0 1.0 12.0 (14.0) 5.0 78.0 45.0
7th G 14899 Matt Findlay Richard Anderton Weston SC/Dell Quay   8.0 (9.0) 6.0 7.0 5.0 8.0 (9.0) 8.0 7.0 1.0 68.0 50.0
8th G 14950 Kevin Hope Russell Thorne Notts County SC/ Lyme Regis SC   6.0 8.0 5.0 5.0 9.0 (51.0 BFD) (14.0) 3.0 8.0 7.0 116.0 51.0
9th G 14892 Penny Gibbs Ian Gibbs Brightlingsea SC L 3.0 5.0 (12.0) 12.0 12.0 3.0 8.0 (18.0) 11.0 4.0 88.0 58.0
10th G 14867 Veronica Falat Ben Falat Great Yarnouth & Gorleston SC h50, c50, l 10.0 12.0 (51.0 DNC) (51.0 DNC) 13.0 11.0 7.0 7.0 15.0 11.0 188.0 86.0

 

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