Swallow Nationals 2022 at Bembridge – 16th & 17th July

It was great to be able to welcome thirteen Swallows from Itchenor to Bembridge over the weekend for their 2022 National Championships. With temperatures around the UK threatening to break records, one would be hard pressed to find a better place to keep cool than sailing on the waters of the Eastern Solent.

Friday’s passage race saw twelve boats making it to the finish at ‘Hello Sailor’, the new name for the mark closest to the moorings at Under Tyne. First by nearly five minutes was Osprey helmed by James Hartley; Mike Wigmore in Gwaithir was second, twenty seconds ahead of Bluff helmed by Nick Warner. Peregrine, the thirteenth Swallow had a problem on the last few tacks and so retired.

Saturday morning’s forecast did not look too promising with only a light easterly breeze initially expected. In the event, when crews were dropped off on their boats, there was not even a smattering of a breeze, so the advice from the Race Officers was to remain on moorings and be patient. With the scheduled start time (11:30) passing, things were not looking too promising; however a gentle SSE’erly breeze slowly moved through the race area and it was decided to set the course up and have competitors head out to the start area to the west of Ruthven. By the time everything was ready, a 6 knot SE’erly had settled in and with the windward & spreader marks set up about .6 of a nautical mile away, the first race got underway with a clean start after a slight mix up over the buoy symbols had been resolved.

Start of Race 1 – https://youtu.be/9FJZG5TV6vc

Although a few tacked early and headed inshore, those who played safe and used the middle of the course seemed to come out best. First round the windward mark was Mike Wigmore in Gwaihir with Harry Roome in Skua close on his heels. Although the former consolidated his lead over the next round and a half, the main tussle was for third place with Solitude, Echo and Migrant all in close contention. After a number of place changes, it was Migrant, helmed by James Leaver, who crossed the line ahead of the others.

With the breeze appearing to be holding steady at 8 knots, the course was extended to provide a one nautical mile windward leg. Despite the Committee Boat dropping back twenty metres on the anchor, the first start of the second race did not go well and ended up with a General Recall. After re-setting the pin, the second start went much better, albeit Skua at the far end of the line and Ghost mid-way over cooked it and were called OCS. Skua returned but Ghost appeared to have a problem with their radio and failed to pick up the Race Officers advising them of their transgression.

Start of Race 2 (General Recall) – https://youtu.be/a11na9ySffs

Re-Start Race 2 – https://youtu.be/NEH2seSI-4k

Again most tacked early and went inshore, but a few did experiment with going up the left side of the beat. Migrant was first to round the windward mark with Osprey, helmed by James Hartley, not far behind. As in the first race, the front two maintained their positions for the rest of the race, and the battle was for third place with Blue Tit (Tom Clarence-Smith), Ptarmigan (Alistair Impey) and Gwaihir all in contention. The outcome clarified half way through the race when Gwaihir took over at the front of the chasing fleet. Having started at the back of the fleet Skua did really well and finished sixth.

The third and final race of the day got away to a clean start and having seen the inshore route pay off in the previous races, the majority played safe and headed towards the Bembridge shore.

Start of Race 3 – https://youtu.be/yO3eti7dVU8

First to the windward mark was Osprey. Hotly pursued by Skua but unlike the earlier two races, the battle was for second place with Gwaihir, Skua and Blue Tit all in contention. After two and a half rounds, it was Gwaihir who finished at the windward mark second, with Skua third and Blue Tit fourth.

Spinnakers during Race 3 – https://youtu.be/BY-dGx3YaCA

All in all, an excellent day’s racing in champagne conditions once the SSE’erly breeze kicked in.

Sunday morning looked very promising for the final two races – a pretty steady Easterly F3/F4 with yet more sunshine. Starting just North of St Helens Fort, the one nautical mile first leg fell just short of Moreton. After a clean start, the fleet again split tacks with Blue Tit and one other weaving their way across the start line on Port.

Start of Race 4 – https://youtu.be/d8c6fKJAFp0

Migrant was first to round the windward mark by quite a margin and never looked under threat from the other front runners, indeed by the end of the race was nearly two minutes ahead. Skua and Blue Tit initially played cat and mouse for second and third, but on the second beat both were overtaken by Osprey. Gwaiher was fourth.

After a short postponement to allow the windward mark and spreader to be brought in a bit closer so that Special Course 6 with a finish at the windward mark would remain within the target time of an hour and a quarter, the fifth and final race got away to another clean start (less Peregrine who had already departed for Chichester).

Start of Race 5 – https://youtu.be/P5Y_JuLa0TU

Although the majority tacked onto Port early and headed inshore, a few decided to chance their arm and took the offshore route. As in the previous race, Migrant showed the rest of the fleet a clean pair of heels and was well ahead by the time they reached the windward mark. On the second and third beats they further extended their lead to finish a country mile ahead of Gwairhir and Osprey who at times were match racing each other and finished barely a boat length apart. Skua was fourth.

On finishing everyone then turned left and headed back to Itchenor where a prize giving was held. With three firsts, a third and a fifth (discarded), the overall winning boat was Migrant, helmed by James Leaver and crewed by Barnie Hartley and Jonathan Turner. Second after a tie break was Gwaihir, helmed by Mike Wigmore and crewed by Charles Hyatt and Keith Bliss. Third was Osprey, helmed by James Hartley and crewed by Rob Sutherland and Jeremy Sibthorpe.

An excellent couple of days racing; we look forward to seeing them again in three years time. Finally a big thank you to Tony Glover, who although he did not actually race, did most of the organising and liaison between the Class and BSC.

Additional Photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzYruL

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