Eighteen National Swallows, a near record number, raced over from Itchenor to Bembridge on Friday afternoon in readiness for their 2016 National Championships that were being run for them by Bembridge Sailing Club over the weekend. First to cross the line by quite a margin after a long beat from West Pole was S7, Swift, with S94, Merlin, second and S93, Gwaihir, in third.
The forecast for Saturday was for a South Westerly F5 gusting F6 breeze and at Friday evening’s briefing it was agreed that a steady 25 knots or above would be the limit for racing. After a delay to the original start time to allow crews to safely embark in the launches & RIBs from Colonel’s Hard, the first race got under way 11:30 in a 15 – 17 knot SW’erly breeze and quite unpleasant sea conditions. Almost immediately after the start the wind backed by 45 degees, so the first beat was not as good as planned, however, the windward mark and its spreader were moved for the subsequent rounds, as was the leeward gate, which ensured testing beats. At the front, S82 Marengo helmed by Carolyn Brigg & S86 Migrant helmed by Chris Fox were never far apart and there was only 7 seconds between them at the finish; S66, Buccaneer, helmed by Mike Bond was third and Simon Slater in S87, Echo, was fourth.
The second race started at 12:30 in challenging conditions with gusts of over 20 knots and an increasingly turbulent wave pattern. Avocet and Migrant, were both initially OCS so had some catching up to do in the three round windward-leeward race. Not long after rounding the leeward gate for the first time, Mike Wigmore in S93 Gwaihir had to retire when the clew of their mainsail pulled out and with the breeze increasing as the race progressed, three other boats decided that they had had enough and headed back to their moorings. The downwind leg under spinnaker proved particularly challenging and although there was no further terminal damage, a number of boats broached as the gusts took charge. Out in front, Carolyn Brigg in Marengo proved too strong for the rest and powered to her second win of the day with Harry Roome S3, Skua, second just over 40 seconds later. Franck Petitgas in S61 Quetzal was third, just under 30 seconds ahead of James Hartley in S7, Swift. With the breeze now averaging over 25 knots and the sea conditions becoming even more unpleasant, the Race Officers, lead by Jonathan Peel wisely decided to abandon further racing for the day and so sent the very wet fleet back to their overnight moorings at Under Tyne.
After an excellent Championship dinner at BSC, the crews all met again at Colonels Hard at 10:15 on Sunday morning ready for two and possibly three more races before boats either returned to Itchenor or headed to Cowes ready for Cowes Classic week. The first race started at 11:20 and although it was drizzling, the slightly reduced breeze from the day before and the less turbulent sea conditions made for considerably more pleasant racing. Having had a replacement sail delivered overnight, Mike Wigmore in S93, Gwaihir, proved to be the boat to beat which left the overnight leader Carolyn in Marengo needing to come in the top three if she was to win the Championships. After some very close racing she secured third place behind Harry Roome in Skua and just ahead of Franck Petitgas in Quetzal.
The start of the second race was under the Z flag, following a General Recall; S7, Swift and S86 Migrant both over cooked it and had to not only return but also take a 20% place penalty. Mike Wigmore in Gwaihir again lead the way for most of the race and left Carolyn in Marengo to battle it out with Harry in Skua for second and third, with Franck in Quetzal snapping at their heels. With it clear that it was not going to be possible to have a third race and as it was essential that the Swallows returning to Itchenor could cross Chichester Bar safely, the race was finished at the windward mark after two and a half rounds.
Congratulations to Carolyn and her crew of David and Ollie Sloper in Marengo who finished first overall and therefore the winner of the Royal Corinthian YC Trophy; second was Mike Wigmore in Gwaihir who just pipped Harry Roome in Skua on a count back; Franck Petitgas in Quetzal was fourth.
An excellent Championships raced in some pretty challenging conditions; grateful thanks to the Race Management team, Mark Layers, Boatmen and other BSC Staff who made it so successful.
Click here to see pictures and videos of the weekend.