From around 2pm Friday skippers descended on Manor Park Sailing Club in the Midlands for this years Nationals to be met by a small but dedicated group of club members taking care of the weekends event to come.
Registration ran seamlessly with those booked in to camp on site setting about finding the best spot with the usual poker face precision of ‘yes I know how do this’. Judging by the final product of the newly created Marblehead Sim City, it was obvious that there can be such a thing as too many helpers, the need for more hammers and a rough idea where the door is before full tent erection. With the serious stuff over with early, a small number chose to have a practice sail or launch for the first time in the early evening sunshine while others found refreshments and a welcome fish and chip dinner sourced by our MPSC hosts.
Saturday dawned with the eagerness of any National Championship with the remaining fleet of 54 checking in and flooding the racecourse for the customary ‘exam cram’ practice. PRO Chris Harris and assistant Peter Moore took us through the briefing and had racing underway from 10am in gusting SW winds making rig selection between A & B rigs touch and go for many with large wind shifts dictated by the distant tree line. Seeding races were sailed with wins for Peter Stollery, Laurent Gerbaud, Brad Gibson and the returning Andrea Roberts showing she had not lost her touch.
With fleets now settled racing continued through the day at a steady pace with Stollery coming out of the blocks strong clocking 3 wins in 4 races. Defending champion Gibson was having a shaky start by his standards with some poor starts but steadied with some consistent scores. Others to put down a marker were Gerbaud, Tony Guerrier and Tony Edwards racing his 20 year old pimped Paradox, while many struggled to string consistent races together in the testing conditions. At the end of the days racing at 6pm with 7 full rounds of 4 fleets sailed in glorious sunshine it was Gibson with a 5 point lead over Stollery, from Gerbaud, Guerrier and Edwards rounding out the top 5.
Skippers retired to the MPSC decking for refreshments and a fantastic meal put on by our hosts with many of the ‘new locals’ continuing well into the evening. It would be fair to say that a good time was had by all with a great family feel evident. Banter was thick and fast as questions were asked of some, whilst others could only draw blanks. As stumps were pulled we were reminded of a most obvious schoolboy error that some things really are larger than they appear, including yachts, wine glasses and sloping hills. Fortunately, yet surprisingly, our fallen Yorkshireman was rescued by one of Lancashire’s finest for an early hour one on one at the local A&E, earning himself this years ‘Ackroyd’ nicest chap award.
Day 2 dawned with rain and bleakness prior to the 9.30am start time with some a little slow out of the blocks to join the most welcome full breakfast in the clubhouse. PRO Harris was facing the dilemma of a SE wind over the course, with a predicted Westerly change due around start time. As if on cue it arrived causing a slight delay and course change with D fleet away around 9.45am. The wind once again strengthened throughout the day from the West offering a generous race course of long beats to a windward mark and offset spreader, down to a gate offering plenty of tactical options for skippers to think about both up and downwind in streaking, oscillating gusts.
Both Gibson and Stollery were slow off the mark recording their worst scores of the event more content with watching each other than their chasing pack. This could have proven fatal with the steady Gerbaud and a rejuvenated Graham Bantock stepping forward to stake a claim for the title with a race win apiece. Robert Walsh found form with a dominant race win in race 10 with his new F3 enjoying the top end A rig conditions. Others also to post good scores were Robert McIntosh of Birkenhead, local Darin Ballington and Nicolas Selves of France.
As the afternoon wore on with a couple of protest hearings from incidents in the at times difficult tall rig conditions, it was Gibson who saved his best for last to score a 2,1,1 and retain his title for the fourth year, with Gerbaud of France pipping Stollery for 2nd by a point to round out this years podium.
With boats, tents and tired bodies packed for another year after 12 rounds and 48 heats raced, skippers retired to the clubhouse decking for the customary prize giving where all roundly thanked and applauded our most generous hosts led by Darin Ballington and Paul Stubbs for a wonderful event where there could only be one cliche to describe the weekend.
‘The sport was the winner’
1st Brad Gibson 19 points
2nd Laurent Gerbaud 34
3rd Peter Stollery 35
1st Andrea Roberts
Classic Cup (boat 10 years or over in age)
1st Darin Ballington