After two years without a championship, the Wayfarers held their Nationals 2021 at Medway YC, 5-8 August. It was not the event it should have been. The European Championships due to run alongside the Nationals had to be postponed because it was impossible for the Europeans to come and play with us. An understandably cautious approach to Covid risk which we have all gained during the last 18 months, also put paid to some other UK-based entries.
The big question was: would the passage of time result in a change of power base? Would anybody be able to come along and take the title from the reigning and perennial champions, Michael McNamara & Simon Townsend?...read more
There was some new and young blood in the fleet. Neil Collingridge, who is an old hand in the class, brought with him a fit young crew, Hamish, who hikes like a badger. Martyn Hare & Steve Perkins rocked up with a new boat buoyed by encouraging performances at Shoreham and Waldringfield. Sean & Helen Murray travelled up from Parkstone to try and wrest the Pert Platter from other married couples. There were also two wooden boats crewed by teenagers. This was great to see.
There were some past masters going after the title too. Andrew & Tom Wilson have come close to winning the championship in recent years and always have a great battle with Michael & Simon. Bill Whitney & John Shelton drove up from Shoreham, having performed exceptionally well in the International Championships in Ireland two years ago, just missing out on a place on the podium. Brian Lamb had sold his boat but couldn’t resist coming back for another go with longtime crew Sam Pygall. David Roberts & Mike Bryant were on the entry list and, again, likely to perform well across a range of conditions. Former UKWA chairman, Quentin Strauss, had also acquired a boat for the weekend crewed by class secretary, Sarah Burgess.
Any one of these would have a chance of a top placing if the cards fell right for them.
In addition to these there were some light wind specialists. Richard Stone (MYC Commodore) & Catherine Gore, and Chris Parish & Kerry Worsfold from the host club, had shown through the season that they could achieve good results in this company if the conditions favoured them.
Thursday dawned. Windy, windy, windy. The chosen racecourse was at the bottom end of Long Reach. There was plenty of water down there to set a good championship course but it seemed to be a day’s sail away. There was plenty of wind to speed the boats down to the race area and even more wind on the return.
The race officer said that we had up to 23 knots of wind that day with an interesting wind-over-tide chop. The sceptics thought it might have been more windy than reported. A practice race was followed by three points races. The Wilsons won the practice race and retained the Idlers Bucket (no bad luck conspiracy theorists there).
After the practice we went into three points races back-to-back, with a triangle/sausage format. The fleet was joined by Richard & Mark Hartley (Wayfarer class builders) who had arrived in the early hours of Thursday morning after a long drive from Tenby where they had competed in the Osprey National Championships earlier in the week.
The serious business was beginning. McNamara & Wilson, nip and tuck, Race after race. Other boats not far behind. Fantastic three sail reaches. The occasional capsize. There was excitement afoot.
Fast out of the blocks in race one were McNamara & Townsend, the Wilsons and Lamb & Pygall. The lead changed hands a few times but when the fat lady sang after three rounds they finished in that order. Behind them there were a few capsizes, notably for the Hartleys, who did well to recover to seventh, and the Murrays. Former MYC Commodore, Mark Penny, crewed by Sarah Mason, also had a swim as did Parish & Worsfold. Martyn Har & Steve Perkins led the silver fleet, while the best placed bronze fleet boat was sailed by Jonathan & Ashley Davis.
Race two was a repeat of the first race but with a twist. This time McNamara & Townsend and the Wilsons were joined by Mark & Alex Lee who sailed fast and smart to pick up third place. The Collingridges too were using that combination of youth and experience to start to put together a very consistent set of results.
There were fewer dramas in this race but the O’Donnells had a little swim (I’ve written that before in previous reports, I am sure). Hare & Perkins repeated their first race performance as top silver fleet boat and the Davis’ were the best placed bronze fleet boat once again.
Quickly into race three and I am sure I am not imagining that the wind had increased a click or two. Once again McNamara & Townsend led for most of the race and seemed to be forging a comfortable lead. Behind them, Strauss & Burgess capsized on the first beat after a port and starboard incident with Lamb & Pygall, while the Davis’ capsized on the first run, unfortunately breaking a mast and putting paid to their weekend.
Other than these, all seemed to be serene until the first reach of the second triangle when the sky darkened and a squall hit the fleet. Suddenly there were centreboards all over the place and crews trying to remember the RYA approved method of righting a sailing dinghy. Some of these remembered correctly and righted their boats without losing too many places; others were not so successful (among them the class insurer who was seen standing on his rudder rather than the centreboard while his crew was doing his best to right the stricken vessel in the correct manner).
None of this seemed to affect McNamara & Townsend who calmly sailed to victory followed by the Hartleys who had bullied their boat into submission. There followed over the finish line a gaggle of boats in quick succession, led by the Collingridges in third who had lost only one place as a result of their swim at the gybe mark. Silver fleet was led home by Hare & Perkins in a fine sixth place while the bronze fleet leader was Brian & Charlotte White in a beautifully restored woodie.
As it happened, this was the last we would see of the Hartleys on the water as Richard had damaged his ribs in the first race capsize and was unable to continue. Stone & Gore were also casualties at this point as a result of injury.
Back to the club for free tea, cake, beer and a warm shower. Thursday evening’s entertainment was a curry and quiz evening. The curry was one of several excellent meals provided by the club caterers. Mark Penny supplied his usual hilarious and anarchic quiz including a picture round where even he struggled with the answers, and a round about cartoon cats (the result of the quiz is still subject to appeal). The winning team included a former French teacher who apparently incorrectly answered a question where “Paris” was the correct answer!
Overnight we had rain and wind and that’s what we woke to on Friday morning. Give the race team their due. They held the fleet ashore while they pottered off to the race area. Just as we had a report back from them to say that the wind speed was about 16 knots the sky darkened and the committee boat battened down its hatches before binning the day’s racing.
Probably a wise move, reinforced by Cowes Week similarly cancelling racing for all classes on the same day. This allowed visitors time to explore the local area including Chatham’s historic dockyard and the picturesque village of Upnor. Friday night was BBQ night with a steel band which was well supported by club members as well as by the competitors and supporters.
Saturday’s forecast was little better than Friday’s, 18-26 knots of breeze with rainy intervals. We woke to a misly sort of day and launched in not much wind and icy rain. As we slowly punched the incoming tide on our way to the race area the nav lights of a RIB appeared out of the gloom and gave us a tow. In terms of reaching the race area more quickly this was very welcome. In terms of the icy rain hitting my face at four times the speed it was before, I am not so sure.
The race team set up for the first race of the day (race four) in Pinup Reach and a triangle/sausage course was laid. The wind was nowhere near as strong as on Thursday, perhaps 10-16 knots from the south west, giving the lighter teams a chance. It was time for some of the teams to push the start line too hard and both the Lees and Strauss & Burgess picked up some alphabet scores.
At the front of the fleet it was business much as usual; the race was won by McNamara & Townsend with the Wilsons following them home. Whitney & Shelton had been close to the podium on Thursday and made the leap into the top three in this race. Sean & Helen Murray put their travails of Thursday behind them and were the best placed silver boat with a stunning fifth place while Alberto Quaglia & Peter Dilley came to the party by leading home the bronze fleet boats.
Race five followed soon after in similar conditions although the breeze softened slightly and clocked right during the race eventually turning the second reach into a close fetch. McNamara & Townsend and the Wilsons continued their personal tussle at the front and eventually finished in that order while the Collingridges came through to take third spot. The Murrays were the leading silver fleet boat once more while Quaglia & Dilley were getting in the groove for the bronze fleet boats.
For race six the tide was ebbing and a course change was required. Still located at the top end of Pinup Reach and the bottom end of Gillingham Reach, this course area seemed to offer some strategic considerations which even the locals couldn’t grapple with. One local boat, however, sailed by Mark and Alex Lee, hit their straps at the start and sailed far left to lead at the windward mark. The Wilsons were well placed but McNamara & Townsend were a few places back.
By the end of the first triangle normal service had been resumed with McNamara & Townsend and the Wilsons vying for the lead and the Lees not far behind. Up the second beat, McNamara & Townsend tried to protect their position but allowed several boats to go further to the left. These boats were rewarded with more wind and a lift which others did not get. Those on the right looked enviously on.
As the river became shallower in the race area the race team was compelled to shorten course at the end of the run. McNamara & Townsend’s unbroken sequence of wins was brought to an end by the Wilsons who were followed home by David Roberts and Mike Bryant and then the Lees. A new face led home the silver fleet, Nick Harris & Luke Howells while Quaglia & Dilley kept a firm grip on the bronze fleet.
There followed a very pleasant planing reach through Hoo Creek back to the clubhouse where the fleet was greeted by more free beer, tea and cake. This was followed by the very enjoyable Championship dinner, a few toasts and speeches and the presentation of the Viking Trophy to Connie Foreman for a log she wrote of a family cruise in 2020. A sail number raffle allocated a few of the sponsors prizes from Craftinsure.
Sunday, the final day of the series, was looking to be key in settling the final positions. As with Saturday the forecast was not promising but unlike the previous day Sunday seemed to be delivering what it said on the tin, 20+ knots and bigger gusts with rain showers, some heavy. At the briefing, RO, Tom Rusbridge, said he was prepared to wait an hour to see if conditions would ease, but at 1000hrs he did the decent thing and brought an end to proceedings. There was time for an early prize-giving and for visitors to get packed away before the next heavy shower.
Through the generous sponsorship of Hartley Boats and McNamara Sails and another sail number raffle, a few lucky people went home with a new sail or a new boat cover. There were some new perpetual trophies this year. The splendid Nipegegi Trophy, presented by the Hodgson family to the best placed boat with a sail number below 10506 was won by Brian & Charlotte White, while Jacqueline Townsend received the Pork Pie Perpetual Trophy, presented by Colin May, to the best placed lady crew. The trophies for race wins went to Tom & Andrew Wilson and to Michael McNamara & Simon Townsend.
Michael & Simon were crowned UKWA National Champions 2021, retaining their title from 2019. The Wilsons were runners up while the Neil & Hamish Collingridge finished in third place.
There was time, of course, to thank the helpers and organisers: Tom Rusbridge and Jamie Blair and their team on the committee boat; support boat and mark laying teams; the beach master and his team; galley staff and the club steward; the event sponsors, Hartley Boats, Craftinsure, McNamara Sails, Shepherd Neame Brewery, Wayfarer Wines and the daily sponsors of tea and cakes; and the organising committee led by MYC Rear Commodore, Catherine Gore.
Martyn Hare & Steve Perkins were best placed in the silver fleet, while the bronze fleet was topped by Brian & Charlotte White.
The next event in the Craftinsure UKWA National Circuit and Travellers Series will be the open meeting at Swarkestone at the beginning of October. There is much going on before then, however, with Race Weeks and Regattas with Wayfarer racing at Chichester, Aldeburgh and Poole.
(A version of this report with full results table is on the Racing Results page linked here)