When I was a nipper, every racing day was a champagne sailing day. The warming sun always shone and was high in the sky. The water sparkled. The sea breeze checked in like clockwork. It may be that is just a rose tinted memory. However, in times of need, I would sail in less than perfect conditions if I must.
After a period of over 18 months since the last UKWA Wayfarer travellers event, Covid restrictions had eased enough to allow the Western Area Championships 2021 (and Craftinsure National Circuit and Travellers event) at Arun YC on the 22nd and 23rd of May to go ahead. A number of boats had contacted the organising Club and indicated an intention to complete. After all the time waiting however it was the weather which did not play ball. With a forecast of 40+ knots on Friday and 30+ knots on Sunday, a window of opportunity appeared on Saturday and Arun YC put the word out that the event would proceed as planned....read more
In the event, the drive from East Kent to Littlehampton was wet and windy but by the time we arrived at the Club the wind was dropping even if the air was still more than damp. The Club decided to proceed with the open meeting as a one day event, sailing four races back-to-back. The weather put paid to a full attendance of boats and only seven hardy teams, from seven different clubs, signed on. The fleet was strong, however, including two of the top three boats from the International Championships in 2019.
To be fair, rigging the boat was a tad chilly. The welcome we received from the Club was warm enough, however. Rigging and struggling into rarely used sailing kit was followed by a socially distanced briefing and then off we toddled to take part in the four races off the West Sussex coast.
The wind was broadly westerly in direction. It shifted as much as 15 degrees either side of a mean which meant that the race team had to reset the course between each race, but they did that as quickly as they could so hanging around between races was kept to a minimum. The wind strength varied between 5 and 20+ knots during the day but typically was 10 to 15 knots. We had rain, we had icy rain, and we had a sky which ranged in colour from grey to leaden. I don’t remember seeing any sun and the water didn’t sparkle. The conditions were a challenge as they changed all the time. At the windward mark in one race the wind was so soft the boats were hardly moving. On the other hand, at times we were able to have a blasting three sail reach, planing across the waves.
With a small fleet, general recalls were never going to happen. In fact there was only one overenthusiastic dunderhead who was OCS in any of the races; but that is all right, I enjoy peeling off back to the start line and playing catch up.
In each race, the fleet effectively split itself in two parts. Michael McNamara and Simon Townsend and Andrew and Tom Wilson were generally at the front while the rest of the fleet raced as a separate group, a respectful distance behind the leaders. David Roberts and Mike Bryant and the Townsends did manage to keep up with the leading pair from time to time but were unable to sustain the same pace as the leaders for a whole race.
Michael and Simon won races 1 and 2 with the Wilsons runners up in each. In race 3, the Wilsons led at the first windward mark and maintained their lead throughout setting up a winner takes all final race. In the event, Michael and Simon led at the first mark of race 4 and maintained their lead until Andrew and Tom capsized at the final gybe mark, thereby securing the win they needed to take the event overall.
David and Mike pipped the Townsends for third place overall. Locals, Paul Hughes and Mark Nicholls, finished fifth on count back from John Goudie and Sam Boniface. The fleet was propped up by Nigel and Belinda O’Donnell who capsized during race 2 and retired with dignity to the bar.
Apart from those who towed their boats to Littlehampton behind their country cottages and planned to stay overnight, the rest of us went home after the prize-giving and fish and chip supper. Many thanks to David Robinson and all at Arun YC for putting on the event in difficult circumstances. Thanks also to Paisley Thompson and her team for setting good courses and running the racing so efficiently. Congratulations to Michael and Simon for becoming the Wayfarer Western Area Champions once again.
In the end, it wasn’t champagne sailing as I remember it, but it was racing, close racing at that, and it was good to be back.
1st, Michael McNamara and Simon Townsend, 10648 (RBSC) 3pts
2nd, Andrew and Tom Wilson, 11093 (DWSC) 5pts
3rd, David Roberts and Mike Bryant, 10673 (BBSC) 9pts
4th, Tim and Jacqueline Townsend, 11012 (MYC) 11pts
5th, Paul Hughes and Mark Nicholls, 11129 (AYC) 15pts
6th, John Goudie and Sam Boniface, 11118 (WSC) 15pts
7th, Nigel and Belinda O’Donnell, 11282 (SSC) 22pts