GBR 2020 National Championships
The Weston Cat Open, sailed on Southampton Water, is always a nice event with a friendly atmosphere, nice clubhouse and free camping – always a plus in my view, particularly with a nice seafront view too!
This year, being the Plague Year, we lost our official GBR Nationals after UK Government travel restrictions were suddenly imposed on anyone travelling to and from The Netherlands, meaning in effect, anyone who went would struggle to convince the insurance companies it was an essential trip, and hence not be covered. That, and the 14 day quarantine on returning, resulted in the GBR fleet cancelling our anticipated attendance. This just left one brave lad, Owen Cox coming there from FRA, to battle ‘Johnny Foreigner’ alone, and securing a respectable 10th. Well done him!
So some hasty footwork and the kind co-operation of Weston saw us being able to rapidly reschedule our Nationals at this event. The imminent threat of a new lockdown could have rendered any Grafham based event too late in mid October. In the end, 11 boats turned up to race.
The COVID requirements meant that sailors must have registered and paid by the Wednesday before. This went some way towards getting 11 ‘A’ Cats turn up. The accuracy of the forecasts have, over the last few years, resulted in some sailors tending to hedge their bets and leave it until more or less the day before to decide whether to attend or not, which leaves organisers with a nightmare. The rapidly changing forecast wouldn’t have helped either. 3 days out, it showed 20 gusting 31 kts. In reality the Saturday was a much more survivable 16 gusting 22. But it was from the North East. So the usual ‘Oh, it’s not usually like this here!’ was heard from locals. The geography of Weston would mean that the longest course available would be just about a mile, as to avoid the shipping channel and being run over by the UK balance of payments deficit. This would place the top mark up near the eastern shore. But, then there was the joker being played as this was also downwind of 4 large apartment blocks that acted like turbulators, making the nearer you got to the top mark, the more fun was to be had.
3 races were scheduled each day, and starting about 12pm due to tide requirements. The COVID regs stated that no more than 10 boats were allowed on the foreshore at any time, so the 3 fleets were split with different launch window for each. The ‘A’ s were first off (as is right and proper of course!) Everyone launched with little difficulty and set off for the start area to the west near the middle of Southampton Water. The further from the shore we got, the windier it became though. Our first casualty was our Olympian Adam May. He went whistling downhill in foils, sailed into a hot gust, rounded up and then capsized quite gently really. However, maybe the downhaul tension was on full because the mast just broke a meter up from the hounds as he went over. He’s just been on the water maybe 10 mins before Game Over came up.
The PRO hastily got everyone corralled and pressed go and off went the fleet into the gusty and shifty winds. With Adam gone, there were 3 foilers left and 7 Classics. Hugh Macgregor (Classic Scheurer G4) got good start as usual in the middle of the line, and Gordon Upton (Classic DNA) went off well from the pin. At the top, as the shifts and gusts became almost comic, Hugh rounded first with Gordon some 20m behind. They then sailed to the spreader and out into a hole. The fleet compressed rather and most gybed off to find where the wind went. Then the fleet suddenly found it, and a big 24kt lump flattened and somewhat freaked out Gordon and a couple of F18s as well. The rest of the fleet instantly went into survival mode and chugged around like that. At the line, Hugh had a decisive lead over Struan Wallace (Classic AD3) and Pete Boxer (Classic Tool) who had found the ability to really flatten his sail to suit his jockey-like weight.
The next two races were similar, although the gust peaks never reached the same level. Hugh showed his World No. 6 ranking by pulling out good distance on the remainder of the fleet in each race. Neil Klabe (Classic AUS Flyer) sailed well and was 2nd in the other two races. Drama also in race 2 as Dan Brezezinski (Classic Tool) managed to capsize on his last gybe just before the line trying in vain to prevent Gordon getting his place and he drifted over the line capsized. Unfortunately, as he was swimming after it, this was deemed as not a usual sailing position so was declared a DNF. He’d broken his boom anyhow.
In the Open, the 16 year old newby Julian Bosch sailing an Exploder AD3 did well in his first regatta. Pete Jary (AD3) was 2nd and another newby, Oli Bond (Scheurer G4) learned much in 3rd.
Sundays racing was more or less in the same area although the wind had moderated to that irritating level where you can’t decide to trapeze or not. This wasn’t helped by the shifts either making it a real challenge to get around the course. Struan had to return home suddenly and retired before sailing. Gordon had his boom explode at the gooseneck just before the 5 min gun of the first race and retired for the day also. The remainder struggled around the course, usually in low drag downwind mode. The odd bit of foiling was to be had, but could soon lead you into a dead end if not careful. In the end, Hugh got another 3 bullets, but Pete Boxer played to his light-wind strengths and got seconds in each race as a result.
Classic National Champion - Hugh Macgregor
Open winner- Julian Bosch
Overall everyone, other than Adam maybe, had a nice time. The sun shone for what was probably the last decent weekend of the year and it felt like life was good for a change. The guys at the Weston club did a great job in getting an event run in COVID secure conditions and put in much hard work behind the scenes so our thanks go to them all. Who knows what will be happening next year, but Stay Safe!
Photos - James Bosch
Droneage shots - Doug Macgregor