6 DAYS THAT SHAPED THE 2015 NATIONAL SOLO CHAMPIONSHIP
National Solo National Championship and Nation’s Cup 2015
East Lothian Y.C. Scotland Sponsored by SELDEN
Just 2 weeks have passed since the National and Nation’s Cup titles were concluded at North Berwick. The 70 competitors have departed back to the four corners of the UK, some with trophies and all with good memories of a great Championship. North Berwick had delivered lovely weather and a slickly run event for the National Solo Class, no wonder then that it was our third visit to this beautiful location on the east coast of Scotland in ten years.
The week had begun with the time honoured measurement day when Solos hulls and masts are weighed, rudder blade shapes are checked and documents are scrutinized. While a little arduous, it is a great time to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. It is also a good time to check out the latest gizmos, sails and general gossip. Scotland delivered what we thought was going to be the first of many rain induced drenching’s but, contrary to historical metrological evidence it was sunny for the whole week.
Sunday Race 1
Charlie Cumbley in the Sailboat.co.uk Mk 5.5, powered by the North 3DL and the Selden D+ showed his intent with a pillar to post win in the light to moderate breeze. Stable mate Pete Mitchell (using the same gear but with the North SK2) worked through to pip Mike Sims (Winder Mk 1/P+B/D+) for second. Andy Tunnicliffe (Winder/Impact Marine Laminate/ D+ was fourth with Andy Davis (Winder/HD MAX/D+) fifth. The fleet waited around but with huge windshifts of 80 degrees PRO Ted Hill had no alternative other than to can racing for the day.
East Lothian commodore Donald Mackinnon warmly welcomed the fleet at his reception and we were all treated to the first of many ‘fine dining’ experiences thanks to club chef Andreas and his able assistant. The club food was excellent, delivering Greek inspired meals alongside egg and bacon baps and scones of all flavours. My own personal favourite was the apple/cinnamon combo.
No racing. I could leave it at that but it was a day of what could have been. The metrological station’s forecast was foreboding, strong winds from the south and big gusts. A quick glance at windguru’s site confirmed it with lots of pretty purple colours, no need to strain my eyes to check the numbers. Undaunted the fleet ‘geared up’ for the days racing and waited impatiently for Beach master ‘Ian” to grant them freedom. The chatter in the dinghy park was mixed depending on ability, bravado from the young and talented, anxiety from the old and wise. The best indicator and one that would prove as accurate as any multi million pound satellite was a local clothes line that was adorned in knickers, Y fronts and blouses. As the wind speed increased, so the garments rose and by 11am they were fully airborne. Out on the race course Ted Hill and the team of enthusiastic assistants were being pounded by 30 mph gusts which steadily increased throughout the morning. At 2pm and after three hours and no likely decrease in pressure the PRO canned racing for the day. There was no real argument from the masses though the young and brave were a tad upset. In a cruel twist of irony not 20 minutes had passed when the wind dropped to a lovely 12-18 mph. The weathers’ warped sense of humour was not lost on the PRO and with one final twist of the knife, trousers, pegged to the line by their legs, mocked him with sarcastic salute.
One of the lessons learned will be in future to communicate with all competitors instantly via text message to ensure we can maximize the time on the water.
Monday evening was A.G.M, historically, a lively affair but we are now in the era of FRP and laminate sails so contentious issues are few and far between. Roger Gravatt the NSCA President was completing his ‘National Service’ for the class and Will Loy was elected after an uncontested election campaign. I would have voted for the opposition.
Selden’s generous sponsorship of the event was evident with a free draw for a new Selden boom and with the winner announced, the fleet retired to the bar to discuss the finer points of NSCA policy.
No racing! There was really no surprise at the decision as it was way windier than Monday! Ted and his hardy crew ventured out in the generously sized committee boat, rescue ribs also took to the water and the drysuits were certainly a good call. The hand held wind indicator recorded gusts in the 40 mph bracket and the Seas were as confused as a moth’s flight plan. On the beach there was muted enthusiasm to wheel the Solos’ down the soft white sand. Beach master Ian stood resolute and I waited for a parody from Lord of the Rings, “You shall not pass”. The PRO delivered the decision and his gut and sources were on the money as the wind blasted Bass Rock until late in the afternoon. Scotsman Robbie Wilson was having none of it and went out to play.
Later that evening the East Lothian bar was the location for ‘Quiz Night’, hosted by the club and sponsored by one of the finest alcoholic beverages known to man, NB GIN. The winning team (I do not know their names but one would guess they included team Hopwood and some of the Salcombe crowd), were awarded bottles of the North Berwick liquour so many thanks to NB for their generosity.
Catch Up Wednesday,
Race 7-8 and re-scheduled race 2
Steve Ede the NSCA Championship organiser and Ted the PRO crunched the numbers and decided that 3 races a day would guarantee us a good series. The tide was not conducive to an earlier start time so we were set for a long day on the water. Andy Davis won the day with a 1-1-6 scoreline, the golden HD MAX rig, matched with his natural talent resulting in a dominant display. Charlie Cumbley, adorned in the ‘Event Leader’ Rooster race bib was unable to answer the questions but his 2-2-21 and with a discard kicking in would see him retain the overall lead. Olly Wells (JP/P+B/Selden Zeta) won the re-scheduled race 2 just as the wind died. Charlie was magnanimous in defeat but a wounded Cumbley is a dangerous animal and Thursday’s racing would prove so.
That evening Steve Watson, our on the water Juror, held an impromptu presentation on Rule 42 Interpretations. Though the room was only half full there was open and frank discussion from some prominent members of the fleet and Steve delivered a very clear and concise explanation. Many thanks to him and we look forward to hopefully taking you on as our class juror in 2016.
To be fair to the entire fleet, there were hardly any infringements throughout the week, I should know as myself and Mike Rigg, the club’s Results Secretary were the protest committee! We did talk a few sailors down from the roof though.
Races-9-10 and re-scheduled race 3
There is nearly always one defining day at a Championship and one of Scotland’s’ finest sailing venues delivered a humdinger of a Thursday for the sailors.
Blistering sunshine, winds from the west at 20-25 mph and a really nice wave pattern gave the fleet of 70 plenty to smile about. Cumbley delivered a master class and his three aces trumped Davis’s three second places. In truth Andy had not got the first beat right all day and if it had been an F1 Grand Prix he may well have recorded the fastest laps. Mike Sims, Andy Tunnicliffe and Robbie Wilson were all in the mix and with a further three races scheduled for the last day we were all set for a thrilling finale. I was fortunate to be filming and, with the wind in the perfect direction and at the perfect velocity, and with the sun in the perfect position and strength, recorded some of the best footage in my short film making career. The evenings highlight was the barbeque and the sailors, wives and partners basked in the sunshine and feasted on burgers and pasta.
Races 11-12 and rescheduled race 4
The day dawned sunny and warm and with a building breeze the fleet resumed battle.
Cumbley with a 2 point lead from Davis but with a heavy discard was vulnerable to some match racing tactics. Sims is a solid third with Tunnicliffe, Wilson and P.Mitchell all looking to improve.
At the top mark it was NICK BONNER who grabbed his moment in the spotlight (though he had sailed well all week and would finish in the top ten overall) and rounded with Cumbley in second and Pete Mitchell third. Cumbley eventually rolled the seven year old Speed hull that had been painstakingly refurbished by Bonner over the last two years and took the win.
Cumbley had landed a big right hook to the chin of Davis with the bullet. Davis had again been buried after the first beat but had hit some serious left handers to claim second and keep in touch with the defending champion. Pete Mitchell was third and this would elevate him up the leader board.
Race 12 while not exciting to watch, threw the championship wide open. Cumbley and Davis were locked in their own personal bundle at the pin end with Mitchell. Mike Sims, Chris Turner (Ovington/HD/D+) and Tunnicliffe headed right from the committee boat and this proved the correct strategy. Cumbley, Davis, Mitchell and Wilson were buried and as the wind ebbed and flowed between 8-9.44 knots there was no way back.
Sims took the win from Turner and Tunnicliffe and this result pretty much guaranteed him third place overall. Cumbley recorded a 14th and Davis a 20th.
After the race Pete Mitchell mentioned to me from my lofty position on the committee boat that there was more pressure up the right but he had gone left to stay close to the event leaders.
So we had reached the last race of the event and with the minutes ticking down before the cut off point it was Charlie Cumbley with a slim lead over Andy Davis. If Davis could restrict the event leader to 14th or worse he would himself win the Championship. With a minute to go the two were in close proximity but Cumbley was able to sneak a tack to break clear from the Davis death lock. They both started with a clean lane and tracked up the middle of the course in tight ‘Red Arrow’ formation. Cumbley worked out from below the Davis cover and half way up the beat he was forced to tack off to the unfavoured left. At the top mark it was Tunnicliffe from Craig Williamson, Wilson and Sims. Cumbley was fifth and with Davis too far back to influence the outcome, had done enough to defend his title for the third year in succession.
The rest is history as they say.
The fleet packed their Solos’ away and assembled for the prizegiving in the bijou East Lothian bar which had been the base camp for the week. Andreas served up platters of Chicken Souflaki, spicy chorizo sausage, cous cous and other delicacies from around the World. Cumbley said his thank you’s and left, laden with trophies while Davis and Sims who would soon be contesting Merlin Rocket and RS400 national titles went into re-boot. Nick Bonner left with a new SELDEN mast, courtesy of our sponsor and his was the widest grin off all.
Thanks to SELDEN for their very generous sponsorship, NOBLE MARINE for continuing their support of the N.S.C.A and special thanks to the race team, headed by Ted Hill who were brilliantly well organized and always eager to please the Class.