After having successfully launched 20 Elites with the club crane on Wednesday, the event organizers could breathe a sigh of relief that they hadn’t dropped anyone! Wednesday night consisted of introducing our English visitors to Oysters and Guinness followed by copious amounts of Bushmills Whiskey; thankfully everyone woke up the next morning not the worse for wear.
PRO Davy Young had told the fleet he might avail of the option to run four races instead of the usual three, owing to the forecast for light winds on Friday. With the race area being so close to the club moorings, everyone was able to saunter out at a very reasonable hour. Race one got under way in a moderate southerly, with the gun going to RUYC’s Stephen Polly, John Gunning and David Kelso on board “Storm, followed closely by recent Irish Champions KIN (Tiffany and Simon Brien, Colin Leonard), and Hayling Island’s Mike and Caroline McIntyre and Simon Childs on board Foudafafa in third. The rest of the fleet was extremely closely bunched, which meant missing a shift could cost you dearly.
Race two got underway in a strengthening breeze, and it was the same three boats vying for line honours all the way round the course. This time KIN came out on top, followed by Foudafafa, and Storm in third. For the rest of the fleet, the lay line to the windward mark seemed to be busier than the M25 at rush hour; with those trying to get through on port being relegated to the back of the fleet in no time. Downwind saw the fleet split down both sides of the course; with everyone so close it was those who were able to get a clean track who benefitted most when we all converged on the leeward gates.
The committee boat thankfully gave us all time to get some lunch, but it was then straight into race three. After the committee boat end being jam packed in the previous two races, many of the fleet decided to start farther down the line and get a clean start. RNIYC’s John Driscoll, Hal Catherwood and Stephen Cartwright on Anchorman made the most of a pin end start, and quickly built up a small lead over the chasing pack. Foudafafa followed club mates the Paul and Caroline Fisk on Legs Eleven, but Anchorman eventually got overtaken by Foudafafa on the beat.
With tired bodies, the fleet mustered for the final race of the day, with the wind decreasing slightly. CSC’s Ryan Wilson and his RS 400 compatriots on Eclipse showed the fleet how to make a perfect start, and held on to their lead all the way round the course. What’s even more impressive is the fact this is pretty much a scratch crew who came 4th in the Irish Nationals last weekend. Surely a boat to watch as the championship progresses. Storm and Foudafafa had a battle for second, but Storm pulled through in the end. Once again for the rest of the fleet it was a game of snakes and ladders, with the windward mark lay line being extremely busy.
Overall then, Foudafafa lead by one point from Storm who lie on 10 points, with KIN sitting in third with 15 points. With the fleet so closely bunched, small gains in day two could propel crews up the leader board…. or the reverse could equally happen! The evening meal was held at Daft Eddy’s, where some members of the fleet managed to “fit in with the locals” in traditional Irish attire. Music from the “Folkin eejits” meant the Whiskey and Guinness went down a little too easily for some people! When the band had stopped, the Elite fleet stalwarts continued to entertain themselves, with Hank “the magnificent” Anstey tinkling the ivories well into the wee small hours.
With four races the previous day and various libations at Daft Eddy’s the night before, the fleet was somewhat depleted in numbers. The event organizers decided to split their crew up and enable the visiting boats to get to the start line with a full complement of crew.
Race five started with a couple of boats missing from the start line: race organizers on board T’nT sacrificed crew to sail on Charlie and Julia Egerton – Warburton’s Soak Therapy and Way to Blue (it’s a long story…). Having not been physically present at race one, and other crews having a hazy memory of what happened, we have to rely on the results sheet to say that Foudafafa took line honours, Aeolus (Ossie, Cameron and Tom Stewart) second, and Legs Eleven third. Race six got underway with a (very) light breeze from the North. Those on the pin end got the favoured start, and were looking good up the first beat. The Hayling Island boats of Foudafafa, Aeolus, Legs Eleven and Way to Blue (Nick and Kate Peters, with guest crew Mark Fletcher from T’nT) seemed to revel in the light winds, as this bunch lead the fleet round the patchy breeze. The wind became very light on the run, with some Elites deciding to take their jibs down to try and get their kites flying! On the final beat it looked like those who decided to go left made big gains, and only half the fleet finishing inside the time limit. Frustratingly for many – including Soak Therapy – the line seemed mere metres away when they were timed out.
Memories of racing on day three were severely impaired by the class dinner that evening and copious amounts of Whiskey and Scottish dancing… The fleet was greeted by a southerly once again, and it was Foudafafa and KIN who were jostling for the bullet, but it would stay in that order for the finish. Jeff Ralston, Stuart Vaughan and Gerry Reid on Upfront showed the pace we all knew they have, to round out the podium. Foudafafa once again worked the shifts upwind in race two to take another bullet, followed by Legs Eleven and Aeolus. Although the lead bunch had a bit of a gap over the rest of us, the windward mark starboard lay line was tightly congested as the fleet seemed once again to resemble a dog fight with bad tacks or missing a shift costing over 10 places to some unfortunate boats. The final race of day couldn’t come soon enough for many of the fleet, as this was shaping up to be a tight championship all the way down the pecking order – only a few points separated a large portion of the fleet. Eclipse had the perfect committee boat start and was able to tack into clean air. They never looked back for the rest of the race, and sailed the perfect race to score their second bullet of the championship. Previous predictions of their form were obviously well founded! Class Chairman Steve Powell, Donald MacLean and Botty in E’Tu couldn’t quite catch the young guns and had to settle for second place. Aeolus were third, with Way to Blue(and yet another change of crew!) coming in fourth.Day 4The morning after the night before had resulted in an unenthusiastic fleet; fortunately, the wind gods obliged and racing was postponed for an hour. The final race of the championship got underway in light air, and it was RLymYC’s Freebie Knot of the Archibald’s who made the best start by the committee boat and were first to the windward mark. Cheers were heard and the crew were spotted jumping for joy, before they then realized they had to hoist their kite! Foudafafa and Eclipse snuck through by the end, but Freebie Knot held on to lock out the podium. Once again, the rest of the fleet resembled a dogfight, with several places won or lost in a heavily congested beat and downwind leg. Not only this, but overall positions were very tight, so gains or losses were made on this final race of the championship.
Overall then, Foudafafa were crowned the 2016 Cardinal Analytics RS Elite National Champions, with Aeolus second, whilst Storm were only just a few points behind to take third overall, and best local boat. Although the winners had a comfortable margin over the chasing pack, this has possibly been one of the closest national championships in years, with the entire fleet congregating at the windward and leeward marks at the same time. It’s no wonder the Elite is proving to be such a hit with young and old, (former) Olympians and Corinthians alike: racing doesn’t get much closer than this. And the social side of things is equally competitive – with friends and family as crew mates, the après sailing events are always very friendly and welcoming. All in all then, a great event, great boat and great people. We can’t wait for the Nationals to be held at Hayling Island Sailing Club next year!