UK Nationals 09.
Race One: 12 – 15knots, a pin end biased line and a bit of a dilemma about going for the suspected wind bend on the right or a fraction more pressure in the left. I won the pin end, and headed left. I managed to squeeze through underneath Mike Lennon, and get my nose out in front enough to be able to tack and cross when I thought I was close to the layline. Those in the right looked okay but I was pleased to see them come out of the right on a bad angle in poor pressure. That would leave the race to the top mark between me and those who’d chosen a line above mine, and Mike Cooke who hadn’t had a very good start but was going fast up the middle on port. I got round first, with those above me overstanding, so it was Mike C round in second. I struggled in the waves a bit to find a good line, and Mike C got through low and fast below me. Mike L just behind him was next through. I gybed on the layline, then had a fast charging Rod Harris then roll over the top of me. Mmm 1st to fourth on the run, not ideal after the good first beat I’d had. I made gains up the next beat to round the top just behind Mike Lennon, and a few lengths ahead of Rod. Rod gained on me, but a pop out cost him some distance. Mike Cooke went for a quick swim but was able to right quick enough to lead Lennon round the leeward mark and up to the finish. Rod got passed me just before the leeward mark, but I was able to take a nice high line above him and hold him out enough to tack for the finish line first to take third.
With the visibility down to less than half the beat, and an increasing breeze forecast to get up to 42 knots later in the day the fleet was sent ashore.
Race 2: An average start, a bit below the fleet and tacked on the layline while many carried on to far, but it was a shocking tack, and after a brief dip of the rig in the water, I had a bit of catching up to do! Rounding the top mark around 20th was not ideal. But a short course and about 6 laps I was able to make gains. Eventually I could see the leaders just ahead, but had no real idea of my position as the course was so busy with boats on various different laps. I thought I’d climbed back in to the top ten, but was pleased to find out later I was actually 5th. Damn that first tack...
Race 3: With a pin end biased line Paul Hayden port tacked the fleet, and those off the pin end were looking good. I was about 1/3rd of the way up, and headed left until the layline. I was please to see everybody else carry on though! Mike Lennon had only gone a fraction further than me, and got over the top of me to lead round the top mark, with me a few lengths back. Paul Hayden had suffered from heading right with his great start and didn’t have the same angle as those coming out of the left. For a little while I had Mike Cooke just below me whilst going across on port, and I was worried he’d show some of his impressive pace again, but I managed to eek over him slightly, and didn’t see him again after he swim at the top of the run. On the run I was able to soak down inside Lennon and gybe for the leeward mark first to take the lead. Liking the left again I tacked off up the beat and played the shifts up the left again. This enabled me to extend my lead and start building a bit of a buffer. I was happy and fast on the runs on stbd in the flat water at the top, but I struggled in the waves on port at the bottom of the course. The chasing Mach 2’s of Lennon and Ricky Tagg got passed me at one point, but another good beat of playing the shifts got me back into the lead which I held to the finish.
Race 4: An average start and okay first beat saw me round the top mark in about 7th or 8th, but I nailed the layline on the run and got inside most of the leaders who’d gone too far, to be second at the leeward mark behind Geoff Carveth. I remained here for most of the race until I managed to drop the mainsheet up one of the beats and in the resulting crash somehow managed to pitchpole upwind! By the time I’d righted I was back into fourth. Up the subsequent beat I was sure there was quiet a wind bend at the top, and so tacked well under the layline. I got the expected shift, and sailed through underneath Lennon and Harris to get back into 2nd. I didn’t quite get the gybe location right, and in the drag race to the line, Lennon got over me, with Harris manage to get the jump over both of us to take second behind Carveth.
So the final run of the last race of the day decided who would be the overall leader after four races. It was tight at the top with Cooke leading on race win countback from Lennon, one point ahead of myself and Harris.
Day three was blown off, so the championship was to be decided on the last two races on Tuesday.
Race 5: A big sea state and 15-18 knots saw a lot of the fleet swimming on the runs trying to negotiate the waves. I really struggled to get downwind in the waves and swam a lot, which put pay to my Nationals chance. With so much swimming going on it was tricky to see who’d won. Many thought Rod Harris had won (including him!) but it turned out that Paul Hignett had got round in the best shape. Lennon was 3rd and Cooke 4th. (I think..)
Race 6: So it would come down to the final race between Harris, Lennon and Cooke. I didn’t see much of it unfortunately as I pitchpoled shortly after rounding the windward mark in second.. From watching from a distance Cooke sailed a solid race to take the win, from Hignett who was obviously liking the wavy conditions. Harris beat Lennon, but The final result wasn’t completely sure when we all got to the beach though. Few people had noticed Paul Hignett’s performance on the water and Mike Cooke wasn’t sure of his results.... Nobody was sure until the results were posted at the club.
In the final analysis Cooke took the Championships from Harris by 1 point, who in turn was 1 point ahead of Lennon. Impressive to have another close event finish after the Euros.
So Mike Cooke is the 2009 National Champion. A well deserved win for him, and a great result for his new boat. The atmosphere within the fleet is as great as ever. It was mentioned by some that although we are racing each other there is greater camaraderie amongst the fleet than you’d find in many big boat teams sailing together!
A quick review of a select few:
1st Mike Cooke. Probably won this regatta on raw pace. The Ninja is fast make no mistake, and has good control in the waves. Starting was Mike’s weak spot, but he had sufficient pace that when he’d got into a clear lane he could pull through quite quickly, so perhaps he was just being cautious. Swimming in race 1, 3, 4, and 5 could have cost him the event but he was always able to come back enough. A large mainfoil, and small rudder, but a rig positioned further fwd than normal relative to the fleet, and no rudder angle adjustment may make people think again about some of the design choices out there. One thing is certain – Mike will be busy in Aardvark HQ for a while now!
2nd Rod Harris. Another solid regatta from Rod. Probably not the fastest out there, but was always up there. Continued wand work has given him a good controllable set-up in breeze, and plenty of winter sailing has given him solid boathandling. A good result for the Prowler, and good evidence that there isn’t a lot between all the packages that a bit of tweaking can’t fix. If it had been a lighter event Rod would have been the first to admit that he wouldn’t be able to hang onto some of the lighter wind specialists, but it remained breezy and he converted that into results. Overstanding a few laylines, and not doing the full maths before the last race possibly cost him the win..
3rd Mike Lennon. Always up there, but never quite converted that into any race wins. He’d shown great pace early in the season, but either the fleet has caught up, or he’s slowed a fraction. Lots of rig playing didn’t look to have produced results yet.
4th Paul Hignett. He hadn’t really been seen up with the front four in the first four races, but a great last day with a 1st and 2nd, propelled Paul up the results sheet.
5th Ricky Tagg: A weld failure in his wand system resulted in a RTD in race one, but he started to get the feel of his new Mach 2 as the event went on, and showed impressive pace at times.
6th Geoff Carveth: Consistently up there, and with a good race win I thought Geoff was the person to get 4th from me, but I hadn’t accounted for Paul and Ricky’s final day showings.
7th Me: I struggled for control in the bigger wave races, and that showed in my pace downwind in race 1 and number of swims on the last day. In flat water I was very competitive, with all the recent little mods helping. (This afternoon I’ll fit a new wand bracket with revised geometry!) I probably made my biggest gains on calling good laylines, and I enjoyed the shifty breeze races. My new boat plans are a good subject for a future blog....
20th Katherine Knight: Fresh from learning much about high wind sailing at the Europeans Katherine sailed a great event to get round the course in conditions that were too much for most of the fleet. She had just one rtd when the shroud fitting pulled off the wingbar, but somehow she caught it and was faced with an interesting what to I do now dilemma! The Mini rig once again proved its worth, and I’ll do a proper blog post on that soon.
Equal Last: Simon Payne. Simon missed the first race as he was at his sons sports day. Many thought he’d rock up and win the remaining races, but a reoccurring issue under the bonnet stopped that. The issue was with the through deck wand control cable that had been moved slightly on his prototype boat, but didn’t remain attached enough. The two repairs attempted in the car park didn’t hold either. He lead round the windward mark in the two races he started, but headed ashore soon after.
Outside of the top few, there are a lot of people going about the same speed, but the biggest factor around the course is the extra distance being sailed by people overstanding laylines upwind and down.
Soon a quick technical review....