CLOSE RACING, BLUE SKIES & SUNSHINE FOR THE RS500s AT THE MAGIC MARINE NATIONALS
Blue skies, warm sunshine and a gentle breeze welcomed 34 entries to the 2012 RS500 UK Nationals yesterday (Friday 30 August). This year the competition is being held at Netley Sailing Club in Southampton Water where everyone is able to camp, enjoy the beautiful surroundings and make full use of the waterside patio bar.
Race one got away in light wind conditions, but at least there was more wind than forecast with around 10 – 14 knots blowing from a northerly direction. Mike Saul and Meg Fletcher from Yorkshire SC had the best start getting off the line quickly and cleanly, followed closely by Francois Fung and Kate Forbes from Datchet Water SC. Staying true to this season’s form it was recent World Champions Tim Wilkins with crew Chris Tuckett from Great Yarmouth & Gorleston SC who rounded the windward mark in first position. Also from GY&GSC was Phil and Tamsin Highfield who rounded in second place followed by Greg and Paul Bartlett from Starcross SC who recently claimed bronze at the World Championships in Riva del Garda, Italy.
Tim/Chris kept their lead for nearly all three rounds, but Mike/Meg had incredible downwind boat speed and chased the leaders down, forcing them into a gybing match and getting ahead with just 20 metres to go before the finish line to claim first position. First female helm Amy Hulley crewed by Rob Burridge from Weir Wood SC picked their way through the fleet to finish in a well-deserved third position.
Despite the fact that there were three rounds the top ten crews finished within minutes of each other – it’s close racing at the top!
Even though a strengthening tide was pulling the competitors back from the start line at the beginning of race two most of the fleet was over the line and a general recall was called. Second time around and it was a clean, fast getaway for the competitors, particularly for the Dutch visitors Marleen Blomsma and Jody de Jager from Braassemermeer, Jon Partridge and Robin from Parkstone SC, and John Cooper crewed by Lawrence Gibbons from Burghfield SC. All were following Tim/Chris and Mike/Meg up the first beat, but it soon became clear that Saul had the fastest upwind boat speed. The tide came into play a lot more during this race and the majority of the fleet headed towards the shore up the first beat, including Mike/Meg. However, Tim/Chris decided to go left and waited for a lift to get up to the top mark. This tactic didn’t quite pay off and they rounded just behind Mike/Meg, who was first to round the windward mark and then their exceptional downwind boat speed kicked in and the leaders weren’t to be seen again. At the end of day one Mike/Meg had a solid lead with two first positions in the bank. Tim/Chris follow closely with two second places and Amy/Rob also put in a solid performance with two third places on the board.
At the end of the day everyone got together for a well-deserved BBQ by the sea and a chance to pick apart the day’s racing. The Vareo nationals are also taking place at Netley SC, so there are nearly 100 mouths to feed and Netley SC are doing a marvellous job with plenty of bacon baps and tea and cakes to keep us going. Two more days to go – let’s see what the weather brings!
Final report for the RS500 UK Nationals, Netley
Day two of the racing saw Mike Saul and Meg Fletcher starting in the yellow jerseys with Tim Wilkins and Chris Tuckkett in second position overall, followed closely by first female helm Amy Hulley and crew Rob Burridge.
Wind conditions were extremely light and Race Officer David Henshall worked hard with his team on the committee boat to get another race in. The fleet got away without a hitch and it was Tim/Chris who reached the windward mark first. However, Mike/Meg used their downwind boat speed to take the lead to the leeward mark. It was a tight squeeze between the two as they made the rounding, but Mike/Meg popped out first and kept their lead to the end. Tim/Chris dropped to fourth position overall and it was Amy/Rob who claimed second, with young rising star Greg Bartlett placing third, crewed by his father Paul.
But it wasn’t just the top four who had a good day – father and son team Peter and James Curtis secured fifth, their best score so far in the competition, with Dave Houghton and John Symonds coming in sixth. Father and daughter team Derek/Ellie Ness finished in this pack alongside Phil/Tamsin Highfield, Richard/Sue Morley, and James/Lucinda Tanner.
Half way through the second race of the day the wind dropped to just a couple of knots and it was abandoned. Everyone was on shore by mid-afternoon and made the most of the sunshine with some cold ones at the camp site and some songs on the guitar. Netley SC did a splendid job in the evening, putting a fantastic spread on for the sailors followed by an energetic rock band that had everyone dancing ‘til the wee hours.
Despite the late night all the teams made it back on to the water for a 09.30 start on Sunday morning in the attempt to squeeze four races into the last day of the championships. Even in the rain the competitors battled it out to the bitter end and made it through four races to complete a seven race series.
A very light wind and a cross-wind tide made it difficult to get the starts right and the black flag came out. The second start got away successfully and the race soon proved to be all about finding the sparse patches of pressure in the fickle breeze.
Staying on form and proving worthy winners of this year’s UK Nationals Mike/Meg performed well again throughout the day, beaten only once in the three races they sailed by Peter/James Curtis, who sailed a clever downwind leg, finding pressure where Mike/Meg couldn’t to overtake. They secured their best place of the series, taking home a well-deserved bullet.
Amy/Rob also got their first bullet of the weekend in the final race of the day, which placed them third overall in the series. Tim/Chris did enough to keep hold of second position with two seconds and a third, choosing to follow Mike/Meg ashore for the fourth race.
The first youth prize went to Greg Bartlett from Starcross SC, who came 12th overall in the competition. New to the class, he is one to watch after bursting onto the scene in Italy where he won bronze at the World Championships.
First female helm was Amy Hulley, first female crew was Meg Fletcher and the first all-female team was Jane Olive and Tiffany Wilcox from Netley SC in ninth place overall sailing their first 500 event in a borrowed boat. It was great to see so many female competitors represented at the top of the fleet.
First veteran helm went to Derek Ness from Gurnard SC who was sailing with his daughter Ellie, but they were pipped to the first family prize by Peter and James Curtis who placed fourth overall.
A special mention goes to Dutch team Marleen Blomsa and Jody de Jager who travelled all the way from Braassemermeer in Holland to compete. Although they didn’t get their favourite wind conditions, they showed everyone how it was done in the big winds on the training day held before the event and left Netley with a few more friends to meet again at the World Championships in Sweden next year.
The RS500 performs at its best in stronger winds, and although the conditions may not have been quite what the sailors would have wished for there were no complaints about the weekend, which everyone at Netley SC worked hard to ensure was one to remember. Sailing event coordinator Andy Chapman, an ex-RS500 sailor himself, worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone had the best possible experience, for which everyone was extremely grateful. The RS500s made a unanimous decision to try and come back to Netley SC next year for another weekend…so watch this space!
The next event will be held at Parkstone SC on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 September. Details can be found on the website.