Varied conditions at Nationals

DAY 2 (14)

Nationals at Harold Staunton seem to attract Moths that haven’t been seen before, but this time a Moth turned up that had not been seen by its intrepid helm at all. As others were going through the formalities of remembering which bits of rope go where, Moth 893 was being measured and weighed for the first time. Not only new boats: this Moth Nationals boasted that over twenty-five percent of the competitors were sailing for the Ladies’ trophy, a percentage that other classes would find hard to beat. Three of the ladies competing had never competed at this level before, showing enthusiasm and not a little skill.

On Wednesday, after a thorough briefing by Race Officer Alan Bennett, competitors took to the water for the practice race. The start was clean, lead by Toby Cooper (887), which he kept trying to relinquish, holding to the Moth superstition that the competitor who wins the practice race, fails to lift the trophy. Sadly, he finished first, ahead of Tim Davison (892) and Robbie Claridge (893).

Anticipation got the better of a couple of the sailors in Race 1. RO Bennett flew the ‘I’ flag as the prepatory, and Cooper and Andy Mathews (881) were both on Course Side of the start line, incurring penalties. The long first beat spread the field, with competitors breaking into three or four groups. Boats were tested, with at least two breakages – Tim Davison (892) doing a reverse pike into the lake after his toestrap broke (awarded a 5.9 by the spectators), and Roger Witts (890) hurriedly repairing a mainsheet failure. Despite his problem, Roger Witts (890) took first, followed by Abby Freely (883) and Robert Paynter (839).

After racing, the club hosted a Commodore’s Reception and a Curry and Quiz night, before the competitors headed for bed to rest for the more exacting day ahead.

Day two saw the sailors eager for breakfast and the day’s races, and with the wind strengthening overnight, they were promised a more interesting sailing than the previous day.

The lesson of the ‘I’ flag well-learnt, all but one sailor, Robert Paynter (839) – later disqualified – made tentative starts in Race 2. Davison took an early lead from Claridge and Cooper, while throughout the race, places were being keenly fought over further down the fleet. On the final lap, Claridge overtook Davison who, at the final approach to the finish line, continued his run of bad luck when he fell out of his boat, ceding Cooper second place.

Toby Smith’s (838) second place at the start of Race 3, behind Davison and ahead of Claridge, didn’t last long. He was soon passed by Claridge and Cooper, who, with Claridge getting ahead of Davison, made the top three.

In what was becoming a familiar story, Davison got away with a commanding lead, ahead of three other boats (and the rest of the field) at the first mark. Cleanly ahead, the first four boats battled for position. By the second lap, Claridge got ahead of Davison, who kept Cooper at bay for his third second place of the competition.

Day three. The rains and wind fell. Race 5 started in murky conditions, with Andy Mathews (881) taking the lead in the three-beat-leg course. Dead spots in the wind, particularly at the club-side marks, meant that places changed often, but the leaders continued to do what they had been doing all championships – sailing better than the rest. The three top places were familiar – Claridge, Cooper, Davison. In Race 6, the same weather conditions prevailed. Again, predication, anticipation, and a skill in reading the water governed the sailors’ positions in the fleet. Claridge, Cooper and Davison, along with Mathews, fought for first, but with Cooper passing Claridge, and Mathews third ahead of Davison, the race was done.

Despite his Race 6 defeat, Claridge’s four firsts had guaranteed him the overall championships. It was between Davison and Cooper for the minor placings, and a lot of calculations for positions (and other trophies) lower in the fleet. Who would get the ‘Bit in the middle’?

Race 7’s conditions could not have been more different to the previous day’s. Sun and a brisk wind made exciting sailing, and Claridge took his fifth first of the Nationals. However, Davison’s fourth second was not enough to put him ahead of Cooper (third), who was second overall – the curse of the practice race strikes again! Abby Freeley took out Ladies’ champion, while Davison had to be content with Veteran’s champion.

With Nationals successful for another year, thanks go out to Staunton Harold Sailing Club – the Commodore, the catering team, and the more than twenty souls who made up the Race team – for welcoming the British Moths to this wonderful piece of water, and making it feel like home.