Monday, 7 July 2014

Nationals Report

Minisail National Championships 2014

Whitefriars Sailing Club in the Cotswold Water Park hosted a very international Minisail Nationals over the weekend of 5/6 July. With visitors from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, not to mention Cornwall and England, the 15 sailors who gathered together were a fine example of European unity!

Many of the travellers arrived on Friday, and by early evening, that very English drink, Pimms, was being consumed in unwise quantities by most of the assorted gathering.

Saturday’s sunshine was punctuated in the morning by heavy, squally showers, usually just as we were venturing outside to look at some finer point of Minisail tuning during our coaching sessions. Luckily, the afternoon brightened up and the wind steadied while we got loads of starting practice and mini races under our belts as the coaching continued.

Once the official coaching had finished, it was time to try out each other’s boats. Unlike most “one design” classes, the Minisail consists of 3 different basic designs, with then more variants on deck layout and whether sliding seats are used. Too complex to go into here, the full story can be found on the Minisail website at This variety means a great time can be had seeing what other people are sailing. Jumping into a boat with a sliding seat after sailing a standard one can involve a steep learning curve, especially when it comes to turning corners.

Sunday dawned sunny and warm, and once the effects of another night on the Pimms wore off, people prepared to race. For some this was simply a case of stepping the mast, for others, drills and screwdrivers were out. However, just as the sailing standard of the competitors had clearly improved from previous years it was noticeable that the old boats were in far better condition than at the last Nationals. A couple of sailors had decided not to take part in the racing, due to lack of experience, back troubles or needing to ring church bells for the bishop, so Sylvia Croft from Liverpool, Clive Berry from Avon SC and local Charlie Whelan were missing from the fray.

The first race got under way, and soon Jonathan Bomford from Mylor, Cornwall and Rupert Whelan from the home club had pull out a small lead, with Jonathan just ahead. However, disaster befell him at the first mark, as he rounded the wrong way. While he unwound himself, Rupert build a small lead. With Jonathan’s sliding seat Monaco faster on the beats than Rupert’s Sprite design, there was no rest until the final gun, especially with the wind coming and going in fits and starts. Frans Stoop, our Dutch visitor, showed fantastic boat speed towards the end of the race to close up right behind Jonathan for 3rd. Chris Gilchrist started her first ever race, as did Julian Niedermaier, and for him the previous day’s coaching had obviously paid off, as he got a cracking start.

The second race saw Rupert take an early lead, and but with Jonathan close on his tail yet again. These 2 boats dominated the race, with an incredibly tight race for 3rd a little further back. Frans Stoop, Ronny De Gruyter (from Belgium) David Argles (Southampton), Julian Niedermaier (Germany), Sandwell Valley SC trio Paul Rogers, Gill Dyer and Rob Baker (sailing an Aquabat, a class so similar, the Minisails have welcomed them into the fold) had a great race, with positions for most undecided until the final beat to the finish line. Frans came out on top to take another 3rd place.

Autumn hit for the third race. Shortly after the start, a huge squall blew through. The first casualty was the race leader Jonathan, whose rudder, unused in many a year, decided to snap off at the stock. Most of the rest of the fleet was blown flat, leaving local Rupert to pick his way through the carnage to take the win and therefore defend his title. The only other boat to recover and cross the finish line was a gutsy Tom Moore from Southampton, the lightest and oldest sailor in the fleet.
A depleted fleet of 6 boats started the final race. It soon became apparent that the storm had caused another problem – it had broken huge patches of weed free from the bottom of the lake and left them floating all over the race course. Just yards from the start line, all the boats ground to a halt, desperately lifting centreboards and reaching over the back to clear rudders, only to be engulfed again. Using his Whitefriars weed clearing knowledge, it was again Rupert who managed to break free first, catching a gust of wind at the same time as hitting a weed-free patch of water. The rest of the race was spent scanning the water ahead and planning a route around the foliage. Again, the pack were tight together, with leading boats suddenly stopping in a weed patch and helplessly watching others pass on by. Frans came out ahead to take 2nd from David, Jonathan (sporting a borrowed rudder), Tom and Ronny.

Special mention must go to Dean Martin, who had come all the way from Belgium, who decided, for reasons of sport, to rig his boat with an RS600 sail for the day. He sailed the 1st 3 races, but had structural and control issues and could do no better than mid fleet, though his results couldn’t really count in the final reckoning.  However, while the squall was on, he could be seen standing on the edge of his sliding seat, planing back and forth between the inevitable capsizes. Nobody could work out (least of all Dean) why the mast pot wasn’t ripped out of the boat! At other times over the weekend, he had also been seen doing handstands on the end of the sliding seat.

The Prize giving involved much cake. Stars of the show were the race team. Kathryn Whelan not only prepared lunch and tea (with masses of help from Katherine Lewis on Sunday) but also handled all the finances of the weekend and entertained the non-sailing visitors. Saturday’s galley crew, Alan Martin and Sue Jarvis did a great keeping us fed and watered. Simon Clark put on 4 interesting races in tricky, shifty, gusty conditions and kept a smile on his face for us all day whatever daft things we ended up doing. Gareth Lewis, his assistant, kept track of the changing fortunes of the fleet as the day went on. Saturday’s boat driver Rod Farnden kept us safe while Sunday’s Safety boat team Al Steel and Chris Mills were kept very busy for a while, pulling tired Minisail sailors out of the water and rescuing their boats. Thank you to you all.

1                     Rupert Whelan
2                     Jonathan Bomford
3                     Frans Stoop
4                     David Argles
5                     Tom Moore
6                     Ronny De Guyter
7                     Julian Niedermaier
8                     Rob Baker
9                     Paul Rogers
10                 Gill Dyer
11                 Chris Gilchrist
12                 Dean Martin

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