Nic Asher and Elliot Willis dominate first day of 420 national championship at Hayling

In a light wind and hazy sunshine, the British International 420 Class Open and National Championships began racing out of Hayling Island Sailing Club yesterday (Monday).

Difficult sailing conditions made for challenging racing in which the leading competitors established themselves firmly at the front of the fleet. Expectations were high for Britain’s leading 420 pair, Nic Asher and Elliot Willis, who recently took an excellent second place at the World Championship in Tavira, but with many other experienced and Worlds Team sailors also competing, if Asher hopes to retain his National title then he will have to continue his excellent form.

In perfect sailing conditions, the first race of the day started cleanly with Asher and Willis beginning the race in the wake of Matt Burge and Simon Wheeler, who managed to retain their advantage for nearly a lap before losing the lead to Asher and Willis who subsequently controlled throughout. Worlds teammates Sam Carter and Paul Davies, who proved equally keen to retain the title he won with Asher last year, also gave an excellent and spirited performance, pursuing the leaders into third place. Local sailors Alison Martin and Bethan Carden, also recently returned from the worlds, squeezed into fifth place to finish as first girls.

After a recall, Asher and Willis led the second race from the start, pursued by a group including promising Scottish sailors Callum Macdonald and Andrew Greer who finished second, consolidating their first race performance. Despite a wind shift on the second beat which disorganised the fleet, the skill of the leaders kept them ahead. In third, Irish twins Lisa and Geoff Tait displayed their experience, whilst Martin and Carden, again the first female pair in sixth, recovered from a confusing start. Finding themselves at the front, they returned unnecessarily to restart, but quickly recovered to reach the first mark 10th. Last year’s runners-up Eamonn and Athol King showed a return of their previous form to take fourth.

With the wind dropping, the third race tested the competitors’ patience and skill. With a comfortable lead at the first mark, Asher and Willis showed their class to win by a substantial margin and give them an overnight lead in the championship. Youth National Champions Laurie Fitzjohn-Sykes and Tom Mapplebeck held off the lighter Malaysian crew of Jeremy Koo Wui Ken and Loo Sing Yew to take second. The King brothers finished fifth, to secure third place overall behind Macdonald and Greer, who again produced a strong race. Martin and Carden finished seventh, to lead the women’s championship by a substantial 25 points from local Itchenor crews Joanna Brigg and Micky Boughton and Rachel Wigmore and Sophie Anderson. In demanding conditions, other local crews also performed well, with Hayling Island sailors and recent Flanders Youth Regatta Champions, Oliver Dix and Philip Lasko lying 11th overnight. With three good races sailed and brilliant weather, both competitors and spectators can look forward to an exciting week of racing.

Results (after one day)

1. Nic Asher and Elliot Willis 3pts

2. Callum Macdonald and Andrew Greer 10pts

3. Alison Martin and Bethan Carden 17pts

4. Athol and Eamonn King 18pts

5. Sam Carter and Paul Davies 20pts