The second of three weekends to select the teams for the 420 Open and Ladies World Championships and Junior European Championship Selections was held at Sunderland Yacht Club over the weekend of 31 March-1 April. This venue in the north-east of England gives a pleasant respite to the teams who often have to travel to the south coast. The new club house with launching into the protected harbour and easy access to the North Sea makes it an ideal place for this type of event.
A total of 32 boats, all competing for the team places, gathered and were greeted on Saturday morning by a chilly south-westerly gusting Force 4 and the forecast of worse to come.
The first race started promptly and Ben Field and Nick Hutton led at the first mark from Nick Asher and Paul Davies. As the competitors sailed the double outer loop, a weather front arrived bringing gusts of up to 30 knots and a shift of nearly 90 degrees. Only one boat managed without a capsize and in the extreme conditions Nic Asher pulled through to first from Ben Field while 14 boats in all finished within the time limit.
At this point the race officer wisely decided to regroup ashore and the fleet headed in for lunch. By 1400 the sun was shining and the wind had dropped to Force 2-4 so the fleet set off out again to complete three more races in tricky shifty winds.
For all the afternoon races the double outer loop was sailed. In these conditions Myles and Elliott Willis showed remarkable speed and consistency to record a 1,2,1. Ian Watson and David Putt pulled up to second in race two but were unable to repeat this in the later races. Athol and Eamon King came closest to matching the Willis brothers with a third in race two and first in race three while Gemma Farrell and Joanna Allen recorded a ,4,3,2 to put themselves into contention. Nick Cherry and Chris Evans made it to third in the fourth race.
Sunday dawned with bright sunshine and a breeze that never really settled, although more southerly than Saturday it was still predominantly from the land and again shifted 30 to 40 degrees causing the race officer to re-lay his course between each race.
Race five started in a Force 2. The early leaders were Susanne Bennell and Jill Shorrocks who led from Myles Willis. Nic Asher closed the gap on both teams and by the last run had just passed Myles Willis and was close behind the ladies. The wind shifted and gusted making the last reach too close for the spinnaker and as they dropped it, the girls were sailed over by both Nic Asher and Myles Willis. Nick Cherry led race six from Ben Field at the first mark but in the shifty conditions Ben Field squeezed through and Athol King was third.
The tide had picked up by this time and was directly down the beat. The race officer shortened the course to just one outer loop for the last two races. In race seven the first windward mark was close to the harbour entrance and there was a balance between going inshore for slacker water and playing the shifts in the middle. Victoria and Emma Rawlinson found that balance and led at the first mark. They held this for the run and beat but the wind swung again for the down wind legs making the last reach very broad. Susanne Bennell found this to her liking and crept through to claim first from Nick Cherry while Victoria Rawlinson dropped to third.
For the final race the tide had slackened off and with the wind favouring left, again Victoria Rawlinson led at the first mark this time from Ian Martin and Laurie Fitzjohn-Sykes. These two held on to their positions to the finish from Nic Asher in third.
Myles and Elliott Willis won the event counting the first six races in which they were never lower than fourth. Nic Asher and Paul Davies were second also with a very consistent series in which their lowest position was eighth. Gemma Farrell and Joanna Allen edged Victoria and Emma Rawlinson for first ladies.
In the selections the first seven boys are now