The final races of the RS 200/700/800 national championships this morning produced close competition right to the end
It was overcast skies over Weymouth Bay today but nobody was crying about the lack of sun; there was a perfect Force 4 from the south-west which stayed rock steady all day allowing fantastic racing conditions. PRO Mike Pearson, who done a great job all week, set a really top course for what proved to be a real action packed day.
The overall lead had changed overnight with David Giles, who had been overall leader and Jon Lewis, fourth overall, both being disqualified as a result of protests between them. This had promoted Tom and Jo Hewitson to overall leader with a two-point lead over Giles/Clark and a seven-point cushion on the Derbys. Things developed rapidly on the water.
For race nine all the leading boats came out the gate very early in a charge for the left-hand corner. Giles/Clark and the Hewitsons had both made good starts and when Giles tacked onto port after a couple of minutes the Hewitsons tried to cover forgetting that Steve Dunn/Dottie Cormack were in their way. A frantic bear away from Hewitson did not save the situation and their masts clashed. The Hewitsons went into a rapid 720 degree turn but Tom fell out on the second gybe and the boat capsized. Now out of the race the Hewitsons played frantic catch up praying that Giles/Clark did not score a really top position.
With the arrival of real fresh breeze there were some new faces at the front of the fleet. After their respective disasters the previous day the heavier weight teams of Steve Dunn/Dottie Cormack, Ian Pickard/Laurie Dunn and Pete Vincent/Trudie Danbury were well clear in 1,2,3 at the first mark. Giles/Clark were in contention at mark one in sixth Mike Saul/Sophie Hartley sailed very fast down the first run to jump into second. The leading four boats pulled well clear and had a close tussle. Dunn though stayed in the lead throughout and won the race from Saul with Vincent just winning the Bristol battle with Pickard to claim third. Giles/Clark finished eighth which they had to count and in a bizarre twist although they limped in the 20s the Hewitsons actually improved their position by a point now counting their best discard of seventh.
With the Derbys now out of the equation it was a straight fight between Giles and Hewitsons. It was thus very fitting that the two of them had cracking early gate starts to see Giles lead with Hewitson second. Hewitson were through on the run but when they went round different leeward marks Giles/Clark gained the advantage again; Hewitsons were still second and the problem for Giles this was more than good enough for overall victory. The Hewitsons just had the edge downwind and got through on the final run to win from Giles with Jon Lewis/Paula Hall just beating Dunn/Cormack.
This gave Hewitsons overall victory for what is an extremely popular win in the class for regular RS200 sailors in the last four years who have been very close to win the nationals in the last two years. David Giles/Fiona Clark had sailed an extremely good championship in their first RS200 nationals and will surely be winners in the future. It had been a great week at WPSA with all races sailed on their scheduled day, quite an achievement for the race team.
It was reckoning day for the 700 fleet. With any one of five boats in with a very real shout at the title, it was all to play for. And what a different day it was, with a south-westerly 3-4 and sailing outside the harbour with a slight swell and a confused chop. In the lead was Jason Belben who had strung together a consistent series and showing devastating pace at times. Paul Bayliss was second, although stood to lose the most with the worst discard. Carl Vining had been very consistent all week and looked a real threat because he doesn’t appear to have any weaknesses in his repertoire. Andy White and Nick Peters had also had blinding days in the light winds and, as relative heavy weights, were always going to be in with a shout in the stronger breezes.
Andy White scored the first move of the day with speed off the line and consolidated downwind, with Paul Bayliss and Neil Robinson close behind. After another lap, Bayliss moved into the lead up and extended for a comfortable win. Robinson and White battled tooth and nail down the runs, with Robinsons supreme offwind pace eventually the telling factor, pipping White with literally yards to go. Nick Peters kept his chances alive with a fourth, and Carl Vining was also in there with a fifth. Jason Belben wasn’t relishing the breeze and the seas, posting a seventh.
It was down-to-the-wire time. Any one of the original five could, in theory, win, but Bayliss could make do with a top five to snatch the title, if any of the others won. Andy White led by a considerable margin off the line, and had boats in between him and the rest of his immediate rivals, in the name of Keith Willis and Jon Gorringe, both of whom had shown great upwind pace up the beat. However, by the leeward mark it was White, Bayliss, Robinson, Peters and Vining, all very close in that order. Nobody could afford to make a mistake and the wind was now up to a good Force 4, with a lumpy sea. Downwind was made difficult, and more than one boat had a nervous moment with going faster than the waves! At the finish, White had a comfortable lead, but Bayliss had done enough in second to secure the title by four points from White. Neil Robinson followed in third, knowing that but for a couple of unlucky races and gear failure, he had had the pace and skill to retain his title, but finished in sixth overall. Nick Peters finished in fourth place to take third on a tie break from Carl Vining, impressive since Nick has been away for most of the summer, and only got back into a 700 a few weeks ago.
After 10 races held in a variety of conditions, and in-the-main superb weather, it is fair to say that there was no supreme victor, just superb, close racing with very evenly matched high performance single handers. And how do you beat that?
Overcast skies and a south-westerly Force 4 gave true skiff conditions back to the RS 800 fleet, in which to decide their national title. Entering the last day there had been a lot of talk about the fact that if overnight leader Geoff Carveth could win, this would have given him the 200, 400 and 800 title over the years. Few people realised that Craig Davies his crew, was attempting to defend the RS 800 title, having won it the previous year with Mike Lennon.
It was Carveth and Lennon who could still win this years title, with Steve Irish as an outside contender and needing two top two results to pose a threat. With the familiar black flag on the start, the fleet got away in twin trapeze conditions and fought for the favoured left-hand side. Emerging from the leeward end of the line, Chris Haworth was first into the port lift, tacked, and cleared the fleet. He never looked back after rounding the windward mark and extended his lead throughout the race. However, the interest was further back in the fleet where the battle between, Carveth, Lennon and Irish was focused on sixth place. By the end Carveth had both Lennon and Irish just behind him, when a slip saw him fall out the back of the boat. He finally finished in 11th, which gave him a three point lead over Mike Lennon and Nicky Griffin, with Irish and Gotrel now out of the running and focused on keeping third.
For the final race Carveth chose not to match race Lennon, who had an inferior discard, but simply to sail his own race. Punching out from the leeward end, he was first into the left-hand side and never looked back. The fight was now on for the minor positions, with both Lennon and Irish in the top four or five boats. There were a few surprises yet in store, as Irish broke his rudder pintle while in second place. With Mike Lennon comfortably in third place the event was all but over with Carveth just needing to stay in the boat to take the title.
Carveth crossed the line to take the title by five points from Lennon by recording his fifth race win of the week. James Date failed to capitalise on the bad fortune of Irish, but can be very pleased with his fourth place in his first RS 800 nationals. Geoff Carveth has now won the 200 and 400 as well as the 800, but remember the crews as Craig Davies has successfully defended his title and must now be one of the most sought after crews in the fleet.