Mixed weather conditions greeted 22 National 12 teams to the Guy Fawkes open meeting and team racing at Middle Nene SC last weekend

Each November, National Twelve sailors are drawn like bees to nectar to Middle Nene Sailing Club for the traditional Guy Fawkes meeting which marks the end of both the Midland Area travellers series and the Consistency series. The meeting this year was held on 2-3 November with team racing on the Saturday and the open meeting on the Sunday.

Team racing

In spite of the forecast of gales, the team racing on Saturday was held in light airs. Five 2-boat teams entered, and drifted down to the start line in bright sunshine and a light breeze from the south-south-west for the start. A round-robin series of ten short one-lap races were sailed as the cloud front veiled the sun and the wind backed to the south-east, dying again when the rain front arrived at about 1300. The breeze then reappeared from the south-east for the final few races as the downpour increased in intensity.

Bedraggled crews arrived back onshore at about 1500 having been on the water for five hours. Pasties and hot soup or stronger beverages provided a welcome in the warm dry clubhouse.

In defiance of the weather, the team racing proved very close with some hard fought battles between the top teams. The first few races produced clear wins for the favourites, but from the fifth race the finishes were tighter, and by the ninth race the Burghfield SC team (Graham Camm with Allie Martin and Caroline Martin crewed by Lesley Isles) had completed all their races with six wins. The Wight Rascals (John and Katy Meadowcroft, and Tom Stewart with Liz Ross), and the Aldeburgh team (Frances Gifford with Jane Jones, and Antony Gifford with Jess Brown), both had five wins with one race to go. Their confrontation in the 10th race resulted in a win for the Wight Rascals, giving them a tie with Burghfield. In a closely fought sail-off in gathering gloom and pouring rain, the honours went to the Wight Rascals.

The evening bonfire was somewhat dampened by the persistent downpour, but spectators were able to enjoy the fireworks from the club veranda while Patrick Elcombe and his team fired splendid fireworks to windward from the dock and dodged the returning hail of sparks and spent rocket sticks.

Guy Fawkes Trophy

In complete contrast to the Saturday, the weather for the open racing on Sunday brought bright sunshine and a brisk (Force 3-4) south-westerly wind which provided ideal conditions for the fleet of 22 boats. Visitors came from 14 different clubs from as far afield as Tynemouth, Bristol and Chipstead. Nine of the visitors were visiting MNSC for the first time. There were four entries from the home club.

The blustery conditions produced some fast planing and a clutch of muddy weed-draped burgees, while the rescue boats hovered hoping for victims. The sadistic race committee dictated a short multi-lap course with two gybes on every circuit which provided entertainment for the spectators.

In the first race Patrick Elcombe (N3442) made a clean start at the outer pin on port tack and cleared the fleet to lead for most of the race before being caught by Tom Stewart (N3476) who surged past on a magnificent plane to one of the gybe marks and led to the end. Elcombe was closely followed home by Graham Camm (N3469) with Steve Lightfoot (N3402) fourth and John and Katy Meadowcroft (N 3414) fifth.

A similar attempt at a port-tack start in the second race saw Elcombe over the line, but after gybing round the pin and crossing behind the fleet on port he emerged at the windward mark in third place behind Tom Stewart and Graham Camm. These two continued to increase their lead in a dramatic fashion, leaving Elcombe to fight a rearguard action against the pursuing fleet. Nemesis came when he ran into weed and was passed by Steve Lightfoot and Frances Gifford (N3431). The Meadowcrofts came home sixth.

Tom Stewart, having secured the trophy, elected to stay ashore after the lunch break but with not all the places decided, the fleet assembled in a lighter breeze for the final race.

Graham Camm quickly established a commanding lead ahead of the Meadowcrofts and Pat Elcombe, with Frances Gifford and Steve Lightfoot chasing. Frances Gifford was sailing very fast and passed the Meadowcrofts and Elcombe and closed the gap on Camm, although she could not catch him. Elcombe and Lightfoot both went the wrong side up one beat and lost out to the Meadowcrofts and also were passed by Ellie and Allie Martin (making a guest appearance in their mother’s boat) in N 3455.

This race confirmed Graham Camm in second place overall, brought Frances Gifford up to third, pushed Elcome down to fourth and Steve Lightfoot to fifth with John and Katy Meadowcroft sixth.

For the first time in many years there were no vintage Twelves on the water and the ‘Old Boats Trophy’, an elegantly mounted ancient Avon self bailer, went to the Meadowcrofts Prizes were presented by MNSC Commodore David Brown, Graham Camm announced the final placings in the N12s Travellers Competition for 2002 and Nick Gill gave the welcome news that Gill will be sponsoring the 2003 Travellers trophy.

Overall Results

Open Meeting

1st 3476, Tom Stewart and Liz Ross (Royal Harwich YC)

2nd 3469, Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne (Burghfield SC)

3rd 3431, Frances Gifford and Jane Jones (Aldeburgh YC)

4th 3442, Patrick Elcombe and Carol Shore (MNSC)

5th 3402, Steve Lightfoot and Sarah Eastmond (MNSC)

6th 3414, John and Katy Meadowcroft (Henley/MNSC)

Team Racing

1st Wight Rascals (John Meadowcroft, Tom Stewart, Katy Meadowcroft, Liz Ross)

2nd Burgfield SC (Graham Camm, Caroline Martin, Zoe Ballantyne, Lesley Isles)