Grafham Water SC were the hosts for the second Crewsaver Top Club, supported by the RYA, over the weekend of September 24-25

Grafham Water SC were the hosts for the second Crewsaver Top Club, supported by the RYA, over the weekend of September 24-25.

Crewsaver Top Club is the brainchild of Emma Harris and Pete Vincent and is designed to find the nations strongest club. Crewsaver Top Club is only open to RYA-affiliated clubs; every entrant must be a full, family or youth member of their club. Each club entered a three-boat team with one boat in each of the PY group; fast, medium, and slow. Six races took place in each PY group on three separate course areas with the type of course being changed every race. With one discard, an overall result was produced in each PY group and the overall results of the three boats from the same club were then added together, the club with the lowest team score being awarded the title.

Not only was the course configuration changed for every race to even out the advantages for ranges of boat in handicap racing but also the weather gods helped by producing two very different days. For many it was game of two halves making hay in ideal conditions for your class and a bad day. So having consistent performers across a wide range of conditions was the key to success.

One of the many good points about Crewsaver Top Club is that it’s the dinghy show on water and you race against boats you may have never seen before on the water. A youngster with the I spy book of British dinghies would spend all weekend ticking boxes. The Isle of Man YC made a welcome visit this year and included in their team a National 18 which caused many people to spend many a happy ten minutes trying to work out exactly what this boat was. The best description over heard was one team member trying to describe the boat to another team member as “a pregnant Albacore”.

Saturday morning saw pleasant sun but a virtual flat calm on the water. After a relatively short wait a patchy gentle easterly breeze filled in across the whole lake and the race teams rapidly laid three courses. Much to everyone’s surprise the breeze did exactly what was forecast, swung as the day progressed ending up due south and filled a little. This gave the race teams and mark layers a hard time but they did an excellent job of getting the three races in, keeping true beats. For the competitors there were constant big shifts throughout each race and large variations in wind strengths across the course area. There was even a bizarre two-minute squall where wind reached over 20 knots causing many capsizes and an explosion of life for trapeze crews before rapidly dropping back down to a patchy Force 2.

On the slow course the Solos were having a field day. Ken Falcon from Bristol Corinthian YC A led the way with 1.1.6 with Ardleigh’s Steve Ede, Hunt’s Simon Kerr and Frensham’s Keith Videlo making it a Solo 1,2,3,4.
The Medium fleet had the closest racing with so many boats of similar speed. The powerful singlehanders were the class acts on Saturday with Frensham’s Nick Craig in a Finn scoring a mighty impressive 1,2,2, Hunts SC Richard Parkin in a Phantom was equally as impressive with a score of 1,3,3, Waldringfield’s Harry Pyn/Will Branton in a Lark also recorded a race win whilst the Albacores were consistent performers.

On the fast track the RS400s were having a ball with races wins for Bristol CYC’s B Pete Vincent/Ruth Johnson, Oxford’s Paul Hillier/Toby Ashton and Bristol CYC’s A Tom Halhead/Emma Clark. Hillier/Ashton led overall from Halhead and a whole batch of Fireballs.

Overall Hunts had the most consistent set of results and led from Frensham and Bristol CYC A.

Sunday and it was all change with a much steadier south to south-west breeze always a good Force 4 with stronger periods. In the slow fleet the juniors burst through to the front. Waldringfield’s Stephen Videlo/James Joplin in a Cadet scored 2,1,3 to win the slow fleet overall. Only just behind were the young teams of Northampton’s Peter Gray/George Hand in Mirror with 3,2,2 to claim second overall and Brightlingsea’s very small Emma and Martina Barry in a Mirror with 1,3,4. David Hand in a Laser Radial held up the honour of the old gits by winning the last race.
In the medium fleet Oxford and Parkstone’s 420s along with Notts County and Pennines Scorpions predictably enjoyed the conditions all scoring three top results. There was one stand out performance as Northampton’s Tom Stewart/Chris Downham cruised to three majestic wins by some huge distances on the water to claim overall victory. The Finns and Phantoms found it a lot harder work on Sunday but Nick Craig from Frensham and Hunts SC’s Richard Parkin in a Phantom clung onto second and third overall.

On the fast course the trapeze boats found everything to their liking. Again there was a stand out performance with Rutland’s Richard Stenhouse in a Musto Skiff winning all three races to climb to second overall. Frensham’s Roger Gilbert/Oliver Vidal in a 49er had a good day but Brightlingsea’s Chris Bines/Dave Gibbons in a B14 had been very consistent to win overall. The six Fireballs had some very tight racing and Northampton’s Dave Wade/Nick Beloe second place in the last race very importantly just made them leading Fireball and fourth overall.

Last year Parkstone had not been one of the leading teams overnight and pulled through on the rails. Northampton had not been looking one of the favourites on the Saturday night this year but an excellent performance by all three boats had seen them pull up to record 1,2,4 in their respective fleets, giving them a team score of seven points and become 2005 Crewsaver Top Club. As well as the trophy Northampton SC won the Dinghy Sailing Magazine coaching weekend to be held at their club for the benefit of their members.

The 2006 Crewsaver Top Club will be at Grafham Water the last weekend in September.

Special Category prizes

1st Lady Emma and Martina Barry, Brightlingsea

1st Junior Stephen Videlo/James Joplin, Waldringfield

1st South West area club – Bristol CYC

1st Southern area club – Frensham Pond

1st Thames Valley area club – Oxford SC

1st Eastern area club – Hunts SC

1st North East area club – Scaling Dam

1st North West area club – Delph SC