Southampton Sailor, Ian Southworth wins Southern Area Championship last weekend

Legendary J/24, Hedgehog, built for Olympic Gold medallist Ian MacDonald-Smith in 1986, has won many key championships with top helmsmen, including John Greenwood and David Bedford. Lost to the class for a number of years, she was re-discovered by Ian Southworth in a Hamble field during the Warsash Winter series.

” A very sickly Hedgehog” was how he described the boat and there followed considerable debate about whether she could be recovered and used to qualify for the 2005 J/24 World Championship in Weymouth.

Southworth said: “We knew the boat, a 1987 Rodgers, had been very fast, but it was green, covered in slime with many fittings either gone, or corroded, initially we thought the rig salvable, but?”

With help from Stuart Jardine, the owners were found and contacted. An arrangement completed, and by late February, work began. Close inspection of the rig, showed all elements to be cracked. A complete rig was ordered from Proctor Selden suppliers, Allspars, Mylor Chandlery and Bob’s Boats. Further inspection committed the remaining fittings to large cardboard storage boxes. The latest carbon deckware came from Harken UK. Additional items were sourced from Hall Spars and Layline in the USA, using internet services.

The boats restoration was given to new company, Ram Composites, in Hamble. As they removed the weathered teak toe rail, the balsa deck core provided a further surprise.

Ian Southworth continued: “An area around the port shroud had turning to black dust – affected by rainwater, during the two and a half years Hedgehog sat on a road trailer with the rig up. It had to be cut out and replaced.

Restoration was not complete by the first world Qualifier at Falmouth and continued until the eve of the next, at Parkstone. “It was really close”, said Southworth. “I must congratulate crew member Nigel Smith (a design consultant to Spinlock) who worked often through the night with RAM composites. Without his drive and their enthusiasm we wouldn’t have made the start line”.

But make it they did. Launching the boat on the Friday evening before the regatta and un-wrapping the UK Ullman sails, the boat was complete. And the result? Hedgehog scored two seconds in light and testing conditions on the opening day to take the series lead in the 38 boat fleet.

Sunday delivered a surprise with a Front and gusts of 32 knots. Comments Southworth: “Quite an opener, we had 12 years of rust over our J-experience and often vague recollections to work through.” Starting the day in sixth position they finished the final race on a high with a bullet, with Hedgehog leading the series.

Day three saw more moderate wind and a reversal. A fifth in the morning race, after an indifferent start, put pressure on Southworth and his team. To take the series he had to win the last race, with Falmouth based Roger Rabbit third and Bob Turner’s Headcase (Ken Read’s world’s winning boat) in front of them. Southworth won the pin and lead to the weather mark. With Roger Rabbit in a comfortable second, Southworth positioned his boat to slow the opposition up the second beat, breaking off when Headcase caught Rabbit with a Starboard call.

Southworth took the race and with it the J/24 Southern Area title, this his first J-regatta since the 1992 Abersoch worlds. The final results were Hedgehog, (with UK Ullman Sails), Roger Rabbit (G Denning with North Sails) and Headcase (Bob Turner with Quantum Sails).

Ian Southworth’s crew were: Andy McLelland, Cockpit; Sean Dwyer, Trimmer; Nigel Smith, Mast; Chris McLaughlin, Bow