by Phil Tilley
Following a long season of tight racing the final races of the Harken 29er Grand prix series were held on Saturday October 27th. The eight weekend series started in Rutland in March and continued throughout the summer visiting Dabchicks, Queen Mary, Poole, Ullswater, Torbay, Hayling Island and Pwllehli. Over 100 boats entering at least one event and over 40 boats doing three or more events showing a good depth of talent and willingness to travel. It was a year where the girls showed they could sail just as well as the boys, with all girl, all boy and mixed crews spread evenly throughout the final results.
Series winner Emma and Rob Loveridge from Draycote Water Sailing Club - 29er Harken Series 2012
Only three of the eight events could be discarded thus rewarding consistency and commitment from spring to autumn a break during the summer for Europeans, worlds and nationals.
Nobody won more than one event which reflects the high level of competition within the fleet and the long series is effectively a game of two halves with the first half being dominated by the older crew pairings and then newer and younger crews showed how much they had learnt through the summer to provide a different group of winners in the second half.
58 boats attended the first event which was held in very light sub 10 knot conditions, home advantage paid as the event was won by Ian Payne and Chris Berry both of Rutland SC. Second place and equal on points went to class coach Phil Walker and John Mather (Draycote Water SC) followed by Tom Methven and Rob Lloyd ( Plymouth Corinthian).
Dabchicks SC in Essex hosted the second event providing an escape from revision for those that attended being just before GCSEs started. The airs were again light and Jack Hawkins (Restronguet SC) and Christopher Thomas (St Mawes SC) were rewarded with victory for their Long travel trip up from Cornwall. Ian Payne and Chris Berry (Rutland SC) followed up their first event win with a second. Local knowledge paid for Maddy Anderson and Dominick Burke (Brightlingsea SC) as they finished in third place.
At Queen Mary SC it was the Youth Nationals winners Ben Batten (Lymington SC) and Tim Gratton (Hayling Island SC) who were clearly in form in the classic Queen Mary gusty conditions. They were followed by the all-girl crew of Vicki Payne (Emsworth SC) and Stephanie Orton (Chichester SC). Phil Walker and John Mather finished in third place just ahead of the second all girl crew of Charlotte Hooper and Molly Brown from Royal Burnham YC.
Parkstone Yacht club hosted the fourth event and adventurously tried an experiment of launching straight into Bournemouth Bay rather than sail through Poole harbour entrance. Despite some strong winds the event organization went well and everyone had some great sailing in the Western Solent. The event was dominated by some excellent sailing from the French pair of Lucas Nual and Thomas Bilton. The first British boat enjoying the strong winds were Ollie Cooper and James Poyner (Hayling Island SC). Third placed were Ben Batten and Tim Gratton followed by Ian Payne and Chris Berry who were leading the series at this half way point. This was the last event they did in the series.
Ullswater was the first event after a break for the Europeans, Worlds and Nationals, the break proved to be the turning point in the series as the older sailors moved on leaving some of the upcoming crews to shine during the second half of the series. The event was won by Brother and Sister pair of Rob and Emma Loveridge from Draycote Water SC. Welsh pairing of Rowan Edwards and Dan Blight (Port Dinorwic SC) managed the variable conditions to finish second and third place went to Ed Connellan and Matt Rhodes (Middle Nene SC).
Royal Torbay yacht club did a superb job hosting the sixth event of the series and some great sailing was had in nice waves in the bay, unfortunately the wind was extreme on Sunday morning and the decision to send the fleet home early was an easy one. The event winners and fresh from their nationals win were the continuously improving crew of Matt Venables (Sutton SC) and Will Alloway (Rutland SC). Second went to Owen Bowerman (Hayling Island) and local crew Morgan Peach whilst third went to the female pairing of Ruth Allan and Alice Masterman (Emsworth SC/Hayling Island SC).
Owen Bowerman and Morgan Peach bettered their result at Torbay with a win in the light airs at Hayling Island SC. Rob and Emma Loveridge continued a consistent run of form with a second and Charlotte Hooper/ Molly Brown third. The last event of the series was a single day event and was non discardable so rewarding and encouraging a good turnout at the end of the season and before winter of squad training started.
Pwllheli Bay produced it usual good weather and steady breeze on the Saturday just saving the Welsh rain for the Sunday.
First place and first time on the podium in the series went to Murray Hampshire and Chris Brewer (Queen Mary SC). It was also another new pair for the podium with the Scottish pair of Gillies Munro and Daniel Harris of Findhorn Marina. Third place went to the improving pair of Curtis Mearns and Jamie Catchpole and whose consistency throughout the series resulted in a fourth place overall in the series.
Sixth place was enough for Rob and Emma Loveridge to clinch a very well deserved series victory and of the seven events they attended they were never outside the top ten.
Second in the series went to the all-female pairing of Ruth Allan and Alice
Masterman. Third place went to Ed Connellan and Matt Rhodes.
The number of different event winners and the mix of male and female crews amongst the prizes highlight the diversity and strength within the class.