A huge 74 boat turnout came to the Ovingtons 29er Inland Championships which made for a very interesting event with the boats racing at Grafham Water Sailing Club. All 74 29ers and a fleet of Flying Fifteens raced on the same race course. As the event was so popular the fleet was spilt into four fleets which took part in the qualifying series for gold and silver for the second day.
29er Class Association
A lot of respect must go to the race committee who managed to complete a series of excellent races, only missing one race for the silver fleet on the second very light and shifty day of racing. The qualifying series consisted of shifty light wind races, with the occasional gust carrying quite a punch, the wind ranging from 8-18 knots. These winds proved to be perfect for the expertise of former National Champions Phil Walker and John Mather (Wimbledon Park) who were overnight leaders, closely followed by our current National Champions Matt Venables (Suttons SC) and Will Alloway (Rutland SC) in second.
Almost everyone carried bad results onto the second day that left them with no room for error due to the winds being incredibly difficult and the results being very inconsistent. Rob and Emma Loveridge (Draycote Water SC) proved to be an exception having posted two third’s and two second’s which put them in a strong position for the upcoming gold fleet racing. Sunday morning was still and frosty, leaving exposed ropes icy and making for a painful rigging session. However it was all worth it as the points were very tight, and a great atmosphere of suspense built for the days racing. The first race of the day started with a black flag recall that left second place, Matt and Will, with nothing to do as the fleet got away at the second attempt.
A difficult race with very limited wind was in order, riddled with huge snakes and ladders up and down the fleet which saw Charlotte Hooper and Molly Brown (Royal Burnham YC) take some brilliant tactical calls sending them from mid fleet to first. However this success was short lived due to a black flag, meaning that Duncan and Craig Hepplewhite (Loch Lomond SC) won the race showcasing the new style foils. Phil and John, the overnight leaders, found some bad luck, with a less than spectacular first race. This signaled a huge turning point as many of the top boats had already ‘used’ their discard and two races left to sail in the complicated winds. This gave the more consistent sailors a good shot at gold. Tom Methven and Rob Lloyd (Plymouth youth SC) sailed a perfect series and were the only boat who entered the last race without pressure as they had already banked a full house of counters with outstanding consistency.
At this point only Rob and Emma Loveridge could beat them. The last race was led by Owen Bowerman (Hayling Island SC) and Morgan Peach (Royal Torbay YC) until the last windward mark (which was just off the clubhouse) where the wind allowed a group of boats to sail past the leaders approaching the windward mark, among this group was Rob and Emma Loveridge. Murray Hampshire and Chris Brewer (Papercourt\Queen Mary SC) managed to sail an immaculate race to snatch the win. Tom and Rob were outside of their discard and could only sit back and watch a brilliant race sailed by the Loveridge’s for the win; however they were the only boat to post straight top 10s (discarding the last race which was a seventh) and approaching the youths this consistency through the light wind days will pay dividends through the longer events.
In the silver fleet Rebekka Thomas (Llandegfedd SC) and Jessica Annett (Llangorse SC) started Sunday at the top of the fleet but gear failure in the first race put them out of contention. In the end like the gold fleet it was consistency which paid off and it saw the Welsh pairing of Tilly James (New Quay SC) and Rebecca Morris (South Caernarfon YC) scoring a second and tenth to win the fleet from father and son pairing of Martin and Alex Joesbury (Leigh and Lowton/Clwb Hwylio Y Felinheli).
First girls and fourth overall were Vikki Payne and Stephi Orton (Emsworth SC/Chichester SC) and First junior within a strong up and coming junior fleet were Rowan Edwards and Daniel Blight (Clwb Hwylio Y Felinheli/Port Dinorwic SC) in 13th.
Special thanks to Ovingtons, Grafham Water SC and Commodore Peter Saxton for managing the large numbers and difficult wind perfectly for another successful and competitive event as well as providing a firework display that exceeded everyone’s expectations.