by John Ready
The 25th edition of the Hurricane Nationals could only be held in one club. So on Sept 27th, twenty eight teams returned to Brightlingsea SC in Essex, to compete as part of the third ‘RegFest’ celebration of UK cat sailing, in the place where it all began with Reginald White MBE.
Fantastic condtions at Brightlingsea RegFest - 25th Anniversary Hurricane5.9SX GBR Nationals
Just reading the roll of honour surrounding the club bar is a jaw dropping story of Olympic and World Championship glory.
The protagonists: The last six National Champions were lured by this mouth-watering prospect. Defending 2011 Champion Richie Hanmore and clubmate two time Champion Neil Connelly with his Shearwater crew from 1976, nice one! Sail maker, former National and European Champion, Olympic Nacra dealer and ex-Tornado squad member Grant Piggott, crewed by a very accomplished Simon Farren, were back to avenge a narrow defeat in the 2010 edition. Also in attendance, two time winner John Ready, with a very handy ex-49er GBR Development Squad sailor Jamie Bolingbroke.
Every fleet has its dark horses, this year they came in the shape of the Charlesworth brothers who turned out to be blisteringly fast in a blow and the recently reunited team of Bawden and Wass with their very tasty red and white Hurricane, which would prove to be smashingly fast....
The fleet also included; a youth team, six mixed crews, six brothers and two father/son teams, drawn from Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Central and Southern England. In recent years, the classes coaching programme and uniquely detailed, freely available tuning guide has done much to raise the bar.
So just who would take the title at the church?
Day one (15kt NW two races) 10:30 tide
After a home cooked full English, the race officer laid out his game plan and the fleet calmed there first day nerves boat bimbling before launching into a beautiful Essex morning high tide.
Race 1: Ready/Bolingbroke, Charlesworth/Charlesworth (PB), Bawden/ Cox(PB)
With the windward mark set well onto the Mersea mud flats, the fleet had to choose between the Blackwater or Colne ebb at the bottom and high tide flat water conditions at the top. A nervous fleet hung back off the line, leaving opportunities for keen starters to notch up an early result. Most of the favourites struggled as Ready/Bolingbroke and Charlesworth/Webb took the initiative, snapping up a neat one/two with favourites Piggot/Farren posting their worst result of the regatta in 12th. Adam Charlesworth, crewed by class legend Andy Webb posted a very serious second in Adams best Nationals start, a very real statement of intent. Honourable mention also goes to Donovan/Hingston our oldest crew placing fourth a PB for the event.
Race 2: Ready/Bolingbroke, Hanmore/Pyman, Bawden/Cox(PB)
A more settled fleet lined up on the port biased line. Charlesworth/Webb got the best start leading their half out to the left, the rest lead by Hanmore/Pyman spotted a dark cloud and pressure hard into the right hand corner. The starboard tack layline proved difficult to call from so far with early tackers in this group causing an interesting port/starboard windward mark situation in which Hanmore/Pyman hit the mark.
In a wide open fleet at the first mark, Bedford/Mckay were in the chocolates, along with fleet stalwarts from Starcross, the very fast Donovan/Hingston. Past champ Connelly/Chiddicks hit the mark but dodged the confessional for omitting turns and sped off downhill as kites went up in this tight leading pack of four. A wave of pressure came through in which Ready/Bolingbroke and Hanmore/Pyman gybed and broke free. Connelly/Chiddicks opted for the holywater approach to absolution as they capsized in what proved to be the last race of this event for this much respected Hurricane sailor. Bawden/Cox notched up a stellar start as they took consecutive thirds in a fantastic opening day.
The top three slug fest became its own separate affair for the final two laps as the interesting stuff occurred in the hotly contested mid fleet pack. This is where big fleet racing really scores, with this many boats the racing develops itself and you have 'races within the races' something for everyone!
That night Tornado and Hurricane legend Rob White cooked the fleet a fantastic bbq as the après sail got into full swing.
Charlesworth spent the night in the bar resting his ears after the tirade of ‘tacking advice’ he received politely from the front end of the boat! Andy Webb (seven time national champ as helm) went to bed early exhausted – crewing is a tougher job than he realised!
Bedford/Mckay on Thunderbird posted two DNF’s missing the finish line in both races, McKay then fell off the boat between races whilst making repairs comfortably sending the numpty hat award to them for the evening.
As we made our way back to the tents, Piggot/Farren were working feverishly by torch light trying to acquire some pace to help their overnight 10th position, this is a tough fleet to crack.
Overnight leader board:
Day two (15-20kt SW 3 races) 11:15 tide
Friday dawned with more beautiful creek views over breakfast and a little banter. Just three more races and we would have a championship with our first discard of the 10 race series. The Pro-Am was announced by class Chairman Nick Moore, who very generously lent out the beautiful Stingray to Piggot/Farren. Lending out boats, that’s how this class rolls. Stingray is also for sale as a new boat has arrived!
The wind direction change saw an inshore start line with a fresher breeze and leeward gate set where two rivers meet the sea. So flat ebb tide start, followed by bigger slow moving waves at the leeward gate, then a tide change for the final race.
Race 3: Piggot/Farren(PB), Bawden/Wass, Hanmore/Pyman
The increased breeze provided a sterner test than the day before as teams struggled to change gears to suit the new conditions. Piggot/Farren proved their mettle with a strong reply to the doubters, the game was definitely on.
Race 4: Hanmore/Pyman(PB), Ready/Bolingbroke, Bawden/Wass
The waves which had made it so difficult to change gears in race 3 lessened as the ebb slowed, but shifts right at windward first mark challenged the pack as positions changed at the crucial upwind/downwind transition. Piggot/Farrens comeback stalled as they capsized in the lead at windward mark 2. The second and third place teams from race one showed consistency dialling themselves into the conditions, with Hanmore/Pyman taking the win a timely reminder that they are still the defending champions.
Race 5: Ready/Bolingbroke, Bawden/Wass(PB), Piggot/Farren
The waves moderated further but the breeze held at a champagne sailing 20knts. The Charlesworth brothers continued their blistering demonstration of pace from their fourth place in race four and were vying for the lead with Piggot/Farren, when they gybed inside coming out super-hot, just losing control with the ensuing capsize dropping them harshly down the order.
Each day Geoff Gritton tb4e took video via his ever more famous boat handling and close quarter GoPro camera. These were on show each evening with the results kindly made available to competitors just for the Crac... Gritter rocks and have you seen this footage....
They say landing is the most dangerous time, Homes/Moore of Datchet gave everyone a laugh, by getting their boat and themselves stuck in the mud. The moment the Ex-marine crew Nathan Jones started doing the front crawl in the mud to get to the mud stranded 'initially very white' Hurricane was side splitting! It might take a year to get the Brightlingsea mud off his boat and sails.
The après sail kicked in with a bang, fantastic Tex/Mex food and the legendary Brightlingsea SC band.
Overnight leader board:
Day three (15-20kt NW 3 races) 12:00 tide
With the wind direction change overnight and the strong ebb tide, our eager competitors saw conditions very similar to day one but with more wind and leeward mark waves causing some boats to push right to the limit.
Race 6: Ready/Bolingbroke, Piggot/Farren, Bawden/Wass
Despite the Brightlingsea après sail, race six was a rerun of race 5, although Moore/Oliver had a big port/starboard moment with Bawden/Cox and an early trip back to the bar for solace.
Race 7: Ready/Bolingbroke, Palmer/Palmer (PB), Piggot/Farren
Bawden/Wass showed real hunger in this race sailing their own style of deep and fast upwind which brought them out to the front. Downwind they hit the corners and sailed hot and fast. Unfortunately on the penultimate downwind, whilst toe-to-toe with Ready/Bolingbroke coming into the gate they just took it too far putting their bows into a wave hard with the main eased, bringing their mast down, something that is very unusual in this fleet, tough luck guys. Race 7 though really belonged to the father and son team of Paul and Rob Palmer, Rob is a very handy kite surfer and it really showed downwind today as they popped out of the pack downwind, nice job!
Race 8: Ready/Bolingbroke,Tindale/Foreman(PB), Tindale/Tindale
By the third race there were some tired arms and bodies out there. But there were more surprises to come with the Tindales showing why they are such a highly rated sailing family. Both father Geoff and his sons Dan and Jack finishing second and third with dad leading the way. These guys pushed a charging Piggot/Farren team into fourth and showed how strong this fleet is.
Meanwhile Ready/Bolingbroke finished off their perfect day, starting well, keeping their air clear, taking a third bullet and wrapping up the championship with a day to spare.
With Ready/Bolingbroke fully committed to the après sail and the Brightlingsea hospitality machine in full swing, Saturday night, turned out to be bigger than the racing for them. But it wasn’t all partying as Andy Webb proved his value to the fleet as our builder, keeping Porter/Porter racing with a loan mainsail after theirs was, ‘altered’ during a capsize! And a superfast spinnaker pole change for Donovan/Hingston. No rest for the wicked Webby!
Overnight leader board:
Day four (20-30kt SW 2 races) 12:45 tide
Easily the windiest day of the regatta, sore heads met BIG conditions at the start of the final day.
Race 9: Piggot/Farren, Hanmore/Pyman, Mawditt/Wood (PB)
Piggot/Farren had a point to prove on the final day and showed the fleet the way round in top end limit conditions really showing how hard these Hurricanes can be sailed in huge conditions. Hanmore/Pyman also showed their big wind pedigree and showing just how much he had picked up from the class coaching Mawditt/Wood made their best ever finish in third in truly challenging conditions, way to go guys!
Race 10: Piggot/Farren, Tindale/Tindale (PB), Hanmore/Pyman
Piggot/Farren again did the business, but the stand out sailors of the race were the Tindale brothers whose ‘send it’ attitude is vividly shown in the video footage from the event. Thanks tb4e and Tindale brothers, way to send it downwind guys!
Watching John Ready’s crew rig his boat and push it down to the water on his own while John was hiding behind his sunglasses after a heavy night.
Round up: What a great event meeting up with old friends and making many new ones, Neil Connelly personified this when he teamed up with his former Shearwater crew, Trevor Chiddick from 1976! All for a bit of fun and to have a go for old time’s sake a true Hurricane sailor. It’s not all about top flight competition, being there and taking part in the event as a whole is what Hurricane sailing is all about.
The fleet did itself proud sailing hard and fair, but ensuring our friendly and open approach with no event protests. Fantastic shore side A&E support for spares and repairs from AW Sailboats. The pro-am was a real success ensuring that the next generation of sailors come through to the front! The guys from Starcross said they were taught more about their spinnaker set up in 40 minutes than they had learnt in 40 years. Paul McKays wife now wants to learn to sail – fantastic. The young guys Nathan and Hamish from Scotland are keen to continue sailing and climbing through the fleet.
Brightlingsea SC just smashed it out of the park on all fronts, what an incredible event.. The class is now in discussions to make Brightlingsea a regular open meeting on the annual circuit. The Hurricane came home in its 25th year!
The worst thing about this event? Having to pack up and leave, perfect! See you at the 26th Hurricane59SX Nationals in Sept 2013 in Weymouth.
1st John Ready and Jamie Bolingbroke (West Mersea) 12pts -2 Typhoon Drysuits-
2nd Grant Piggot and Simon Farren (Weston) 23 pts –Hyde Sails bags-
3rd Richie Hanmore and Stephen Pymane (Stone) 30 pts –Hyde Sails Products-
Furthest travelled: Nathan Craig and Hamish Blair (Eyemouth)
Youngest team competing every race: Dan and Jack Tindale
Reg White Memorial trophy (for most improved newcomer): Paul Jennings and Vykke Gill (Gurnard SC)
Oldest Team: John Donovan and Nigel Hingston (Starcross SC)
Top Mixed Crew: Paul Jennings and Vykke Gill (Gurnard SC)
Hurricane Anniversary Trophy: Paul Jennings and Vykke Gill (Gurnard SC)
Kingfisher rope pack: Mike Arstall (Starcross SC)
Full results here
Hurricane 59 website