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Comet National Championship at Cardiff Yacht Club

by Eddie Pope 9 Sep 2015 10:47 PDT 21-23 August 2015

Cardiff Yacht Club was an excellent host for the 2015 Comet Nationals, with on-site camping, tasty meals, a great stretch of water, and efficient organisation. Several attendees had fond memories of the windy Nationals held there in 2010, but these conditions were not to be repeated this time because winds were in the range of force 1 to 3 from various directions. There was also some rain, but this failed to dampen spirits in an event enjoyed by all.

There was a very good entry of 31, despite a few regulars not being able to attend. There were 4 previous Comet National Champions, and also several strong performers who would be bound to mount a challenge.

The Comet fleet are a really friendly "family" and we had some great evening entertainment in the clubhouse organised by Dave Bevan from Cardiff Bay and our own Nigel Austin.

In the tricky and varied conditions it was important to be consistent, despite two discards being allowed. There were 6 different race winners in the 7 races held, and in the end consistency did count.

Multi-champion Guy Wilkins stamped his authority on the fleet by winning both races on day 1, which were held in a solid force 3. He was followed quite closely by Keith Bond and Jeffrey Smith in race 1, with Michael Ettershank 4th. Dave Harris (former champion) started well but managed to capsize spectacularly when challenging Guy Wilkins for the lead. In race 2 Guy led comfortably throughout, but behind there was a race-long battle between Eddie Pope (former champion), Michael Ettershank and Ben Palmer. Eddie Pope managed to break through to 2nd on the last beat just pipping Ben Palmer.

Day 2 dawned with very light winds. The Race Officer started race 3 on time, leaving quite a few helms still on their way from the launching area. Eddie Pope started at the pin end and led throughout, followed by Mark Wilkins in his new Comet, Michael Ettershank and the fast-finishing Bob Dodds. Race 4 was also light and shifty, and was a battle between the Wilkins brothers with Mark Wilkins just holding off Guy Wilkins. Some way behind Izac Dodds (son of Bob) sailed really well to hold off Eddie Pope. Race 5 featured an unexpected shift on the first beat which left some of the front runners in the earlier races well down the fleet. Bob Dodds sailed brilliantly to win, with Michael Ettershank 2nd. Eddie Pope pulled back through the fleet to gain 3rd place by overlapping two outside boats at the last mark, and he was followed by Paul Hinde (class chair). In view of the lack of wind and impending thunderstorm and much to the relief of the fleet, the Race Officer then abandoned racing for the day, leaving the prospect of re-running race 6 on the final day. At the end of day 2, with one discard kicking in, Eddie Pope was leading from Michael Ettershank and Guy Wilkins.

So it was all to play for on the final day. It was decided to hold just 2 races and not to re-run the final race scheduled on day 2. The wind had swung around 180 degrees from the previous day so was coming from the land. The tall buildings around the bay produced some interesting wind bands and wind shadows. The breeze was mostly force 2, but great concentration was needed to get the best out it. The fleet was very keen at the start of the penultimate race, leading to a general recall. Sense prevailed and the next start was fine. Ben Palmer seemed to spot every windshift and won, Jeffrey Smith found his form again to come 2nd, followed by Michael Ettershank and Mark Wilkins. With the second discard now kicking in Eddie Pope's lead had been reduced to a single point over Guy Wilkins with Michael Ettershank a further point behind. The championship would be decided in the final race.

The final race started without incident. Dave Harris led at the first mark closely followed by Guy Wilkins and Eddie Pope. Eddie Pope managed to pass Guy Wilkins in marginal planing conditions on the first reach and then overtook Dave Harris on the run. Dave Harris fought back and crossed in front of Eddie Pope on the beat. Guy Wilkins dropped back, and Michael Ettershank was buried on the fleet. The odds therefore favoured Eddie Pope to win the championship and he managed to finish in 2nd place behind Dave Harris. Izac Dodds pulled through to third followed by Mark Wilkins.

In his winner's speech Eddie Pope praised all concerned for such a memorable event. The coveted club prize for the three leading boats was won by Crawley Mariners SC.

Overall Results: (top six)

1. Eddie Pope, Ogston SC 12pts 2. Guy Wilkins, Chipstead SC 16pts 3. Michael Ettershank, Up River SC 16pts 4. Mark Wilkins, Chipstead SC 21pts 5. Ben Palmer, Baltic Wharf SC 24pts 6. Bob Dodds, Crawley Mariners SC 24pts

Full results can be found here (PDF format).

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