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63rd Shearwater National Championships at Brightlingsea Sailing Club - Day 1

by Sam Vaughan 17 Aug 10:31 PDT 17 August 2019
Shearwater National Championships at Brightlingsea day 1 © Sam Vaughan

The 63rd Shearwater Nationals kicked off in spectacular style at Brightlingsea Sailing Club, one of the natural homes to catamaran racing. The sailors are in anticipation for an exciting and excellent four days of racing.

Only the Shearwaters can turn up two days in advance of an event and this gave time for boats to be measured, fettling to take place and class training taken place ready for the assembled boats. The preparation did not count for all as a small collision between Jessabelle and Diligaf before the start took out both boats from the days racing resulting a missing transom. And this was before the race officer had fired a gun!

The first race as always in the one lap, shoot out practice race, held in 18knots of breeze with gusts into the 20s. Serial catamaran sailing legend and local hot shot Will Sunnocks sailing with Freddie White won the practice race and showed pace to the assembled class stalwarts. Sailing the oldest racing catamaran they were asking questions like, "why is the spinnaker pole not fixed on the centreline?" and "how do you gybe a symmetrical spinnaker?" Anyway this did not matter as they comfortably won the practice race sailing the boat F18 stylie!

With tonnes of testosterone flying the championship first race got under way. The fleet headed to the left side of the course, with breeze and tide helping the boats along the way. With a short chop created by the shallows of the Colne Estuary, towards the windward mark the boats needed to be sailed fast. At the top mark, Cajensa sailed by Sam Vaughan and Oliver Stuart led from Carbon Footprint sailed by Shaun & Alex Allen, the first reach was an exciting shall-we-or-shan't-we put the kite up. Of course one boat put the kite up followed by the rest, this meant that the first gybe of the championship was going to be big! Luckily all survived the gybe with some exciting puffs and waves to give the second reach a new level of excitement.

The second beat was a consolidation leg, with Carbon Footprint and Cajensa leading. The charge of Alley Cat sailed by Will Sunnocks and Freddie White and season inform boat Crowns, Nigel & Sarah Stuart pushing the leaders hard. On the second downwind, the fleet compacted and the tactics of the symmetrical spinnaker came into the fore, with different options on the run used. Some using the 180 highway others using the higher and faster option. The leaders remained in the same order, Carbon Footprint, Cajensa and Alley Cat.

The final windward leg loomed and arms were tired from trimming for both helms and crews but the battle was to the finish. With some boats splitting left and right the leaders of Carbon Footprint and Cajensa led around the windward mark for the final time, Carbon Footprint using there lets not spinnaker gybe tactics pushed high with Cajensa, allowing Crowns and So Tango sailed by James Gibbons and Elizabeth Hill down the inside of the run. Carbon Footprint and Cajensa gybed and had a ding dong on the right side of the run, allowing the inside boats through to take the lead. Crowns won from So Tango and Cajensa in third.

Race two got away under very similar conditions with the additional lap to get closer to the 45 minute target time. Boats came off the line even and pushed left looking for favourable tide and more pressure. Cajensa led at the windward mark, chased by Carbon Footprint. With poles very firmly set on the forestay and trapezes on the reach been used, Cajensa extended there lead on the second part of the reach. On the second beat Cajensa and Carbon Footprint locked horns on the beat, for some very exciting close racing. Crowns and So Tango followed by Genesis sailed by Ben Farnborough and Jenny Allen chased hard to get close to the leaders.

On the run the leaders got further away and a small collision between So Tango and Genesis added to the excitement and closeness of the racing. On the third beat Cajensa went left and Carbon Footprint right. Who would come out on top? Well at the top by two boat lengths it was Carbon Footprint. They held on the to the lead for the rest of the race followed by Cajensa in second and Crowns in third.

The fleet returned to the beach for licking of wounds and sharing the stories of the battles they had been involved in. the Shearwater spirit has come to light as the class are in a new battle to make sure all boats are on the line tomorrow for three more races.

Results after day 1:

1. Crowns 4pts
2. Carbon Footprint 5pts
3. Cajensa 5pts

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