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Contender Inland Championship at Oxford Sailing Club

by Ed Presley 28 Oct 2020 23:14 PDT 24-25 October 2020

The 2020 Contender Inlands Championship was hosted by Oxford Sailing Club over the weekend of the 24th/25th October 2020. The Contenders shared the weekend with the RS700 Class, both classes having their own class starts.

2020 has been the most unusual year for us all due to Covid-19, so the Oxford Team went to great lengths to enable the event to take place at their sailing club, as it was originally due to take place at Rutland Water Sailing Club.

The forecast all week had been promising strong winds, and so it transpired on Saturday a fresh 20-25 knots wind was blowing in from the South West corner of the Reservoir to greet the 20 hardy contender sailors who were keen to get the 3rd travellers series under way.

Race 1 got under way without the usual Contender recalls, perhaps an indication that everyone felt that due to the conditions an element of caution would win the day. Nick Noble and Graeme Wilcox lead around the first windward mark only to be punished by a large gust from behind that brought the entire fleet back together. Ed Presley and Graeme Wilcox quickly got to grips with the gusts and shifts on the 2nd round, building a lead that couldn't be shaken and eventually finished in that order.

Race 2 started under black flag conditions, as is traditional, after 20 Contenders tried to start in the same bit of water next to an extremely bias committee boat end. Ed Presley led once again but dropped the main sheet on a leeward mark rounding and screwed up into the wind needing to drop into the water to avoid capsize. Graeme Wilcox was first to take advantage, as Ed floundered back into the boat, by leading around the second lap closely followed by Nick Noble. Halfway up the second beat Nobles day took a turn for the worse when his lower shroud became detached forcing him to retire. Graeme continued to the finish unchallenged with Carl Tagoe second, followed by an, as yet, unusually quiet Stuart Jones.

Race 3 was nip and tuck all the way with the wind determined to make fools of anyone trying to consolidate a lead. Any number of five people could have brought the win home right up to the end.

Early leader Simon Mussell was given hope up a successful beat and had it dashed down the run as the wind once again filled in for those behind allowing Carl Tagoe, Graeme Wilcox and Ed Presley to get a sniff. On the last run to the finish Simon Graeme and Ed threw everything into a pumping contest. Ed getting the higher line was able to cross first with Graeme and Simon next.

Sunday dawned with a more consistent lighter breeze from the same direction.

The 1st race of the day (race 4) saw Thomas Hooten blast up the first beat to round the windward mark well clear of the chasing pack of Nick Noble, Mike Murley-Hughes and Gary Langdown.

Nick was to drop back down the first reach after a rule infringement with Mike and exonerated himself with penalty turns. Meanwhile Tom continued to sail his own race, until 100 metres before the finish line when he appeared in two minds as to what side of the committee boat he needed to pass to cross the line.

A fast charging Noble, pumped up by his earlier mistake only seemed to exacerbate Tom's anxiety. Tom was finally forced to hedge his bets and luckily for him he came good and crossed the line seconds before Noble.

Favourites after day one Ed Presley and Graeme Wilcox had a bad race finishing 12th and 11th giving their closest rivals hope as they had used up their one discard.

Race 5 Started with a bit of line sag that Ed Presley used to jump off the line in clear air and was first to the left hand side. As the fleet hit the lay line the wind dropped to nothing allowing those in the lead to tack and clear the fleet very slowly. The race became a duel between Graeme and Ed who both led the race throughout, changing positions on a number of occasions. Ed winning out in the end and crossing the line inches ahead of Graeme followed by a fast charging Noble who once again got struck down with bad luck getting whipped out by a RS700 in full flight out of control on the run.

Race 6 started first time, Graeme knowing that a top five finish would guarantee the Championship. James Spikesley shot off the line with a pin end port tack flyer, rounding the windward mark with a good lead. Noble quickly closed the gap and passed him down the next leg building up a substantial lead to take the last race of the weekend. Stuart Jones counted a useful 3rd that lifted him into the top 3 of the open.

The race for the 2020 Inland Championship was confirmed by Graeme Wilcox coming home fourth. Well done Graeme for winning his first Contender Championship after only being in the Class 2 years.

This Oxford event was the closing event for the UK Contender season which had its programme drastically affected by the Pandemic. We are all hoping that next year gets back to normal as some great events are planned. The Contender class will be travelling to Plymouth in September for the nationals and off to Warnemunde, Germany in July for the World Championships, as well as 10 opens around the UK that will be announced shortly.

Once again it is with great gratitude and many thanks to the team at Oxford Sailing Club for stepping up and organising this event under the Covid 19 restrictions that we are all facing.

Overall Results:

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