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Noble Marine RS800 National Championship at Castle Cove Sailing Club - Overall

by Tom Morris 14 Sep 08:02 PDT 9-12 September 2021

With an extra race brought forward and sailed on Saturday, Tom Morris and Guy Fillmore had clinched the RS800 National Championships with a day to spare. In fact, with only one race remaining, second place was also wrapped up by Rob Gullan and Tom Partington, and opportunities were thin on the ground for movement further down the results sheet.

As it happened the late-Summer sea breeze never stabilised sufficiently for race officer Bill Barker to attempt the tenth race. With his decision to bring the ninth forward thoroughly vindicated and a stellar championship series in the bag, an end was brought to proceedings at 1230hrs with raising of N over A on the Castle Cove flagpole.

The three hoots also allowed Fiona Hampshire to put down the match racing playbook as the final podium position was declared in her and Hugh Shone's favour. Phil Walker and John Mather, almost certainly completely unaware of the confrontation that had awaited them, remained pleased with fourth place despite just falling short of their previous best finish of third in 2016. Perhaps this situation was for the best as skiffs trying to match race in 5 knots is an ungainly affair.

The morning's wait did allow some reflection on the state of play within the fleet and the building blocks of success in this enduring skiff class. Since 2017 the fleet has allowed a choice of helm (traditional) or crew sheeting. After the first day of racing murmurs circulated that the debate had finally been settled when previous deck sheeting proponents Luke and Emma McEwen turned up with the new set-up and promptly posted two third places completing an initial boom-sheeted lock-out of the podium.

Yet boat park chat was premature and by day three they had been replaced by Hugh and Fiona and their traditional set-up, ensuring deck sheeting retains its credentials of having always provided a podium place over the five years since the rule change.

Commenting on the techniques required to be successful with this set up Hugh said, "It is always going to be harder to play the main as fluidly as crew-sheeters but I think you have a really good feel for the boat because as the helm you've got the forces of the rudder in one hand and the throttle in the other so you know when things are ticking and when they are not."

Not only was Hugh first helm-sheeting boat, but Fiona won first female crew. The result marked a return to the podium for Fiona who won the champs last time they visited Castle Cove in 2015. The pairing has made good progress in the last year, something Hugh puts down to improved starting and better big breeze speed (very helpful during a series raced in 15-25 knots). "I'd say that we've improved our starting which I have always struggled with. We now have more of a routine and plan which has helped us be more proactive and less reactive to the chaos around. We didn't always have great first beats this year but we gave ourselves a better chance with cleaner starts.

"Last year we also fell off the pace when the wind picked up which, as a fatter helm, really bugged me. This time around we are using more downhaul and Fiona has developed some really helpful ways to help me focus in on achieving a flat mode and keeping it."

One undeniable benefit of crew-sheeting is it opens the helm role to smaller sailors. 2021 was the fourth consecutive year with a new female helm in the top ten. This year it was the turn of Maria Stanley, ably crewed by Tommy Darling. They put in a very credible performance in an older boat, with old style sails. Maria commented on their class debut: "I had a great first RS800 event, everyone was very welcoming and open to giving advice and tips, as a newcomer this was much needed! The racing was good, and the boat was great fun to sail, it was a huge learning curve for Tommy and I and thoroughly enjoyable. I'm keen to come back again next year!".

If Maria can find some more time in the boat to match their impressive boat speed with more consistent manoeuvring then she will be a contender for first female RS800 champion helm. Maria and Tommy won the Spinlock 1999 Prize for first old style RS800 with sail number lower than 1118.

2021 will be remembered for its consistently breezy racing with nine hard races in full-on flat-wiring conditions. Adding to the challenge was a new course layout. The racing took place on a trapezoid 'outer loop' course to accommodate the RS700s' long held ambition to race pure windward-leewards!

Rob Gullan and Tom Partington were undoubtedly kings of the first beat, leading to mark one in seven out of nine races, but they struggled (along with many others) to pick the right line on the windy two-sail reaches. "Trapezoids which had a 0.5nm two-sail reach was really tricky; getting your mode right definitely helped you defend and gain places. Due to the wind strength it was easy to be blown below the rhumb line as boats could easily spin out when being brought back up through the death zone during gusts," commented reigning European Champion crew Tom.

He also saw big gains to be made at the widely-separated leeward gates during the week. "Typically, the leeward gate was quite wide with one mark significantly favoured. It was always worth going for the favoured side even if it meant an extra gybe, which - due to wind strength - did make you think 'is it worth it?' from a safety perspective."

With such a good performance on the opening legs we asked Tom where he thought Morris and Fillmore had found their edge. "I think the real separator was time in the boat. Although we had very good boat speed at times, we would have times where we would struggle. Ultimately, we were unable to match the well-oiled machine of Tom and Guy around the racecourse when under pressure. It always felt they were in a position to capitalise on a mistake, whilst we kept waiting for them, but even when they lost their tiller (race three) and again their trapeze line (race six), they would manage to survive what we could throw at them."

2021 was the third title for Tom and Guy and with nine races in 15-24 knots many would have been unsurprised to find them at the top of the leader board in their favoured conditions. Yet over nine races Gullan and Partington really brought the fight, and the match up was tight.

Guy believed some of their edge was born out of regular club sailing. "It sounds maybe a bit far-fetched, but I genuinely think the time spent club racing on varied courses allowed us to adapt quicker to the new reaching legs. Gullan and Tom were often leading at mark one, but we knew if we could close the gap on the reach, we stood a good chance of putting pressure on their gybes on the run."

Morris places the difference in the hands of his crew, the defending champions have been prone to calamities at previous events yet with a bit more experience this time they were able to avoid high scores when things did not go their way. "We've had races in the past where something broke and the event imploded for us. This year Guy really took control in those moments. In race three we lost the port tiller extension whilst leading, but Guy was able to retrieve the spare and attach it without us losing a place.

"Then in race six my starboard trapeze wire broke whilst again leading with a lap to go. Guy steadied the boat, got us on to port and it allowed us some time to assess how we were going to adapt our set up and strategy with only one person wiring on starboard. We did lose a position to Hugh and Fiona but were able to keep Rob and Tom behind and that ultimately won us the regatta."

The RS800 Class Association would like to thank Castle Cove Sailing Club and their race team. Their hospitality made up from purely volunteers was first class.

The event was also bolstered by the support of Championship sponsors: Noble Marine, RS Sailing, Hyde Sails, Rooster, Spinlock, Sea Change Wine and Fernhurst Books.

Our next event is RS800 Rooster National Tour event number seven the Inland Championship at Grafham Water SC 2-3 Oct. The eighth and final event of the tour will be the RS End of Seasons Regatta at Rutland SC 6-7 Nov. We look forward to seeing you on the water.

Overall Results:

1st Weekend: Sam Jones and Richie Thurlby from Hillhead SC
Endeavour: Stephen Brown and Philip Bairstow from Ullswater YC
1st Youth Helm: Cameron Moss from Lyme Regis SC
1st Youth Crew: Isaac Lines from Castle Cove SC
1st Master Helm: Luke McEwen from Royal Lymington YC
1st Master Crew: Emma McEwen from Royal Lymington YC
1st Lady Helm: Maria Stanley from Hayling Island SC
1st Lady Crew: Fiona Hampshire from Swanage SC
1st Silver: Joe Joyner and James Wallace from Lyme Regis SC
Spinlock 1999 Prize: Maria Stanley and Tom Darling from Hayling Island SC

PosSail NoFleetHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8R9Pts
11144GTom MorrisGuy FilmoreHayling Island SC1‑2111221‑39
21124GRobert GullanTom PartingtonHayling Island SC‑21222‑312111
31231GHugh ShoneFiona HampshireSwanage SC44‑63‑6135525
41207GPhil WalkerJohn MatherHayling Island SC6‑93‑95444228
51171GJames PentyEddie GraysonBeaver SC564‑133553(DNC)31
61220GLuke McEwenEmma McEwanRoyal Lymington YC335‑10‑101088441
71232GCameron MossDarrol MossLyme Regis SC88968913‑15‑1761
81222GPaul JenkinsPeter JenkinsEastbourne SC‑2623749677‑2663
91122GTom BucktroutDominick BurkeGrafham Water SC115‑1412121311‑21771
10842GLMaria StanleyTom DarlingHayling Island SC(DNC)(DNS)857766DNC78
111203GLGrace FellTim GrattonBeadnell SC7131115111112‑28‑1680
121194SJoe JoynerJames WallaceLyme Regis SC16‑20151413‑18910986
131224SFrederick LordLouise GaleCarsington SC‑2271318‑201515121191
14954SMorgan PeachWill WardClapham Model YC13181916(DNC)12(DNC)914101
151138GLHonor FellRobbie GilmoreQueen Mary SC101520‑221814‑241312102
161247SPaul MolesworthJason RickfordWeymouth/Stokes Bay1811‑23‑23231618118105
171131GChris WeberJim BaldwinPevensey Bay SC2024168‑262310‑276107
181200GSam PascoeIsaac LinesCastle Cove SC(DNC)(RET)127481623DNC109
191157GChris CattChris MartinNetley Sailing Club91717‑2515‑20202019117
20885GChris FeibuschAndy RamusHayling Island SC24161011(DNC)‑26251715118
211204GMartin OrtonIan BrooksChichester/Trearddur Bay1210‑2221(DNC)22141822119
221166SRalph SingletonSimon ConwayRestronguet SC1519‑241916212114‑23125
231058GJoe BradleyRhys LewisRS Sailing/Hayling Island19141817141727(DNC)(DNC)126
241128SJosh AdamsJon CrawfordLyme Regis SC211228(DNF)21(DNC)311618147
251057SMark OakeyJamie PidduckHayling Island SC172221‑2717‑25222524148
261241SStephen BrownPhilip BairstowUllswater YC2721252022‑3228‑3220163
27985SStuart KeeganSophie JohnstonDerwent Reservoir SC14(DNS)31(DNC)2429291921167
28820SBryan OrmondAnna PrescottQueen Mary SC(DNC)2627‑301928262627179
291129SSam JonesRichie ThurlbyHillhead SC(DNC)(DNS)DNCDNCDNC19192410189
301008GBen PalmerBruna de QueirozHayling Island SC(DNC)(DNS)262425DNC233025192
311156GHugh BrayshawMary RookQueen Mary SC(DNC)(DNS)DNCDNCDNC24172213193
321182SRichard PowellWill SchofieldLocks SC2325(DNC)(DNC)DNC303331DNC220
331188LSDebbie ClarkDaniel GoodmanQueen Mary SC(DNC)272929(DNC)313433DNC222
34982SToby BloomfieldRobin SteinPaignton/Hayling Island(DNC)(DNS)DNCDNCDNC27302928231
35846SJoshua PoatHattie FieldChew Valley SC25(DNS)(DNC)26DNC3432DNFDNC234
36913SAdrian HoweFenella WilliamsHayling Island SC(DNC)(DNS)3028DNC3335DNCDNC243
37=1198SAlex BenfieldNick IrelandStokes Bay SC(DNC)(DNS)DNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC273
37=1221SNick ReddingTBCHayling Island SC(DNC)(DNS)DNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC273

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