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Henri-Lloyd 2022 December - SW LEADERBOARD

A Class National Championship at Clacton-on-Sea Sailing Club

by Larry Foxon 23 Jun 04:05 PDT 17-18 June 2023

Clacton Sailing Club hosted the A Class Nationals over the weekend of the 17th and 18th June at their club sited at "The Gap" in Holland on Sea. The entries across the Classic and Foiling Fleets were heavily skewed towards the "Classics" with only one foiling entry.

As you would expect in this very technical development class there was a huge amount of variation in the way the boats were set up. In the Classic fleet there were a range of different platforms with the Australian built "Tools" being popular.

Competitors started to arrive on Friday with Hugh Macgregor travelling down from his home club in Largs in Scotland to compete. Many of the club volunteers joined the competitors that had arrived for a BBQ in the Evening. It was an early start for all on Saturday setting up a relatively compact upwind downwind course with racing due to start at 12.30 in a 13 knot North Easterly breeze. This combined with an outgoing tide presented the competitors with challenging sea conditions. As the wind over tide built small but steep waves on top of the residual swell from the very extended run of strong North Easterlies from earlier in the week. Two CSC members Peter Boxer and James Stacey were looking forward to sailing on their home spot against the visiting sailors who were a mix of sea and inland sailors.

The racing started shortly after 12.30 from a start line set in line with the Clubhouse which gave the club members spectating from the Club's balcony on the cliff top or the beach an excellent view of this critical part of the race. There was drama at the start of the first race with a competitor capsizing on the start line within the last two minutes of the pre-start sequence. They quickly recovered to not only make the start but to quickly take the lead in the race.

The competitors hotly contested each of the three races. All three race starts were clean and only one start line moment was observed by the committee boat where James Stacey attempted a Port tack start from the pin end, but ended up being pinned there by the boats reaching down towards the pin end on Starboard. The Pin end was on the inshore side of the course with slightly smaller waves. In the races there were multiple position changes throughout each of the races.

On the course there were a range of tactics being used. Upwind the entire fleet were trying to minimise on manoeuvres which saw the fleet split with usually an even number of the fleet going right or left to the lay lines on each tack. Downwind these conditions there was a key choice to be made between VMG and setting a standard course and minimising the number of gybes. Or going inshore into relatively calmer conditions and less tide but doing multiple gybes. The contrasting approaches contributed to frequent position changes on every lap of every race.

Three 4-lap races were sailed back-to-back with only short breaks between the races. Hugh Macgregor sailed consistently leading all the races and would have scored three wins except in the first race he made an uncharacteristic mistake failing to cross the finish line. Mark Rushton sailed consistently in all the races and scored 3 second places in the Classic fleet. Local sailor Peter Boxer sailed to his strengths and improved his position in all the races on most laps ending up a consistent 3rd in all the races.

In the foiling fleet the single entrant was Julian Bosch who adapted his sailing style throughout the Championship. From being behind the Classics in the first race he improved to second across the line in the 3rd race. This race included a close contested duel between Julian and Hugh, ending with Julian finishing only a few boat lengths behind Hugh. In the final race the downwind legs were fascinating to watch as Hugh and Julian were using totally opposite tactics. Hugh sailing inshore and putting in multiple gybes down the beach side of the course and Julian sailing VMG usually gybing shortly after the spreader mark and heading offshore to minimise the gybes. They would be within a few boat lengths of each other at the top mark and then sail these very different courses on completely different sides of the course to converge on the bottom mark within a few metres of each other.

There were a few "moments" for Julian on these downwind legs with the foils losing lift as they breached resulting in a near pitch pole on the way to the downwind gate. Peter Boxer used his knowledge of the conditions and his boat and sailed to his strengths consistently opting to sail deeper downwind than most and inshore and picked his way up the fleet in each race lap by lap and scored 3 thirds.

The stage was all set for races on Sunday to determine the outcome of the Class Championship. On Saturday evening the club hosted a curry evening for the competitors. Sunday morning saw changeable weather, with an overnight rainstorm and forecast Thunderstorms along with very variable wind strengths and directions.

Also post racing on Saturday the competitors had inspected their boats. There were three of the fleet that had suffered some damage during the racing. One of Hugh's rudders had a fracture just below the rudder head. Julian discovered that his centreboard casings were cracked from the repeated stress imparted from the waves on the foils. Gordon Upton had been the only one that had suffered equipment issues on the water when his mast rotation system disassembled during the first race.

An informal skippers meeting was held to discuss whether to sail the planned races and they reached a collective decision that series would only have the 3 races that were sailed on the Saturday. As in this competitive but friendly class there was a consensus among the sailors that had not suffered damage that they should not take advantage of the other sailor's misfortune.

For some of the sailors this event was also a warm up for the Hellecat Summer A Class regatta across the North Sea in Holland over the first weekend in July. This was a great event which both the competitors and club volunteers all thoroughly enjoyed and was rounded up with an awards ceremony in the Clubhouse. Mark Rushton with his 3 second places is the 2023 Classic A Class National Champion, with Hugh MacGregor in second place with his two firsts and sixth and Peter Boxer third place. Julian Bosh is the Foiling A Class National Champion.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelm NameClubR1R2R3Pts
1101Mark RushtonGWSC1225
218Hugh MacgregorLargs Sailing Club6118
31963Peter BoxerClacton S.C.3339
4123James StaceyClacton S.C.24511
53Neil Klabe 47415
64Gordon UptonRutland SCDNFDNCDNC0
116Julian BoschGWSC1113

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