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Challenger Open at Wigan and St Helens Sailing Club

by Marion Edwards 14 Aug 2023 22:42 PDT 12-13 August 2023
WISH SC Open Challenger Event © Marion Edwards

WISH (Wigan and St Helens) Sailing Club, who sail on the oddly named Scotsman's Flash, held their first ever Challenger event during the weekend 12-13 August.

On the Friday afternoon the local fire brigade visited the club and, in addition to their routine training, were persuaded to hose down the pontoon and foreshore which support healthy flocks of swans, geese and ducks.

By Saturday morning six visiting Challengers (three from Scotland and three from England) had arrived to join the single local boat.

The forecast was for it to be wet, but how wet depended on which weather forecast was consulted! The wind was southerly(ish) with shifts of around 20 degrees either way and speeds of anything between 5 and 25 knots. Duncan Greenhalgh (280) initially described it as fickle and then changed his mind to vicious, as it could go from broad reach to head to wind in an instant leaving him no time to react. The rest of the fleet agreed.

At the briefing the race officer explained that there would be a committee boat start but a finish on the club line directly in front of the clubhouse. The course was round the club marks and best described as a figure of eight with an extra loop! Thankfully there was a lead boat for the first lap and the sailors soon got the hang of it.

When launching for the first race, the visiting shore crew discovered that the slip was very slippery(!) and prone to vanishing in unexpected holes.

Race 1 started in a squall and downpour. The first four Challengers started together. Val Millward (312) tacked early. Graham Hall (270) pointed high so went slower. Duncan and Alex Hovden (304) sailed deeper but faster. Alex, followed by Duncan, rounded the windward mark first. Alex held the lead for the next two legs but was overhauled by Graham on the long reach towards the clubhouse. During the following lap, Val stormed through by using wind shifts carefully and was very close to Graham as they approached the last mark. Val rounded the mark, tacked early and bore off to the line to take the win. Graham did not tack, pointed high, got headed and came second. He did not repeat this mistake in subsequent races. In the Silver fleet Stephen Thomas Bate (234) got the better of Lynn Steward (115).

In Race 2 Graham got to the windward mark first and led from that point. He was chased hard by Duncan, Val and Alex who regularly changed places but finished in that order. Stephen scored another fifth and was happy with his morning's work.

The fleet returned to shore for lunch (an excellent chilli and rice or an equally excellent pasta bolognaise). Over lunch Duncan spent sometime sorting out Steve Laycock's (223) mainsheet jammer.

In Race 3 Val thought she was OCS so went back but later it transpired she wasn't. Graham reached the windward mark first but was chased hard. At the start of the second lap there was fortuitous wind shift which allowed him to complete the leg without tacking and as no one else was so lucky he was able to extend. Val chose her course carefully and powered right the way through the fleet to second! Lynn got her revenge on Stephen and took fifth.

Race 4 was eventful. At the first windward mark Duncan and Alex came in on port and tacked on to starboard just in front of Val. Technically they did not infringe her but stopped her doing what she wanted! Later Alex called "Starboard" then "Protest" at Duncan who then hit a mark so did two 360s to clear his name. This left Duncan fourth and chasing. Val, Alex and Graham were sedately closing the leeward mark all overlapped when the wind suddenly picked up and there was a certain amount of chaos (but no collisions and no protests) which resulted in Graham rounding first, Duncan sneaking in and grabbing second, Val third and left Alex struggling to regain control of his mainsheet. This order held until the finish. Lynn claimed another fifth and was pleased to be so close to the leading pack.

After four races the discard had kicked in and the overnight standings showed Graham was in the lead and Val was second, one point ahead of Duncan. In the Silver fleet Lynn was delighted to be ahead of Stephen even if only on position in the last race. Still with three races scheduled for Sunday nothing was certain.

The sailors and many of the volunteers remained at the club for a delicious "Hotpot Supper" followed by various gateaux and second helpings of both. No one had any excuse to go hungry!

During the evening it transpired that all of the Silver fleet, not just Steve, had had problems with breakages. Stephen had had no outhaul for the last two races and at some point managed to jam his centreboard. Lynn sailed in the afternoon with no Cunningham.

On Sunday morning the sailors gathered at the club for breakfast and the main topic of conversation was not the weather, nor the results, but what to call the bread roll holding the bacon and eggs... barm cake, tea cake (without the fruit) and muffin were all mentioned!

The wind had moderated and the gusts weren't so vicious. The race officer set a slightly simpler course (it was almost a figure of eight). After the previous day's struggles with his boat Steve felt too battered to race so the fleet was down to six.

There was a certain amount of jostling at the start of Race 5. Val nailed it and went off fast while Graham did not. The wind then "coughed" and shifted by about 30 degrees allowing Graham to reach the windward mark without tacking whereas Val and the rest of the fleet could not. After that he never looked back. Val was second and Stephen claimed another fifth to get ahead of Lynn.

In Race 6 Val bagsied the prime spot by the committee boat with Graham below her. Duncan came in between the two of them and was in full control of his boat until the wind came right round, powered him up and left him unable to bear away so he collided with Val and both of them spun round. The same shift lifted the remaining boats. Alex was first through the line but Graham led at the windward mark. On the second lap Graham got becalmed on the downwind leg. Naturally the wind filled in from behind and Val and Alex were catching up fast. Graham just managed to round the mark and escape from them. Lynn had been well behind Stephen but during the last lap she gradually reeled him in and at the last mark nipped inside and grabbed a small lead which she held on the reach to the finish. Going into the last race Lynn and Stephen were now on equal points.

The start of Race 7 was uneventful as there wasn't a significant wind shift! A pattern was soon set with Graham taking the lead on the beats and Val regaining it on the runs. Alex and Duncan were snapping at their heels. Unfortunately for Val, Graham played the final beat well and the reach to the finish was the only one where she didn't get by him. Stephen got the better of Lynn.

The results do not show the closeness of the racing as Val (second overall), Duncan and Alex all had their moments in the lead but, apart from Val's Race 1 win, they failed to keep Graham behind them at the finish. As Graham commented "It wasn't easy". Stephen won the Silver fleet by one point from Lynn - so that wasn't easy either!

All in all an excellent weekend's sailing. The prize-giving was presided over by the club secretary, David Bill. Thanks were given to the Race Officer, Neil Hornby, and all the volunteers from the club who contributed to making the event such a success. After the prize-giving many of the volunteers continued to work, helping load the Challengers on their road trailers (in record time) and returning the resident Solos to their regular berths. This may have been WISH SC's first Challenger event but it will not be the last.

Overall Results:

PosFleetSail NoBoatHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7Pts
1stGold270DaisyGraham HallRutland SC‑21111116
2ndGold312Legless JesterVal MillwardRutland SC1‑32322212
3rdGold280White KnightDuncan GreenhalghBassenthwaite SC32‑4234418
4thGold304LiquidAssetv2Alex HovdenPapercourt SC‑443443321
5thSilver234Scottish FlameStephen Thomas BateAnnandale SC55‑6656532
6thSilver115 Lynn StewardWISH SC6‑75565633
7thSilver223ScarbaStephen LaycockSailability South West Scotland76(RET)RETDNCDNCDNC45

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