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North Sails Performance 2023 - LEADERBOARD

HD Sails Solo class Scottish Championships at St Andrews Sailing Club

by Ross Watson 23 Aug 06:25 PDT 19-20 August 2023
HD Sails Solo class Scottish Championships at St Andrews © Tony Drumbreck

After the original dates in early July were cancelled due to gales on both days St Andrew's Sailing Club kindly managed to re-arrange the event for August 19/20. This was a big call on the resources and members of a small club but they rose to the occasion. They had intended to borrow an extra rescue boat but when this was unavailable at short notice managed to obtain the Newburgh SC rescue boat with a crew for the weekend for which everyone was grateful.

Two days before the event the forecast for the Saturday was looking a bit marginal with strong winds forecast from the south west. In addition there was quite a swell coming onto the beach which looked like making getting back ashore difficult, especially once the tide had risen.

As we rigged in the dinghy park the biggest concern was from the race officer who was counting many more boats than there were entries! Some sailors had not realised that they needed to re-enter despite not needing to pay another £5. Yes, that was the entry fee for the weekend as a result of a big subsidy from the Solo class association. Our earlier fears that the change in dates would lead to a lower entry were wrong with 20 boats ready to go. Five boats travelled up from England with John Colegrave and Dave Winder both coming from Yorkshire.

There was a discussion about whether it was too windy to go sailing but in the event we agreed to go. Pulling the boat across the beach whilst feeling the wind pushing it sideways made us realise just how strong it was - one boat was blown off its trolley. There was an understandable reluctance to launch until all the rescue boats were in the water. When local sailor Mark Looseley launched in the Scottish demo boat for his first ever sail in a Solo we all followed. Getting through the surf was not too bad on the way out although one boat did capsize.

Once afloat it was clear that in the gusts the breeze was certainly up! Sailing on a port tack broad reach down the swell resulted in a hum from the centreboard that I have not heard very often. It was going to be a wild day. The course had been laid by Nigel Ford, a stalwart of the fleet for many years, and the angles were spot on. By the time of the start some had decided to head back. Your scribe did not even make the windward mark after several capsizes. The race was a close battle between Dave Winder and Kevan Gibb with the latter just finishing ahead. John Colegrave finished an excellent third making the trip worthwhile.

Only eight boats finished and some avoided every gybe. Mark did very well in his first sail in a Solo to get round the course. After one race officer Julie sent the survivors ashore - a correct decision as the wind increased to the forecast 30 knots shortly afterwards.

Getting ashore was exciting. The best technique was to sail in as far as possible before rounding up. Those that jumped out earlier found themselves up to their neck as the surf broke. Several people grabbed every boat and pulled it ashore onto the nearest trolley - no one found themselves with the right one. After a couple of attempts getting the rescue boats onto their trolleys it was deemed too dangerous and they had to go into the harbour which was not that simple given the surf breaking across the bar.

Once all the boats had been hauled across the soft sand at the top of the beach and put away in a very crowded dinghy park it was time for a shower. The three showers were so new the curtains were pristine. Then it was time for tea and freshly baked waffles, all included in the entry fee, and to share the stories of the day. Despite the conditions there was not much damage to the boats. Malcolm pulled out a kicker fitting that was quickly repaired. One boat had a slightly bent mast, another had battens pushing through the pockets at the luff.

Sunday morning dawned with a lot less surf on the beach and a more moderate wind, as forecast. Getting changed made me realise the real reason the Scottish Solo sailors usually only have one day events - you don't need to pull on cold damp shorts and a wetsuit if you only sail on a Saturday. With only one race sailed on Saturday the plan was to run the three scheduled races and maybe a fourth if there was time. Despite this everyone was slow to launch for what turned out to be a long run down to the start.

The race started in a F3 from the south west although there were plenty of shifts and gusts to cope with as we neared the cliffs. The start line had a definite port bias but was surprisingly uncrowded with Ross Watson starting at the pin and Kevan Gibb next. These two led to the first mark and Ross established a lead on the first tight reach and pulled further ahead on the broad reach - perhaps because he was using an HD sail for the first time in years! Up the next beat Kevan made the extra power tell and he pulled closer.

As the neared the end of the second lap it was clear that Ross' advice to the race officer to run two lap races and get four races completed was not being heeded and they fleet were being sent round for another triangle! By the last windward mark they were overlapped with Ross inside. He was a couple of lengths ahead at the last gybe mark but somehow managed to get his tiller extension caught between the boom and the outhaul.

Somewhat surprisingly he managed to wrench it clear with the loss of only two places with Kevan coming first ahead of Tony King whose bent mast was not slowing him down although he was convinced the boat was faster on one tack than the other.

This time the fleet had realised the bias on the line and the pin end was more crowded with Keith Milroy making the best start and then leading around the course. There were two boats over the line at the start. It was a tight race throughout the fleet with the gusts catching out a few at the gybe mark including your scribe and a past class president. Keith never looked stressed at the front and sailed around for the win. The next few were very close but it was Richard Bolton next followed by Dave Winder and Stuart Gibson. Kevan came in fifth which was to prove crucial in the overall results.

The wind had shifted further to the south for the third race and despite moving the start mark the line still had a heavy port bias. Just before the start another shift meant some boats failed to lay the line on starboard. Hamish Whyte got onto port immediately and led the fleet away with Ross below him. The windward mark could almost be laid and Hamish, the lightest sailor in the fleet and hanging out on his toenails, managed to get there first with Ross next. These two got to the leeward mark just ahead of Stuart Gibson who tacked away and found a nice lift to pass both by the start/finish line. He was never troubled after this and steadily pulled ahead. Tony King went left up the beat and pulled up to second. Dave Winder was having a very consistent weekend and passed Ross for third near the line. Kevan proved he was human by going for a swim at the last gybe mark, luckily it did not affect his final result.

After three races in a gusty wind we were all a bit tired. Half the fleet headed straight home whilst those who waited to see if there was to be a fourth race made sure they were well upwind of the start line. Once the marks were hauled in it was clear that was it for the day and we had a long beat home - made longer by the wind shifting back to the west.

Getting ashore posed the same challenge as the previous day with the tide and surf now higher. Some jumped out when they could barely stand making recovery difficult. Ross got points for style by calmly sailing through the surf and stepping out just before his boat touched the sand - clearly he remembered something from his days here as a student.

Despite his capsize in the last race Kevan Gibb had done enough to win the HD Sails Scottish Solo championship. It was not an easy weekend and the victory was well deserved. Next was boatbuilder extrodinaire Dave Winder who sailed very consistently to come second. With a long drive ahead of him he had to leave before the prize-giving but was passed his prize through the window of his van as he set off! Tony King and Stuart Gibson were equal on points but the win in the last race gave Stuart third place.

The £5 entry fee proved very popular and your scribe who is on the Solo Association committee will certainly be asking for the subsidy for regional championships to be repeated again. In his speech Kevan thanked the club and stated that this event is the start of the run-in to the Solo National Championships at North Berwick in 2025. A couple of people sailing borrowed boats are about to come under pressure to buy Solo's!

Big thanks to St Andrews SC who pulled out all the stops to run the championship at the second attempt. Small clubs like this don't host many events and really appreciate it when visitors come to sail. The Solo fleet really enjoyed the sailing, the hospitality and the view from the clubhouse and will certainly be back. The next HD Sails Scottish Solo travellers event is at loch Lomond in two weeks where we will not have to worry about surf.

Overall Results:

PlaceSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4Net Total
26073D. Winder24338
35948S Gibson2054110
45408T King6214210
5O43R Bolton492511
65970K Milroy2081615
75841R Watson2039416
85979J. Colegrave3771117
95483H Whyte5119923
105602M Worsley20108725
115741J Evans20126826
125801W Todd206ocs1238
134502B Birrell718ocs1540
14561M Looseley819161741
154517R Taylor2017101340
16=6046N Orkney2013121641
16=5889D Parkin2014131441
184850D Aitken2015152050
195967P Burns2016202056
214110L Young2020202060

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