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Noble Marine RS800 National Championship at Brightlingsea Sailing Club - Overall

by Luke McEwen 14 Sep 2023 00:07 PDT 7-10 September 2023

Maybe it was the stunningly sunny September after the August gales; maybe it was camping in the warm, grassy dinghy park with a beautiful backdrop of beach huts and traditional spritsail barges; maybe it was the wonderfully welcoming volunteers at Brightlingsea Sailing Club offering delicious homemade food and a well-stocked bar... in any case the RS800s first Essex Nationals was an unforgettable experience.

Those who were hoping to be clinging to the racks in monster waves were probably disappointed but for the rest of us, four days of super steady winds, flat water, sunshine and temperatures in the high twenties made for a very enjoyable long weekend. The best advice to follow was suncream, shade and hydration in all its forms. The breeze even had the decency to stay away until lunchtime each day to let us wake up gently and have a nice chat in the sun before the racing started - just like Garda, only a slightly shorter drive.

One of the popular Brightlingsea pastimes is watching boats run aground, ideally at speed. There are mudbanks aplenty in the Colne river, and not quite enough navigation marks - perhaps a deliberate ploy to please the spectators. Those who'd got up in good time for breakfast on Saturday were treated to a yacht's desperate attempts to escape the oyster bed right in front of the clubhouse. By the time we launched her nearly horizontal mast was blocking half the fairway. She was still there when we came home. Still the RS700 and RS800 sailors (even locals) took liberties with the limited rise of tide, demonstrating some inventive ways to pitchpole in a force three as they cut the corner into the river chasing the daily prize for highest GPS speed, a title the race leaders never won. Norwegian 29er/49er legend Mathias Berthet sailing with James Hall took the challenge a step further by taking their centreboard right out to fix the gasket, then found RS800s are quite alarmingly stable with the mast embedded in the uniquely adhesive Colne mud.

The race team led by David Charlton did a brilliant job to get all ten races in the gentle afternoon sea breezes, typically 8 to 12 knots, with the RS700s and RS800s alternating between inner and outer loop courses to keep things interesting. The relatively weak neap tides still had enough effect to make the left side of the course generally favoured (weirdly independent of whether the tide was flooding or ebbing), but for the smart tactician there were plenty of opportunities to make gains on long lay lines with wind bends and lee-bowing currents tempting the unwary to overstand.

The RS800 class is enjoying a renaissance, with half the teams new since the 2022 Nationals, but still it was a very high pedigree fleet including top international moth, 29er and 49er sailors looking for good skiff fleet racing with the local heroes and the old RS800 masters and grand masters. Gradually the newbies found their speed but not before the 60-somethings showed them how to port tack the fleet at the start (it wouldn't be an RS800 event without a Ralph Singleton port flyer) and win a deep tactical soak on the run.

The first race win went to young 29er guru Leo Wilkinson with super crew and reigning champion Guy Fillmore. Ben Palmer and Dicken Maclean sailed an impressively consistent series to take third overall and the Spinlock 1999 prize for first boat with the original style deck. It was excellent to see Monique Vennis-Ozanne win three races to take the first youth, first lady helm and second overall prize, sailing unfeasibly fast downwind with RS800 and 29er champion crew John Mather. Luke and Emma McEwen, sailing their 13th RS800 nationals, took five firsts to win the overall title, and the first master helm and crew, and first lady crew prizes. The last race win went very deservedly to local legends David Conlon and Ed Gibbons.

Back ashore, RS Sailing sponsored the tally-off drinks, class chairman Hugh Shone invented characteristically amusing games for the pirate party while his helm Joe Bradley kindly fixed any broken boats. The local RS800 team of Eddie Bridle, Ben Clegg and Tom Kyne won the coveted Social Conch trophy with their impromptu parrot costume and dance routine. Hitherto unknown talents came to light in the karaoke and quiz nights and lifetime friendships were forged as the sun set over the dinghy park.

Huge thanks to sponsors Noble Marine, Rooster, Spinlock, Fernhurst Books and RS Sailing for making the event great value, to Brightlingsea Sailing Club for showing us how beautiful and welcoming this part of England can be, and to our wonderful class secretary Clare Sargent for her tireless work ensuring that it all came together perfectly.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8R9R10Pts
1st1220Luke McEwenEmma McEwenRoyal Lymington YC‑422111112‑711
2nd1207Monique Vennis‑OzanneJohn MatherHill Head SC & HISC211‑10444‑51320
3rd1008Ben PalmerDicken MacleanHISC58‑10322375(OCS)35
4th1Joe BradleyHugh ShoneSwanage SC3542‑12974‑13640
5th1140Mathias BerthetJames HallRoyal Norwegian YC & HISC‑12435372‑118941
6th1144Leo WilkinsonGuy FillmoreMaidenhead SC & HISC165‑155‑141184242
7th1188Fin ArmstrongEwan GribbinPaignton SC‑1337868‑1063849
8th1204Martin OrtonIan BrooksChichester YC6‑12649569‑11449
9th907Tom WalkerAlice MastermanWitterings & HISC(OCS)(DNC)97738310552
10th1222Paul JenkinsPeter JenkinsEastbourne Sovereign SC991468652‑15‑1559
11th1139David ConlonEd GibbonsBrightlingsea SC710121110‑18‑19126169
12th1200Eddie BridleTom KyneBrightlingsea SC1078911‑1312‑1491379
13th820Bryan OrmondAnna OrmondQMSC(OCS)13131213109‑15141195
14th1176Guy RivingtonAndrew WhapshottRS Sailing /Stokes Bay‑1811111315‑1915161212105
15th1166Ralph SingletonNuala SellwoodRestronguet SC8‑16161414111613‑1814106
16th1203Tim GrattonArthur HendersonRoyal Thames YC(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNCDNC121310710121
17th1043Blake TudorBrett TudorBrightlingsea SC111515161615‑181817(OCS)123
18th1121Ben CleggAbi CleggBrightlingsea SC141717(DNC)(DNC)1714191617131
19th1241Stephen BrownPhilip BairstowUllswater YC1514181818202020(DNC)(DNC)143
20th862Toby FreelandAlejandra GutierrezQMSC16(DNC)191917‑2121172018147
21st1156Huw WhitworthHarry WilsonDatchet Water SC(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNCDNC1617211916158
22nd1054James LewisEd MooreDabchicks SC17(DNC)(DNC)1719222222DNCDNC165

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