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K1 National Championship at the Mount Batten Centre for Watersports, Plymouth

by Hilly King 14 Sep 2023 04:19 PDT 8-10 September 2023

The K1 National Championship was held over the long weekend of 8th, 9th & 10th September 2023. For those unfamiliar with the Mount Batten Centre, it lies opposite the thriving Plymouth Waterfront with direct access to Plymouth Sound, offering numerous options to set courses which maximise the favourable wind directions and minimise tides.

The competitors started arriving on Thursday afternoon and were greeted with fabulous sunshine and a steady breeze. Whilst setting up the boats the chat was of the quality of the competition including numerous past and present National Champions and even a current Olympic representative! The K1 fleet has often been described as an extended family and it was therefore a pleasure to catch up with old and new members to the fleet in the bar enjoying what is described as an Indian summer's evening.

Friday dawned with mist across the water, which was extremely picturesque, but not ideal for any form of sailing. T he mist slowly lifted and the temperatures kept rising but where was the wind? As the last of the competitors arrived all the talk was now about the wind or indeed the distinct lack of it and any divine help would be very much appreciated.

The Commodore, Adrian Kemp welcomed the fleet and together with his skilled team explained that our chances of being able to run two meaningful races on Friday depended on the sea breeze reinforcing the very fickle wind which was forecast for the day. We would be held onshore until the PRO was comfortable that we could race. The sea breeze duly arrived and the fleet started to launch and make its way to the starting area.

Unfortunately one of our fleet had a medical emergency once half the boats had been launched, whilst having just gone afloat. I cannot thank the whole club, the Mount Batten Centre, those members of our fleet who were yet to launch and the emergency response team for galvanising together with such brilliance. The expertise, training, speed of reaction and medical intervention which followed commands the highest praise indeed and "thank you" in this instance seems so inadequate. Those fleet members who had launched and made there way to the racing area were kept notified of all the developments happening ashore and escorted back to the club once the medical vehicles had cleared the area.

Clearly our thoughts were with our team mate and racing was cancelled for the day.

Saturday was meant to be a super day to sail with sun and a constant breeze, according to the weather forecast! Well the forecasters are human and the fleet were again held onshore waiting for the sea breeze to arrive. The sea breeze duly arrived around 1pm and the fleet set sail to the starting area, all anticipating the start of our Championships. Our new PRO, David Rollinson, who had stepped in as a Covid replacement set a sausage/triangle course in very light shifty conditions. The fleet being well behaved got away at the first attempt and was divided in selecting the correct way around the course. Simon Hawkes (Police SC) was mastering the conditions well but being hard pressed by Ian Jay (Sutton Bingham SC). Richard Sims (Carsington SC) and Ben Flower (Paignton SC) led the chasing pack who were constantly changing places. Richard Le Mere (Warsash SC) opted to go seawards on the second beat and together with Jeremy Hudson (Frensham Pond SC), Ian Duke (Datchet Water SC) and Graham Butler (Frensham Pond SC) reduced the deficit to the leaders, but it was clear that the winner would be decided between Ian and Simon. At the finish Simon took the bullet, Ian second and Richard third.

Race two on Saturday was even more interesting than first race being sailed in a dying breeze. Again the PRO opted for the same course whilst the wind was still stable in direction. At the start Ben and Ian took an early lead and opted to head towards the headland which had paid dividends in race one. Andrew Wilson (Datchet Water SC) together with Jeremy and Chris Swallow (Burton SC) went seawards but were clearly looking for the first opportunity to tack off and join the rest of the fleet. After rounding the windward mark for the first time it became apparent that keeping any form of pressure was essential. Ian and Ben together with the fast closing Andrew headed inshore again but Jeremy and Geoff King (Tewksbury/Barnt Green) chose correctly to head more seawards. The second lap saw Simon pulling himself through the fleet but Ian and Ben had established a comfortable lead with only Jeremy able to make any inroads and at the finish Ian took the win, Ben second and Jeremy third.

Overnight Ian led with a first and second and with light wind forecast on Sunday he was surely going to be a contender for the championship.

Sunday dawned with more expectation but again the fleet waited for the wind to remain consistant before heading to the starting area. This race was to be one of the closest of the Championships with no real advantage which way up the beat you chose. Ben was neck and neck with Simon, with Ian and Richard in close contention, all heading towards the shore which initially looked like it would be favoured. Jeff Vander Borght (Lyme Regis SC) however led a group including Andrew and Geoff out to sea. When the two fleets came together all were close but Ben and Simon still had a slight lead which they extended on the off wind legs. Richard and Ian were again fast over the water and approaching the last reach, a cluster of boats were all vying for the last podium place. At the finish Ben took the win with Simon second and Jeff third.

The second race on Sunday saw Andrew take a pin end flyer with most of the fleet on the committee boat end of the line. Simon, Richard and Ian were chasing Ben towards the headland which had given a distinct advantage in previous races. It was also notable to see Geoff, Hilly King (Datchet Water SC) and Jeff taking the lifts in the centre of the race course. When Andrew tacked it was clear that he had picked up a lift and would make the windward in the lead closely followed by Ben, Richard, Ian and Simon. The run was a bit of a lottery but the same faces were all in contention when the second beat started. Andrew and Simon split tacks whilst most of the fleet headed once more to the headland. Ben showed considerable speed upwind and was again in contention but Andrew was not to be denied his first race win. At the finish Andrew took the win closely followed by Simon and a very fast finishing Richard in third.

Whilst the fleet waited for the Britanny car ferry to make its progress to port through the race area it was apparent we have had a different race winner in each race showing how close the racing was throughout the fleet. Also of note was the improvement in speed of Liz Le Mare (Castle Cove SC) with her new sails (yes she does have contacts at the sail loft!).

The third race was to prove one of the most interesting with Graham, Jeremy and Andrew all opting for pin end starts with a view that they could keep clear lanes, whereas the majority were still starting towards the committee boat. As before keeping the boat from stalling was essential and as the wind direction changed those who had at first headed towards the shore made the decision to go seawards. The windward mark saw Andrew, Graham, Simon and Jeremy all rounding together with Ben and Paul Birbeck (Wimbleball SC) not too far adrift. The PRO had opted to re position the windward mark so Andrew cleverly protected his slender lead by keeping to windward of the chasing pack although Simon was still closing fast. Once at the newly placed windward mark Andrew majestically increased his lead on the reaches and was able to take his second race win, followed by Simon in second and Graham in third.

The Championship was between potentially five sailors coming into the last race so it would be interesting to see how the front runners would fare. At the start Ben, Jeremy and Richard all looked like they were moving well and establishing a small lead. Paul, Simon, Richard and Ian however opted to split tacks with the rest and by the windward mark it was still anyone's race. Paul slowly extended his lead on the off wind legs and when the second windward leg started he seemed to be going further away from the fleet. Ben, Simon and Jeremy clearly thought differently and slowly reduced the deficit. Richard and Ian had also hit the turbo button so were gaining on the front runners and it was clear the winner would be who held their nerve in the fading wind. At the finish Paul took the win, Ben second and Simon third.

A very close Championships was filmed by drone photography which gives a fabulous insight to the racing and certainly will be used by the training team for those members unlucky enough to have missed a super event.

The Championship was won by Simon Hawkes
2nd Place Ben Flower
3rd Place Ian Jay
4th Place Andrew Wilson
5th Place Jeremy Hudson

In the K1 fleet we are proud to recognise and celebrate our demographic:

Over 60 Champion Simon Hawkes
2nd Place Graham Butler
3rd Place Mike Beckett

Over 65 Champion Andrew Wilson
2nd Place Richard Sims
3rd Place Geoff King

Over 70 Champion Chris Swallow
2nd Place David Pritchett

The K1 National Championships were sponsored by Ovington Boats who kindly gave spot prizes to all participants.

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