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Superspars Solo Inland Championship at Northampton Sailing Club

by Will Loy 8 Nov 2023 10:46 PST 4-5 November 2023
Northampton at it's best for day 2 - Superspars Solo Inland Championship at Northampton © Will Loy

Northampton Sailing Club hosted the Solo class for a two day Inland Championship, the traditional six race format falling just one short due to some absolutely crappy weather on day 1.

Superspars would be our sponsor and CEO Simon Bevan had generously donated an M2, the mast section currently favoured by the fleet if you follow UK media outlets. Certainly, masts with the eye catching yellow and red 'Superspars' logo were prevalent, cunningly placed 'Sainsbury's style' directly at consumer eye level when the mast rake is set at 9640 mm (mast tip at band to outside of transom). Of course, other mast manufacturers and mast rake measurements are available.

Day 1

I was stuck at home in Brixham but with the power and wonder of the modern interconnected world at my fingertips, a few clicks at 11.55 a.m and I was transported on to the water with the fleet, and still in my trusty charcoal grey dressing gown. XC Weather were promising a moderate breeze but the expert charged with predicting the direction must have been having some personal problems and was taking some time away, therefore the sailors would have to rely on the feel of the wind against their skin.

Back in the day some short lengths of wool affixed to the rigging and a half smoked Benson and Hedges would have been standard equipment but with craft shops closing down and tobacco costs sky high, light wind sailing is becoming increasingly difficult unless you have money or a cardigan. Fortunately, a good proportion of the fleet are both rich and old.

I focused my attention on my Macbook Air, the eight year old screen had seen some action in its time but this was going to be just riveting. I caught sight of a few Solos as they left the shore and zoomed in to note the sail numbers but the Northampton S.C. webcam had its own flight plan and banked right to give me a great view of some Cormorants as they dived for Trout. I sat back from the edge of my clear perspex chair, firstly to revisit my own expectations of the day and secondly, and you might say more importantly, to remove any temptation for my cat to attack my most cherished jewels.

Rain drops began to spatter on the webcam's unprotected lens, distorting the already distant, view of the Solos as they headed over to the left side of the lake. It panned to the empty dinghy park for another fifteen seconds before zooming over to the bright orange wind sock, it's half erect tube pretty much reflecting my enthusiasm.

Below is a short summary of Day 1 following my questioning on my arrival to the club on Day 2.

Day 1

40 entries arrived from clubs as far apart as Torpoint Mosquito in Plymouth and Yorkshire Dales.... in Yorkshire, testimony to the popularity of the class across the UK. There was to be a fireworks display later in the evening, the owner of an Enterprise may well be calling his insurer on Monday.

Race 1

Jonathan Swain decided to start one minute before the rest, despite his undoubted grasp of RRS starting procedure.

Martin Honnor, Tom Gillard and Oliver Davenport rounded the mark ahead of the fleet and raced amongst themselves as the breeze, which had arrived from the east with some velocity slowly fell away, leaving the fleet to complete just the one race. I caught sight of the fleet as they openly breached Rule 42 in an effort to be first to the bar and logged off.

Gillard, Honnor, Davenport, Gifford and former Inland Champion Brown are your top five overnight.

Day 2

I had been fighting with a chest infection and struggling to get a decent sleep for two nights, this was clearly evident by the discarded tissues which adorned our bijou fisherman's cottage so I was thrilled when my wife woke me at 4.21a.m. and reminded me it was time to get up.

Having set the alarm for 4.30 I took a moment to reflect on those lost nine minutes and the things I could have got in to trouble doing before exiting our super firm orthopaedic bed.

The Volvo V70 provided a smooth passage to Northampton, Google Maps and a quick McDonalds breakfast are two things I would take onto my desert island and should be classified as Global Disasters if they ever disappeared. Propellers at a nearby wind farm rotated reassuringly though conspiracy theorists might suggest that these giant turbines, positioned in vital areas of the World are the only things turning the planet to sustain our gravity.

The club was full with competitors and officials, feasting on full English breakfasts and derivatives of, the smell of fresh tea and damp neoprene giving me a warm feeling inside.

The fleet would launch soon but I had travelled the 240 miles in 'ready to go' mode so after apologising for the smell of my trainers I grabbed some last minute interviews and headed out onto the water with club commodore Sarah and 'cow hand' Mike.

The team had clearly been notified that I would be aboard, the air tanks had an air pressure equal to any modern F1 race tyre but I was directed to sit at the bow anyway to 'provide balance' and we made our way down to the race arena at the far left of the lake. The wind, blowing from the south west was around 10-12 mph but I caught sight of a few gusts as they passed by, indicating something a bit more exciting later. I fastened my Aqua Marine offshore jacket, made ready the North Shore shades and unsheathed my Nikon P950.

Our PRO was to be Ian Pinnell, his experience in both Solos and Fireballs is legendary and he would set some great courses, it's just a shame the Solos do not carry symmetrical spinnakers.

We would be sharing the water with the N12's but clever use of inner/outer loops negated any chance of a 12 footer going through a 12 footer.

Aboard the rib, Sarah had been instructed to move the top mark so carefully positioned the craft so Mike could lasso the large orange buoy, a task he did successfully after one pathetic failure. I turned away, hoping I had not just said that out loud and pretended to study a nearby tree.

Race 2

A heavy pin end bias, either that or the entire fleet wanted to feature in the event video and Steve Jones was alarmingly close in my view finder, well proud of the line but with absolutely no chance of gybing around into a gap, his facial expression was one of calm concern. Olly Wells, a sailor who loves the camera somehow found the time to tack on to port and cross the fleet, easy if you start 5 seconds early, OCS. Morgan, Gillard, Nunn and Davenport had bailed out and eventually found gaps while Jones continued to go around in circles, still visualising the sweet spot on the pin, even if it was a minute late. I would not be the one to explain that it was impossible to cross on starboard.

Honnor and Birkin-Walls did the best job, tacking off onto port and heading upwind with Swain and Walters in close attendance. We could feel the UV rays as the Sun's reflection bounced off the exotic sail material, collectively donning our sunglasses akin to that scene in Close Encounters and followed the fleet as they stretched into their hiking straps.

The breeze was bending and bouncing off the land mass, Dave Lucas just one victim of the alarmingly tempestuous wind angles and this would not be his first dip. At the top mark it was the punchy Wells OCS from Birkin-Walls and Swain who had both worked the favoured left of the course before tacking over into some lifting pressure. Honnor, Bunn, Brown and Barnham rounded next with Harry Lucas, Bundock and Walters completing the top nine.

The short reach to mark 2 was lacking in excitement, the stronger puffs out of timing with the fleets arrival but the drama was on the run to mark 3 where staying close to shore was twitchy but beneficial if you could avoid fishermen in waders, Birkin-Walls now leading from Davenport. I had positioned the rib ahead of the fleet, visualising the money shot of silver shards and plums of spray but the reality was a bunch of deleted files of shadows.

The beat back up to mark 3 was one sided but still tactical, short hitches in the headers was the key while not getting too greedy. The fleet then embarked on a long tactical run down to the bottom of the lake before one final beat/fetch to the finish. Birkin-Walls led at the bottom but with Swain and Barnham within a Rizla paper. At the line it was Swain who had made up for his day 1, race 1 start debacle with the bullet from Barnham, Birkin-Walls, Honnor and Morgan.

Race 3

The breeze had strengthened to 15-18mph and with the warmth of the early November Sun on our backs, we positioned the rib once again at the heavily favoured pin end, the fleet creeping forward with tiny adjustments to helm, centreboard and sail trim.

The gun fired with the whole fleet able to cross on starboard which was a win for the PRO after the first race. Olly Wells, a bit like that runner who always sprints for 50 yards in the London Marathon to get on TV did it again, glaringly over but maybe hoping his mate on the committee boat owed him a favour, alas, OCS. Brown, Gifford, Walls and Walters made the best of it and headed off up the left of the course with Gillard and Davenport slightly further towards the middle.

Those who went too far into the left bank lost pressure half way up the beat and so at the top mark it was Gillard from Davenport, Morgan, Birkin-Walls, Butler and Wilkinson.

The short run/beat saw no serious changes though I believe Davenport took a brief lead but at the bottom of the long run Gillard was ahead again from Davenport but with Morgan, Walls, Butler and an advancing Horey all improving with just the final beat back up to the gun.

Gillard would hold from Davenport, Morgan, Birkin-Walls and Butler. Nunn and Wilkinson got ahead of Horey which must have irked the Spurs supporter but he is used to disappointment by now.

Race 4

The breeze continued to blow down Pitsford Reservoir with white horses on the most exposed area of the course and the fleet lined up fairly evenly, the adjustment to the start line angle working its magic. Unfortunately I was well behind the line, mark adjustment duties trumping my own plan but the fleet looked a fine sight as they blasted away from us with masts at max bend.

Morgan was in a mode that could win him a Championship some day and powered in from the right lay line with Gillard on his shoulder, both still had to take a short tack, the wind around this mark openly mocking the fleet. I would suggest, if the marks had their say, this one would be in the shape of a finger. Swain, Birkin-Walls and Harry Lucas were next around the mark from Kev Hall, Walters and Nunn. Gillard lee-bowed Morgan at the top of the second upwind and gybed immediately, finding pressure down the middle of the course and with the bottom mark now positioned further left, extended on the long run. Birkin-Walls, Hall, Swain and Walters were the next group to round the top mark with Lucas, Brown and Gifford completing the top nine. The final beat was more tactical and so the finishing order was Gillard, Morgan, Gifford, Birkin-Walls and Swain.

Race 5

Purely in the interests of variety I positioned our rib in the centre of the course,100 yards proud and prepared to capture the final race of the Championship. A good even distribution of Solos lined up along the perfectly laid line, laminate sails flapping as helms held their craft as close to the wind as possible. Just one Dacron sail stood out from the crowd, the pure white cloth a perfect triangle against the lush green fields which surround this venue. Alan Husk, a veteran of Solo sailing was racing his Ledger built wooden Solo for the first time in 25 years and the boat looked like it had just come through a worm hole from 1995.

Back to the start and the fleet powered up towards us on starboard, Davenport to windward of Gillard with Brown below but in high mode which made life difficult for the North Sails jockey. Hall, Swain, Morgan and Birkin-Walls were further to the left but all tacked into a nice lefty half way up the beat. The wind went a bit funky towards the top mark, the orange inflatable gesticulating like a vexed football fan but Morgan had judged the shifts perfectly to lead by 15 seconds from Birkin-Walls, Brown, Hall and Swain with Horey, Bunn and Horey all in close competition. At this point I decided to return to shore, my priority switching to 'cup of tea' mode and the wind looked like it was fading. Once ashore I took up position in the carpark and super-zoomed my Nikon on the top mark so as to register the leaders on their final lap. Morgan was in command, 40 seconds the gap and he would take the race win with some authority from Gillard with Barnham, Honnor and Lucas completing the top five. I continued to film the fleet as they negotiated the truculent mark and witnessed Kev Hall suffer from clash of masts with Chris Brown. The result would be a broken forestay for Kev and the ignominy of parking up on the mark, all caught on camera.

So, Tom Gillard defends his 2022 title with a tidy scoreline from Jamie Morgan, Oliver Davenport, Martin Honnor and Ewan Birkin-Walls.

Tom is a wonderful sailor to study, his physicality and 'head out of the boat' strategy is akin to a world class chess player and many can learn from his style.

Jamie is the big mover of the year for me and a possible National Champ winner with tricky Brightlingsea the venue in 2024 while Oliver is undoubtably super fast in straight line speed, just requiring the tiniest improvement in his tactics to give him the overall package. Let's not forget, he is the Nation's Cup Champion and will claim the North Sails Super Series next Saturday at the EOS.

2024 should be fascinating.

Racing was tight, fair, fun and exciting with slick race management from Ian and the team and with a wonderful canteen to welcome the fleet back home.

Richard Bundock won the Superspars M2 mast thanks to a secret draw undertaken by class president Guy Mayger who was unable to attend so again, thanks to Superspars for their generous support.

See you on the water next Saturday Nov 11 for the finale to the 2023 season, the EOS, Draycote Water.

More photos at

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1st6021Thomas GillardSheffield Viking SC1‑161125
2nd6064Jamie MorganRutland SC‑7532111
3rd6061Oliver DavenportNorthampton SC3626‑717
4th5880Martin HonnorOgston SC24‑197417
5th5827Ewan Birkin‑WallsGrafham Water SC8344(RET)19
6th5887Jasper BarnhamSnettisham Beach SC9212‑22326
7th6055Jonathan SwainCarsington SC‑171951631
8th5652Michael GiffordStaunton Harold SC4‑171531335
9th6067Chris BunnLady Yacht Club11710‑181038
10th5746Harry LucasGrafham Water SC‑14111311540
11th6074Chris BrownDraycote SC510‑1881841
12th5781Alex ButlerHayling Island SC12155‑16941
13th6080Vincent HoreyKing George SC & Grafham Water SC‑2212817643
14th5586Ian WaltersGrafham SC6‑1916101244
15th5901Charlie NunnTorpoint Mosquito SC‑29136121445
16th5704Jamie CuxsonShustoke SC15921‑23853
17th5911Nigel DaviesDraycote SC101414‑151553
18th5524Kev HallNorthampton SC138349(DNC)64
19th6076Richard InstoneChase SC19181119‑2867
20th5858Ian IngramEarlswood SC2121‑22201173
21st5210Neil WilkinsonShutstoke SC23267‑282278
22nd5627Richard BundockGrafham Water SC18‑3523211981
23rd5979John ColegraveYorkshire Dales SC28‑2924141783
24th5857Nigel PybusDraycote Water SC20221727(DNC)86
25th5259Roger WilsonRollesby SC252325‑302396
26th5926John SteelsStarcross YC24(DNC)20292497
27th5730Steve JonesLittleton SC(DNC)24292621100
28th5642Steve RobertsTorpoint Mosquito SC2625‑272525101
29th6056Peter WarneNorthampton SC27‑30262426103
30th5731Vernon PerkinsSouth Cerney SC3332‑353120116
31st3741Alan HuskRYA‑3527313327118
32nd5675Maria E. FrancoNorthampton SC343128‑3529122
33rd6066Tim WadeLymington SC32283034(DNC)124
34th6051Dave LucasGrafham SC16(DNC)33RETDNC131
35th5721Graham WilsonNorthampton SC30333632(DNC)131
36th5163Ken MackenzieOgston SC(DNC)34323630132
37th5797Oliver WellsNorthampton SC(DNC)OCSOCS13RET136
38th5501Roger GibbTorpoint Mosquito SC(DNC)20DNCDNCDNC143
39th6069Gary StuartNorthampton SC31(DNC)DNCDNCDNC154
40th5905Steven MitchellTorpoint Mosquito SC(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC164

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