GOSPORT MODEL YACHT AND BOAT CLUB 3rd and 4th November 2018

This year’s event was held in early November, and the developing forecast had been for largely southerly winds; across the lake. The good news was that it was relatively mild for the time of year, and dry, the bad was that there was almost no tacking until the last hour of the second day!

14 boats entered, including 10 different designs from 9 designers. Skippers had travelled from as far afield as Fleetwood, and from the Netherlands. Peter Hopkins, from Bournville, was sailing a new carbon fibre Goth design by John Fisher from the USA. The event had probably the widest age range of any vane fleet in recent years, ranging from 5 to 76, and this year there were three lady skippers.

Photo by Roger Stollery

In his briefing, race officer Lester Gilbert made it clear that progress was going to be brisk, and there were usually three pairs on the lake at any one time. His race team did a sterling job keeping skippers appraised of their start sequences. Saturday was sunny and quite breezy, with skippers opting for No 2 or 3 rigs. The wind direction made vane setting delicate; too high sucked the boats into the calm under the trees, and too low dropped the boats into the wind bends around the clubhouse. Experienced skippers had to draw on the wisdom of their years, and still got caught out at times. One skipper carried a jib from a larger rig to keep the boat driving through the gusts.

It was interesting that even though the difference in vane settings between ‘beating’ and ‘running’ boards was minimal, skippers still found that overall they tended to have more success one way than the other. This was borne out by the final scores. Racing in both directions threw up some ultra-close finishes, and by the end of the first day two clear leaders had emerged. Graham Wyeth and Ray Baker, sailing a Hollom designed Road Runner, were within 2 points of Peter Fothergill and Paul Edwards’s Dovey designed Sybora.

Sunday dawned gloomy and with lighter wind, although there was now a very slight easterly bias. Until late in the day boats were tacking only when trapped in the knuckle. Most boats now carried No 1 rig but still, alas, no spinnakers! With three heats left to sail there were only 8 points between the top three boats, with 15 yet to be won. The cup was all in the balance! By the finish, although Graham and Ray dropped 7 more points, including an unavoidable 5 to a withdrawn boat, they remained far enough ahead of Peter Fothergill and Paul even though they only lost 5. Peter Hopkins and Max had also dropped 5. Nathan and Peter Stollery dropped 9 points.

The final results were expressed in percentages, and in the end, Graham Wyeth and Ray Baker won the 2018 Championship with a 2.3% lead from last years’ champions Peter Fothergill and Paul Edwards. Peter Hopkins and Max Buttimer were another 4.5% behind in third place. In fourth place, and winner of the 1st junior skipper prize, was 5 year old Nathan Stollery mated by his dad, Peter. They were sailing a Mickey Mouse design, drawn by Peter when he was 9 years old.

Nathan and Peter’s boat had a striking scow shaped hull, flat bottomed and with a wide bow, it pre-dates the very latest scow designs in the full sized Mini-Transat ocean racing class. Nathan and Peter’s performance ably demonstrated that you don’t have to be either grown up, or have the latest carbon fibre boat to get into the prizes in this remarkable class of vane yachts!

The first junior mate was Thomas Wyeth, in seventh place sailing with dad Shaun, and the first Veteran skipper (not placed in the first three) was jacque Cook, who was placed fifth.

The event was notable for being both competitive and good natured. There was only one protest, simply resolved by a hearing by the protest team. The tasty fish and chip supper in the club on the Saturday evening was ably organised by Ray and Nora Baker. At the prize-giving race officer Lester thanked his race team, which included Julie Lawley and Chrissie Fernie on scoring, Alan Oxlade, Bob and Gill Pearson, David Swainson and Eric Thomas out in the cold, and Jacque Cook as regatta secretary. The 2019 event will be held at Birkenhead, and it will be good to see as many as possible competing there to support this great class.

Mervyn Cook

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