Been a seriously long time since I'd done a proper event. The Nationals were great fun and really well organised. Great entertainment in the evening and cracking battles on the water. I won't say too much post-event - but quite pleased to come away with Bronze, especially with it being a relatively windy regatta after the first day. Windy sailing has been a bit of an Achilles heel for me in the past but I felt this week I was doing alright in it.
Here's what I wrote for Yachts and Yachting half way through the week:
Saturday - day 1
In the light fickle breeze, it took what seemed about a week to get to the race course. When we finally made it to the white cliffs of Dover, we were glad to see the committee boat was displaying AP to give us a moment or two to catch our breath and check out the course. Light to medium breeze from the West, with slight differences in pressure made for a testing race course.
In the first race of the regatta, Beckett showed his class coming through picking his way through the fleet up the first beat to round second before leading the rest of the race.
A good battle for second left Jake Farren-Price in tears as he was luffed by some ILCA 4 sailors on the final reach trying to protect their wind, while he watched Sam Whaley slip through below (some say Whaley paid off an ILCA 4 sailor to do the deed). Beckett again pulled the right strings after the start to lead round the first mark and through textbook defensive play kept Farren-Price and Whaley at bay for the second race of the series.
Sunday - day 2
Stronger winds and grey skies greeted the sailors on Sunday morning. Racing was planned for the harbour, which the ILCA 4s appreciated after the mammoth expedition of returning to shore on Saturday. Beckett again proved difficult to pass after race one of the day with Sam Whaley and James Juhasz of Canada following behind.
Race 2 and Whaley and Krishan Bhogal, heavy weather specialists, come flying out the blocks. By the first mark, Krishan leads with Whaley in hot pursuit. On the first run, the fleet gets caught by a major squall and speeds of 30 knots were recorded on the harbour wall. Beckett flew downwind and played the next beat well to get ahead of Bhogal. Four bullets to his name now, was this streak going to be broken?
Monday - day 3
A cold North Westerly breeze descended over Weymouth Bay for the third day of the Nationals. With large shifts and big differences in pressure, it was anyone's game today. Whaley capitalised on the shifts In the first race and managed to hold off the claws of Beckett to take his first win of the series - could this be a chink in the armour of Beckett?
The second race brought a big split; Juhasz, Whaley, Beckett and Ben Flower lead the charge from the pin end trying to get across the fleet. Farren-Price and Norman Struthers, another fellow Canadian, lead the charge to the right-hand side from the Starboard end. At the top mark, it was all very close with the whole fleet bottlenecking onto the reach. Struthers, Whaley and Beckett managed to get away from the pack on the first downwind and fought it out from there.
Becket reasserted his dominance by winning the final race of the day followed by a tight battle between Struthers and Whaley in which Struthers pipped Whaley on the line.
My fierce rival and close friend Sam Whaley wrote this to conclude the week:
Tuesday, day 4, brought sunnier and gustier conditions. Micky Beckett had a great first run to lead, followed by Norman Struthers. Sam Whaley managed to pull himself back into contention up the second beat and stole second place off Norman, who was again having a blinder of a race.
In the second race of the day, the wind increased significantly and there were many tired bodies in the fleet. Sam Whaley led around every mark apart from, crucially, the final one, after being overhauled by Micky Beckett on the last run. Jake Farren Price sailed a stellar race to take third with Norman Struthers fourth and James Juhasz fifth.
Tuesday evening brought an incredible Gala Dinner with special guest Ian Percy. The dinner was held to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Laser/ILCA and to raise money for the Andrew Simpson Foundation. With huge prizes and a great performance by Tim Hulse (MC) the group managed to raise over £10,000. To cap it all Sir Ben Ainslie sent the sailors a message of thanks via WhatsApp.
The fifth and final day brought lighter (but still fully hiking) winds. With the windward mark set just off the famous Nothe course, the winds were incredibly flukey, with the jammy sailors of the fleet licking their lips in anticipation.
Micky Beckett had a good start to lead around the windward mark, whilst Sam Whaley and Norman Struthers were both flagged by a mysterious jury boat without a jury flag (something not allowed according to the sailing instructions). Both did turns anyway and went away bewildered at the experience.
Jake Farren Price sailed an awesome race to challenge Micky and take second place, whilst James Juhasz was consistently fast to seal third. Coming into the final race of the championship and Norman Struthers and masters sailor Nick Harrison had a brilliant first beat to be first and second to the windward mark. Micky Beckett's speed was soon apparent as he took the lead down the run, with Sam Whaley moving into third place. These positions stayed the same all the way to the finish, with Jake Farren Price stealing fourth place from Ben Flower and Nick Harrison.
Overall Micky Beckett easily took the title, winning nine out of ten races, with Sam Whaley taking second and Jake Farren Price third. First master was Mark Lyttle in eighth and first U21 was Gordon Cogan Sivarajan in tenth.
Many thanks to the UKLA for organising and WPNSA for hosting such a brilliant event and we hope to see everyone next year!
The 100-strong force of volunteers helped make this happen but our class secretary has to be one of the most able, resilient and long suffering in the business. Thank You Ellie Ratusniak - without all your work we'd be running around like headless chickens.
Of course, the sponsors provided the oil that made the wheels go round...
The Link to Sam's article is below
Many thanks have to go to my Sponsor Coast Water Sports