Last week was the RS200 Nationals at Hayling Island SC, always a great venue for a championship (minus the sand).
Going into the week a number of sailors had been tipped as ones to watch (see the runners and riders list written in the style of "Game of Thrones": http://www.rs200sailing.org/docs/champs/RS200_Runners_and_Riders.pdf
). However the line up was strong, including past and current Olympians, Medallists, Nationals Champions and the rest, who were still pretty useful.
Sunday was blown off with gusts of up to 30 knots and the race committee nervous of people struggling with the chop over the bar (harbour bar, that is!). Instead an unofficial sprint series was held for 20 keen competitors. However, as keen as I was, Sophie was still in need of some recovery time since getting tonsillitis after her Magaluf "Big Weekender" the previous weekend so we did some boat work and headed home for the Liverpool match. (NB don't head to Magaluf the week before a championship).
Monday and Tuesday were going to be catch up days with 3 races each so big days ahead!
Right from the off it was obvious that it was going to be a high scoring event and after the first day of racing this was put in perspective by 20th place already accumulating 71 points! It was a day of hard starts, brutal beats and all about minimising damage early on in the regatta. We started well with a great start and a comfortable 3rd place. We followed this with an 11th & a 17th which whilst we were a bit disgruntled by the latter, looking around the leader board it was still a countable result leaving us 8th overall.
Tuesday came and went and big scores were starting to appear all over the score board. Quote of the day came from Will Henderson (ex everything champion, and eventually 30th overall) when discussing his results with Itchenor "team manager" Roger Yeoman. When asked about his 93rd, he simply replied "That's just where I came, in fact I was happy to be in the top 100!" which really showed just how good the fleet was. We carried on with our steady work after wobbling in the first race with a 25th came back strong with a 4th as it became more and more apparent the right was paying. But we didn't believe it and had to battle back to a 17th in the final race after the breeze went right at the top again.
Tuesday also saw the first big mention of Itchenor, however it was not necessarily the context which we had hoped for. Whilst we were circling the top 10 it was the more junior members of the team who were taking the plaudits for the daily Duckhams prizes. These are awarded for exceptional instances of gross incompetence and are rewarded by having to wear a dress the next day during racing. Runner-up was George Spreckley who, whilst trying to straighten the spinnaker pole after a major jousting display, managed to break it with his bare hands! However, the winners were Hugo Moss & my little sister Grace Yeoman for their Leo Di Caprio & Kate Winslet Titanic impression when, after forgetting to put in the stern bung, the boat tipped back and sank.
Wednesday was always going to be a tricky one with light winds and big shifts and with much of the top end of the fleet carrying big scores it could be a game changer. However, it was in fact to be a day of mixed emotions for us. Race 6 and we had an average first beat but after fighting our way through the fleet I misjudged a starboard tacker and ended up having to do a spin on the layline drawing an "I told you so!" from Soph. The problem with a fleet of this calibre is that very few people make mistakes and therefore anything you do wrong is punished heavily and we ended up recording our biggest score of the week. The next race was looking even worse after a huge right hander came in but it was big enough for the race to be abandoned and draw the day to a close as the wind died completely. Damage limitation just about complete but we had dropped to 13th, however with the biggest discard around and one more race needed for the discard we could still move up.
We also tried out the Race Armour Shorts as it was a little lighter which made it easier to move the Rooster Pro Hiking pads to the right place, especially in those light periods. I found them very good, with the draw strings holding the shorts up well enough, however you need to get the right size as Sophie's were a little big and slipped down.
All week there was some amazing aerial footage taken by LPB Aerial, which could be a great asset to the future of media coverage in sailing:
Thursday saw the return of the breeze, it was going to be one last big day. The points were all close going into it with us being able to finish anywhere from 20th to 5th. We put in 3 solid performances. A good comeback in race 8 saw us retrieve a 9th and we followed this up with a 3rd with our upwind speed paying dividends. The 200 responds massively to hiking hard and having a vrew who can bolt themselves flat to the side of the boat and hike like a badger pays massive dividends (see Steve's note of toe strap positions
) We had not noticed the usual suspects around us and felt one final good race could move us into the top 10. We got a great start and managed to take the first shift across the fleet and battled to second on the final downwind but a poor gybe lost us 2 places but still a good 4th place to finish on.
Whilst sailing in my dad trucked along side us in the RIB and we managed to clock a speed of 19 knots in one of the gusts! Not bad for a little hiker. Whilst we sailed back to Itchenor we were thinking about how we had had a good day relative to the others around us, in fact very good. When the results finally came out we had move to 6th, a result we can be very very happy about in a fleet as talented as the one we were racing in.
Our club,Itchenor, with the help of Rob Gullan & Rosie Sibthorp and Andy Shaw & Pippa Horne won the coveted "Top Club" prize which takes the top 3 scores of each club to give an overall score. This really shows how the club has developed over the last few years and cements us as the strongest RS200 club in the country! Slightly embarrassingly we also won the "Loving Cup" for top couple. This is commonly known as the "Not so loving" cup as fall outs become more regular when you sail in a couple it would seem, but I would happily (I think...) go through it all again to share it with Soph. A lot of hard work has paid off.
Our general kit bags for the event which was a mild but windy English summer consisted of:
- Black Diamond Bouyancy Aid
- Pro Aquafleece
- SuperTherm LongJohn
- PolyPro Top
- Pro Hiking Pads
- Pro Race 2 Gloves
- Pro Laced Boot
- Aeromesh Visor