The Dart 15 National Championships were held at Whitstable Yacht Club on 30 Aug - 1 Sept and the entry was a near record of 66 boats (up 13 from last year and just one boat short of the record of 67 boats in 1995 at Pentewan Sands). This makes the Dart 15 the biggest single-handed catamaran class in Europe and is catching up with the Dart 18 UK Nationals attendance. The championship racing programme followed 3 days of cruising and fun sailing in which the fleet sailed to Sheppey Island, Herne Bay and also took a coach tour to Calais to stock up on vital supplies.
After a practice lap the Championship programme got underway on Friday with the race officer, Mike Fitzpatrick, and his crew setting a trapezoidal course in a fresh SW force 4 breeze. In this incident packed race, George Carter led the race from the gun and was never seriously challenged. Former two times National Champion, Roger Hodgkison, unfortunately had his boat seriously holed in a port- starboard incident which took him out of the whole championships. Second place was snatched on the finishing line by Steve Hanby from Stuart Snell, who was suffering a mild concussion from a collision on the start line. The second race followed back-to-back. For much of the race Mark Aldridge chased G Carter until Chris Black sailed through to take second from Snell and Aldridge.
With 2 races completed the fleet retired to the bar and the Class AGM, which was the most active in years. 11 motions were passed and the achievements of the class recognized (attendances increasing, boat sales up, best sailing class web site, best class cartoonist (Phil Breeze), great magazine, low fees of £10/year, etc, etc.). Matt Smith won the draw for a new mainsail kindly donated by W.H.I.C.
Saturday dawned with an onshore force 5-6 NE breeze, white horses, breaking waves and banging rigging in the dinghy park. This somewhat unsettled the less experienced competitors, some of whom elected to sit out the third race. The race officer chose to use the trapezoidal course once more to eliminate unnecessary intersection points in the stronger winds. By the time of the third race start, however, the wind had moderated to a NE force 3 and the fleet got away cleanly. At the windward mark once again G Carter led the charge from Snell and Bob Carter. It was the sequence that prevailed to the end. The fourth race started with a massive port bias, which much of the fleet had failed to notice in the lethargy between races. A small group of Nick Dewhirst, Barry Maguire, Steve Hanby and the two Carters were the only starters at the port end and immediately had a huge advantage. The Carters made it to the windward mark hotly pursued by local "codger", Jim Jeffrey and Steve Hanby. Through the race the Carters opened out a large lead to the finish, but Snell sailed through to third place while Jeffery defended fourth place from Hanby and Dewhirst. The fifth race took place after a lunch stop and the wind had died further leaving a force 2 wind on an unsettled sea making progress in the slop difficult. Tony Drake led the proceedings followed by 3 Georges (Carter, Stephen and Wood) and Paul Smith. On the next lap Drake hit a mark and had to do turns once again leaving G Carter in the lead followed by Paul Smith. Snell caught up to third and R Carter pipped G Stephen on the line for fourth place.
On the Saturday evening the Class dinner was held with 101 attendees and the entertainment was kindly provided by the Laser Centre who sponsored the event.
Sunday was a lighter wind day with high pressure taking over and initially a light shifty wind. This was the first time that the inverted 'P' course was used but a short postponement was necessary until a steady NE force 2 wind filled. There followed two general recalls when an over-enthusiastic fleet were swept over the heavily port biased line by the ebbing tide, so the line was reset and a black flag was called into use. Third time lucky and the fleet was away with just one competitor, the unfortunate Chris Black, black flagged. The fleet split and Richard Whitelock on port and Will Edwards on starboard were first to the windward mark. Edwards then led for much of the race from G Carter and Smith. The places were all decided on the last run where Edwards was displaced by G Carter to take his sixth first place and the superior boat speed of 15 year old Richard Hanby took him to well deserved second place (could this be a sign of things to come?). In the final race Snell and Edwards tacked off on port early and were well ahead at the windward mark. Snell held the lead to the end but Smith got up to second and G Carter was third. Another sign of things to come was young Tom Gall (16) taking fifth place behind Edwards.
Thus after a superb 7 race championship, George Carter (1,1,1,1,1,1,3) was the emphatic winner from Stuart Snell (3,3,2,3,3,4,1) and Bob Carter. All three top places went to Grafham sailors who also won the team trophy. Beaver sailors Paul Smith and Steve Hanby were fourth and fifth respectively. Mark and Elizabeth Sanders won the two up competition and Hilary Dieu de Bellefontaine was the lady champion. The Whitstable Yacht Club did a superb job and won the praise and admiration of all the competitors.
|1st||H. Dieu de Bellefontaine||Marconi|
|3rd||G Woolven & Elma||Whitstable|
|1st||M. & E. Sanders||Herne Bay|
|2nd||E. & K. Sales||Seasalter|
|3rd||H. Donnelly & F. Towell||Grafham|
|1st||J. Jeffery||Sandwich Bay|
|3rd||J. Jeffery||Sandwich Bay|
Pro-Am Winners: M Smith + A Dean