Report By: Peter Ewing, Pictures by: Bob Carter
At one of the best sailing venues in the U.K, The North Devon Yacht Club at Instow hosted the Sprint 15 Sport National Championships over three days on 27-29 June. This versatile 15 foot catamaran arguably one of Europe’s most successful catamaran classes was sailed in its Sport format. That means one sailor, two sails and a trapeze.
The robustness of both the equipment and the sailors were tested to the outer limits of endurance over the course of this weekend, where wind speeds approaching 35 knots were gusting for most of the races, the majority of the fleet took these conditions in its stride. There were a number of capsizes but easily righted, these catamarans just kept on racing.
The event started on Friday morning after a fairly in depth briefing from the race team lead by principal race officer Richard Stone, veteran of many national and local regattas. Richard decided that the fleet should remain on the beach until called for; during this time the race team took the opportunity to set the course and the start line in the Taw/Torridge Estuary.
Once called, the protagonists made their way to the start line in what was considered a gentle breeze, but once past the Appledore Lee, the sailors new that today was going to be an epic experience, but at this stage no –one knew just how awesome the racing was going to be.
Those who stayed the course towards Appledore gained the advantage of relatively flat water and led to the windward mark, 1st round from Gurnard was Robin Leather followed by Steve Sawford from Rutland, then Kevin Dutch from Seasalter and from the home club Peter Ewing. The second leg, a reach to the wing mark, once round the windward mark and bearing off onto the reach, it appeared that the wind had significantly gained in strength, you could see as the bows dipped the sailors quickly bearing off to a run to ensure that the sails were kept on top.
At the gybe mark always something to be a little wary of in high winds, but an easier experience in catamarans, then it was hammer down to the leeward mark, screaming toward the committee boat spray in your eyes achieving speeds most sailors can only dream about. Then round the leeward mark for the upwind leg. Race 1 was won by Robin Leather, 2nd Steve Sawford, 3rd Martin Scott, 4th Kevin Dutch and 5th Peter Ewing. The second race held back to back with the first saw the conditions either worsen or improve depending on your point of view, the wind speed knocking on the door of a seven at times saw a number of competitors opt for the beach; meanwhile the other three quarters battle it in these exiting conditions. The excellent course remained as earlier so the tactics remained the same; it was a matter of hanging on and enjoying the ride. Excelling in these testing conditions, Kevin Dutch took the top slot with Robin Leather second, third, Martin Scott, fourth Carl Blenkinsop from Gurnard and fifth was Sam Heaton from North Devon.
Demonstrating typical North Devon hospitality with flair to be different, the days memorable racing was followed by an exceptional barbeque, and a demonstration of Morris Dancing, not the usual hanky waving effeminate type, but with faces blacked- out and rebelliously batten banging soon had audience very appreciative of their skills.
Saturday, two races scheduled slightly less wind a mere force 4 -5 coming from the same direction, nevertheless, the racing was still exiting, Robin Leather dominated both races by getting two firsts, Kevin Dutch got another 2nd in the first and 9th in the second, Martin Scott a 7th and a 2nd, Steve Sawford a 3rd and 4th, Carl Blenkinsop a 6th and 3rd and new into the top 5 was Annette Maddison from North Devon with a 5th in the first race.
Saturday Evening lived up to all expectations, a superb dinner was organised and prepared in the clubhouse, along with excellent company and a brilliant presentation by Nick Dewhirst, class chairman and powerhouse behind the success of the Sprint 15 class. He soon had all sailors and their guests enthralled by his stories and laughing at his alternative prize giving, all this was made more enjoyable by the copious amounts of grape juice and amber nectar consumed.
Sunday, two races to go and the wind was back – bring it on they shouted as the gun went, as again the sailors were out on their tiptoes towards Appledore, one tack and then blasting towards the river mouth with the eager ambition to be the first to the windward mark strategically placed off the Northam peninsula out of the big waves, it was relief to be in flat water to bear away from the mark but the surge of acceleration would have left Lewis Hamilton begging for one of these toys. This race was won by Martin Scott, 2nd Robin Leather, 3rd Kevin Dutch 4th Steve Sawford and 5th David Casale from Marlow.
The last and final race in this epic adventure, half the fleet had decided enough was enough, which was no surprise as the sky started to turn a very dark grey. The protagonists left were parked on a beach waiting for the start and wondering if there would be one. Race Officer Richard Stone, supremely confident of the NDYC Rescue team went for a start; this was a race to remember the wind appeared stronger than before, sailors were asking tired aching muscles for one last effort.
It’s difficult to find more superlatives, but at the end of this final race there was a sense achievement to have completed all races in these conditions, the final race was won by Kevin Dutch, 2nd Martin Scott, 3rd Steve Sawford, 4th Carl Blenkinsop and 5th Peter Ewing.
Pro – Am Competition
Click for: Full Results with all Sub-Competitions