Ever since the RS200 became the boat of choice for the prestigious “champion of champions” Endeavour Trophy, the RS200 Inland Championship – held at Grafham Water Sailing Club on the preceding weekend – has been the ideal warm-up regatta for the country’s national champions to test themselves against the established fleet. As such, the depth and quality of competition is top tier, and the racing is close and intense.
With a Southerly breeze coming over the village of Perry, the conditions were challenging. Irregular 30° shifts, gusts and holes on both days, meant consistency was key. Crews had to sail clean, pick which shifts to tack on and which to sail through – and avoid getting stuck in a hole!
At the end of Day 1, nobody had strung a perfect series together. Overnight leaders and winners of Race 1 were brother-sister pairing JJ and Jess Hammett from HISC. Most consistent – but not yet hitting their stride with a 6,6,3 – were Ben Whaley and Lorna Glen of Parkstone YC. Veteran SB3 sailor (and 2005 RS200 National Champion) Craig Burlton, sailing with daughter Hennie, sat in third place.
Being at the heavier end of the fleet, we were looking forward to the forecast of more wind on Sunday. However, the promised 20kts never materialised and we had an even trickier day of marginal planning conditions, still with the same patchy and fickle wind direction. Huge gains and losses were made on every downwind. As the top mark was so close to the windward shore, it made picking a side a lottery. The gusts were only visible from a third of the way down the course.
An impatient fleet, and a change in wind direction, meant there were a number of black flags in Race 5. However, the event was wide open going into the final race. Leaders after five races (counting 1,1,2,8) were new pairing David Jessop and Richard Thomas. They knew, with some quick mental arithmetic, that JJ and Jess (with 1,3,3,6) and Ben and Lorna (also counting 1,3,3,6) were only one point behind. So, the stage was set for a three-way scrap for the win.
A punchy start from the starboard end saw David and Richard take an early lead. They rounded the top mark in third place with Ben and Lorna right on their transom. JJ and Jess were somewhere in the bunch behind, but with their lightning downwind pace and cunning overtook both boats and stormed ahead. David and Ben closed up on the next beat. However, James extended down the penultimate run to take a 10-boat length lead over David, who followed to the favoured right, and Ben – who rolled the dice and went left.
Slowly, slowly the gap reduced; every cross was a little closer. Approaching the final windward mark, JJ led David by a small margin. With a big lull in the middle of the course, Ben had committed to the far left, and every shift swung the pendulum one way then the other. A last-gasp left shift at the top of the course allowed Ben to pop out just at the front of the bunch, with six tightly-packed boats following close behind including James and David.
Somewhere well ahead, Simon and Katie Horsfield became the fifth different winner in six races, but it was Ben and Lorna coming home in third who clinched the event win. They were followed by JJ and Jess, and then David and Richard. The prizegiving highlighted just how consistent Ben and Lorna have been this year as they swept up all the series prizes. A big congratulations to them on a well-deserved defence of their Inlands crown. We don’t have the space in our house for the trophy anyway… maybe we will next year!
Report by David Jessop
Photos by Paul Sanwell/OPP