Generously sponsored by Craftinsure, Shepherd Neame, Wayfarer Wines, Hartley Boats and Pirates Cave, the Wayfarers returned to the familiar venue of Medway Yacht Club for the 4th event of the UKWA Craftinsure National Circuit which also acted as the Eastern Championship held over the weekend of the 17/18th June. Previous events on the circuit in 2023 had been successfully held at Datchet, West Oxfordshire and Parkstone and so the Eastern Championships were eagerly anticipated.
15 boats competed over the two days with several Circuit regulars joining the strong home fleet comprising of: Mark Penny and Sarah Mason in Loose Knots, Richard Stone and Catherine Gore in Muffin, Brian and Liz McKenzie in Hercules’ Hound, Mark Lee and George Buxton in Coronoation, Tim and Jacqueline Townsend in Intermezzo, Philip Clarabut and Ed Hobart-Smith in Knot Rushin’, Mike Pimm and Peter Dilley in Wild Thing II and Ian Foxwell and Sam Pygall in Brian’s Boat, The visitors included reigning International, European and National Champions Michael McNamara and Simon Townsend, Andrew and Tom Wilson, Bill Whitney and John Shelton and recent West Oxfordshire Winners Nigel and Belinda O’Donnell. There was also a very welcome contingent from Blackwater Sailing Club (Steve and George Perkins and Martyn Hare and Dave Evans). Sadly, John Clementson and Guy Marks could not attend but they had the consolidation of winning the Graduate nationals at Northampton Sailing Club over the same weekend (well done John and Guy).
Saturday dawned with a reasonable easterly breeze of around 8-12 knots. This direction was promising from an event perspective did necessitate a lengthy sail down to the race area that caught out a couple of the competitors as the Race team cracked on with the start sequence over a well-set windward/leeward course. The race area was located in Long Reach providing open water for a near perfect arena for the weekend’s racing. Andrew and Tom Wilson set the tone for the weekend by taking the first bullet of the weekend, followed by Michael McNamara and Simon Townsend who were slightly late arriving to the race arena alongside a couple of other competitors. Local MYC team and a new pairing on the circuit in 2023, Ian Foxwell and Sam Pygall took the final podium place in the event curtain raiser.
The top two (Wilson/Wilson and McNamara/Townsend) swapped places in race 2 to tighten things as the top of the leader board with Foxwell/Pygall again taking 3rd. Behind these consistent pairings, significant place swapping was occurring, highlighting the closeness of the fleet.
This general competitiveness to the racing over the weekend was aptly demonstrated in the third race of the day which probably involved the closest racing on the circuit for many a year and certainly in this author’s recollection. Battling all the way around and never more than a few metres apart with multiple place changes, a virtual blanket finish saw Foxwell/Pygall round the final leeward in first and snatch a win through some judicious covering, followed by the strong Bill Whitney/John Shelton pairing and local MYC legend’s Richard Stone and Catherine Gore in 3rd. The Wilsons pinched a critical 4th place ahead of McNamara/Townsend which meant things were close across the top 3 after the three races.
With a dubious forecast for Day 2, the race team pressed ahead to get ahead of schedule and held a fourth race of the day. The Wilsons got back to the front of the fleet and led from start to finish to get a firm grip on the event. Foxwell/Pygall closed out an excellent first day with a 2nd and Richard and Catherine continued their climb up the leader board with another podium. These two teams represented the best performances for MYC. Overnight the event leaders were the Wilsons, followed closely by Foxwell/Pygall and McNamara/Townsend.
As per a growing Wayfarer tradition across many of our open meetings, the fleet enjoyed free beer courtesy of the sponsors and selection of cakes post the racing which provided an excellent opportunity to debrief on the day’s events. The evening’s entertainment laid on by the Club for competitors included a drinks reception, three course dinner and a quiz compered by Mark Penny.
Two races were scheduled for the Sunday to close out the open meeting. Initially, the wind was close to non-existent, so a quick decision was made on towing to get the fleet to the same racing arena as Saturday. The flat calm was eventually broken when the wind did fill in and continued to build from the south. The course was shifted to the sausage-triangle configuration which offered some alternative downwind tactics but familiar faces were at the front again. The Wilson team took another bullet in race 5 and put themselves in a great position for the weekend overall. Following some close racing, Stone/Gore pipped Foxwell/Pygall on the line with McNamara/Townsend coming 4th. Sunday entrants only John Goudie and Sam Boniface showed some form by coming 5th.The final race of the championships was held in the strongest winds of the weekend and with the added addition of a westerly component.
The triangle added some extra thrills with the fastest spinnaker sailing of the weekend but presenting some opportunities for it to go horribly wrong. The Wilsons confirmed their dominance of the weekend by taking the final gun of the weekend, winning with a tremendous demonstration of Wayfarer sailing skill. Craftinsure sponsor and MYC member Mark Lee, crewed by George Buxton, made a fantastic start in the last race, powering off the line and leading at the windward mar. This team gave the Wilsons a run for their money for two of the four laps before succumbing and eventually being reeled in by the McNamara and Townsend team, but still finishing a very creditable 3rd place for their best result of the weekend. Brian and Liz McKenzie also came to the fore in this race, finishing a credible fourth.
After six races and one discard, the results were decided. The Wilsons showing their class with a comprehensive victory, including 4 bullets over the series. The other two individual racing winning pairs, Foxwell and Pygall and McNamara and Townsend made up the podium, with local team Richard Stone and Catherine Gore making it a great open for Medway with two boats in the top four.
On behalf of the visitors, Andrew thanked everybody at the Medway Yacht Club for their hospitality, but especially the race team led by Jamie Blair, for a wonderful weekend of sailing. Again, thanks must also go to the event sponsors, Wayfarer Wines, Craftinsure, Hartley Boats Pirates Cave and Shepherd Neame.
The next event on the Craftinsure National Circuit is the National Championships to be held from the 30th June to the 2nd July at Dabchicks Sailing Club where a number of teams will be looking to do well and capitalise on good form in the first half of the season.