Southern Area Championships – hosted by Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club June 17-18 2023, sponsored by Suntouched sailboats.
23 Finns lined up to compete in the 2023 Southern Championships hosted by Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club on Hayling Island. The weekend forecast was for light southeasterly winds with the potential for thunderstorms on both days.
Saturday morning winds were calm with just enough breeze to enable most sailors to get out of Mengeham creek and as far as the incoming tide off Hayling Island Sailing Club, from where the race support team had to tow the Finns to the start area. (A salutary reminder to many of the importance of complying with the class rules (C.5.2) and having a minimum 8m x 8mm diameter floating towline handy in your boat. The correct technique is to not raise your centerboard, attach the next boat to your towline not another part of your boat, and sit back in the boat with your head down and kicker released.)
The wind began to fill in after a 30-minute postponement, on the west side of Haying Bay, settling in a consistent 5-8 knots for the duration of the racing.
The first race got cleanly away with John Greenwood and Martin Hughes leading the fleet down the first run and around the left-hand gate. A small group led by Howard Sellars, Richard Sharp and John Heyes rounded the right-hand gate and quickly took ground over the leaders rounding the windward mark just behind John Greenwood. A tactical downwind followed along with a tight battle up the final beat to the finish with Super Legend Howard Sellars taking second and Martin Hughes clawing back some ground to take the finish third in a photo finish with Richard Sharp.
Race 2 again saw dominance from those who started at the pin end of the start-line with Matthew Walker and Tim Carver leading from start to finish in close proximity with John Greenwood in third.
The third race of the day started in 8-9 knots, with the fleet splitting 50:50 to either side of the course, with those starting at the pin end looking good to begin with and gaining up the first beat. The second time around the tables were dramatically turned as the early leaders took the left hand gate and the following pack the righthand and the mid fleet all going back to the left hand gate. The wind slowly went right, making it harder for those near to the harbour entrance where the tide was strongly ebbing to get to the finish. The boats who rounded the left-hand gate all benefitted as they lee-bowed the tide further from the shore that lifted them to the new windward mark that was now the finish. Matt Walker gained most and took his second victory of the day with John Greenwood second and a very speedy Allen Burrell in third. This well-managed race enabled the fleet to sail comfortably home and just get back to Mengeham before tide got too low.
Sunday dawned with the reduced threat of thunderstorms but the increased concern over the wind holding up as the rain came in. More imminently the lengthy towing operation on Saturday had taken its toll on the Club launch and support vessels, meaning towing was out of the question. As a result, race officer Robert Macdonald made the decision to hold the racing in Chichester Harbour over the Pilsey Sands. Sailors who had prepared their tide and wind strategies for Hayling Bay had to throw them away as the intricacies of the harbour tides took over
Race 4 saw a couple of false starts but control was quickly regained by the seasoned PRO with a black flag start. Strangely, everyone behaved and a clean start ensued, with many favoring the pin end and a long leg to the east to get away from the flooding current in the Emsworth channel.
A significant wind shift near the top of the course meant several early tackers were suddenly lifted sufficiently to lay the windward mark, whilst others overstood. John Greenwood led from start to finish with Martin Hughes and Lawrence Crispin in close proximity. Rounding the leeward mark in this order for the last leg it all looked cut and dried but a tactical error by Martin Hughes and good sailing from Lawrence Crispin and John Heyes saw him demoted from second to fourth.
Race 5 got away at the second attempt with the tide just beginning to turn and push boats over the line. John Greenwood looked to be off to a flying start at the committee boat end when his main halyard came un-cleated and the mainsail fell down. Recovery from this last place start looked impossible but he managed to climb through the fleet to take a very credible 8th. Meanwhile, at the front, Allen Burrell returning from a shoulder replacement took his first win of the year with Lawrence Crispin and Martin Hughes in second and third respectively and the consistent Matt Walker 4th.
Race 6 got away cleanly with the fleet split across the line. By now the tide in the channel was beginning to turn and a few sailors tacked early to get in the new ebb tide. However, the early leader, starting from the pin end, at the windward mark was the fleet’s youngest (Under 23) competitor George Coles, leading the fleet around the top mark. Despite an old sail, he held his own to the leeward mark, when John Greenwood and Martin Hughes rounded the left hand buoy and continued into the tide. Others followed into the tide whilst a significant number tacked onto the bank on a small lift. Sadly, for them the wind shifted and lifted those in the tide all the way to the windward mark putting Allen Burrell, Laurence Crispin and Martin Hughes in commanding places to dominate the run and finish in that order.
Much talk on the dinghy park amongst the leading sailors as to who would take the minor places. John Greenwood was a clear winner but with Lawrence Crispin winning the day with three seconds, it was all to play for. When the results were calculated it was very close with places 2-5 separated by just three points.
Once again Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club race management team produced a stellar weekend of sailing and fantastic hospitality. What a great club with a highly experienced and proficient race team who really knows how to organise and manage a championship. The quality of the racing was closely matched with the quality of the sandwiches and cake available to all at the prize giving, with some generous vouchers for the winners from sponsor Suntouched Sailboats. The British Finn fleet looks forward to being invited back next year.
Report by Martin Hughes
Photos by Andy Gray
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