What a wonderful time of the year the Autumn is for dinghy sailing! Thirty five boats sailed in absolutely perfect conditions at Warsash Sailing Club for the British Finn and D-One Open event.
The two fleets of largely Devoti built boats sailed the end-of-year championship in fantastic sailing conditions, with 31 Finns and 4 Devoti D-Ones. A clear briefing from the race team established the programme of racing and the sailing area. A slow sail in light airs to the Hill Head plateau got the fleets out to the sailing area and allowed for some rig tweaking along the way.
Race officer Nigel Russell and his race team supported by an armada of mark layers, delivered first class racing for the two-day event. Setting fair and true windward-leeward courses in the initially light south-south westerly breeze and flooding tide was a real challenge for the race team, who managed it with aplomb. After an initial AP and a couple of aborted starts as the wind velocity came and went, race one got away at the first attempt. The D-One’s powered away and showed the Finn fleet just how strong the tide was. Jason Pyke and Rob Jones battled around the course for line honours which were eventually taken by Jason. The Finns, starting under what became a ubiquitous Uniform flag also got away with only three boats transgressing and venturing over the start line early. The fleet, led by Martin Hughes at the windward mark, made the most of a new line of breeze and left the initial leaders well behind as they sailed around them. The race was won by a sailor in his first year in the Finn – David Mitchell, who proved that years of sailing other boats are readily transferable to the Finn. He was closely followed by Kristian Sjoberg and Fergus Allen. Warsash was also the first event for Under 23 sailor Toby Griffen and Master Tom Gissane, both of whom reported that they really enjoyed the event and the friendliness of the Finn fleet.
Race two saw more boats clustered at the committee boat end of the start line, ready to quickly tack onto port to make the most of the stronger tide in the main channel to gain the lee bow to make the windward mark. Again, Jason Pyke led the D-One fleet and took line honours from Rob Jones. New leaders in the Finn fleet saw John Heyes, Allen Burrell and Kristian Sjoberg, battle for line honours with Allen taking his first win closely followed by John and Kristian third.
Race three was started in a few knots more breeze and even more intent from the fleets to start at the committee boat end of the line, but the strong tide held everyone behind the line making for two clean starts. Rob Jones, fed up with second place took control of this race from the start powering away off the start-line to only build his lead to take the win – reversing the previous races with Jason in second place. Kristian Sjoberg again showed great speed through this race and led for most of it only to be taken on the last downwind leg by Allen Burrell who took line honours, with Lawrence Crispin showing better form to take third.
Tea, coffee and a multitude of much needed cake were waiting for sailors in the clubhouse, providing time to reminisce over the events of the day before packing boats away ready for the evening entertainment. A truly splendid meal to meet the needs of hungry, hefty sailors was provided by Alexanders in the main hall of Warsash Sailing Club. After the meal, the Finn class held an auction, in aid of the Richard Blowman, Finnspiration appeal. Richard Blowman was an enthusiastic Finn sailor who tragically lost his life whilst competing in a Finn event at Keyhaven earlier in the year. To keep his memory alive the BFA is raising funds to buy his boat to encourage new Finn sailors into the class. The auction comprised a variety of donated Finn and dinghy sailing equipment, including a T-shirt signed by the 2021 British Sailing Team Olympians kindly supplied by the Dunhill Finn finder Champion Eddie Warden Owen. Other goodies and equipment were generously donated by Finn sailors Giles Scott, David Howlett, Fergus Allen and Allen Burrell. Such was the excitement in bidding and competition for items that over £1400.00 was raised for the Finnspiration appeal.
Sunday morning dawned with many sailors lighter in the pocket than the night before but ready to sail in four races in the more consistent 14-20 knots from the South. A long beat against the tide faced the fleet in order to get to the start area off Solent Breezes. Everyone made it in time to find a similar tidal situation to the previous day but with a lot more breeze and a very lumpy sea. Again, the up-tide committee boat end of the line was favoured by most. In the D-One fleet Rob Jones hit the line at speed, dominating as the windward boat and establishing an early lead took control of the race from the front. Jason Pyke battled around the course with Michelle Collier-Brooks, who took second behind Rob. The Finn fleet again saw Martin Hughes round the top mark first and battle with Lawrence Crispin and Allen Burrell but he was overtaken at the leeward mark by Lawrence who went on to win with Allen in third. With the Oscar flag flying all day, sun and some useful waves, the downwind legs provided a pumping fest for those that had the energy or was a matter of hanging on for dear life for others!
Race five saw a similar pattern in the D-Ones, but this time Jason Pyke got the better of Michelle to claim second place. Over eagerness in the Finn fleet saw six boats on the pre-start side of the course early, one of whom was Lawrence Crispin who put in a sterling effort through the race to finish first but then saw his number on the board as UFD. That left Allen Burrell to gain his third first place and Martin Hughes to take second and the omnipresent and competitive Kristian taking third.
After a swift turnaround, race six in the D-One’s was again dominated by Rob Jones and Jason Pyke, after a tight start with all boats bunched together at the committee boat end of the start line and with the southerly breeze a knot or two lighter. Lawrence Crispin took control of the Finn fleet early in the race and dominated, leaving Kristian Sjoberg and Kieron Holt to take the other podium positions.
By the fourth and final race the Finn fleet was showing signs of weariness with 13 boats heading for home before the start. The D-Ones all saw the race out with Rob Jones consolidating his dominance in the breeze with Michelle Collier-Brookes taking second from Jason Pyke. Kristian Sjoberg led the Finn fleet from the start and by the end had a very strong lead, followed by Lawrence Crispin and Jim Downer (who had sailed over for the day from his home club of Gurnard on the other side of the Solent) in third. With the wind more manageable and the bumpy seaway flatter with the turn of the tide, the downwind rides were pure joy. All the Finn sailors left on the race course emptied their tanks to give every last effort on the downwind legs of the 2 lap windward/leeward courses. An exhausted but hugely contented fleet then reached back to the Hamble River in the autumn sunshine to recover with more tea and cake before the prize giving.
Overall fleet wins went to Rob Jones, followed by Jason Pyke and Michelle Collier-Brookes in the D-One’s. In the Finn fleet, Kristian Sjoberg took the overall win by a two-point margin, followed by Allen Burrell and Lawrence Crispin – showing the benefit of all three regularly racing together at Thorpe Bay Yacht Club.
The Warsash open meeting marked the final event in the 2022 British Finn Association Travellers Series. Trophies were awarded to the top Finn sailors in each age category across eight Traveller events and the overall winner’s historic Silver Finn trophy. The 2022 series saw a healthy 74 sailors compete in the series, demonstrating the undying appeal of the Finn, despite its loss of Olympic status. The winners of each age category all receive a £100 grant towards the cost of entering a Finn World or European Championships in 2023.
Overall British Finn Traveller Series 2022 Winner: Lawrence Crispin
First Master: Andy Couch
First Grand Master: Lawrence Crispin
First Great Grand Master: John Heyes
First Legend: Howard Sellars
Traveller Series results 2022available here:
Report by Martin Hughes with John Heyes
Photos by Nick Hilsden
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