Wanderer National Championships,
Tudor Sailing Club Langstone Harbour
May 27/28th 2017
The one when - 'Fortune Favoured The Foolhardy'
A spate of retirements from racing, family commitments on a Bank Holiday weekend and late withdrawals led to a dispiriting fleet of only three Wanderers arriving at Tudor Sailing Club to contest the 2017 National Championships, as part of the Langstone Harbour Regatta. Such numbers are a long way from the two dozen or so in the Class’ heydays of the 1990’s.
Last year’s winner, Philip Meadowcroft, was to be partnered by his regular race crew, Adam Wickenden in the Ian Porter-built ‘Black Mischief’ W 1541. David Bardwell was to be helmed by Jack Mann in race ready Anglo Marine-built ‘Teazle’ W 1004, fresh from her April victory at West Oxfordshire SC. Paul Yeadon and Liz North were back for the fray, after a year’s absence, in Gavin Barr’s Hartley-built ‘Surprise’ W1626.
Conditions for the first day were going to be testing with racing conducted under leaden skies. A heavy tide was running across the course, kicking up a challenging sea which was, egged on by blustery south westerly winds gusting regularly over 20 knots. Five fleets were on the start line, including similarly depleted numbers for the ISO and Buzz isometric skiffs, contesting their own national championships. The prospect of ploughing through boats on reciprocal courses would add to the weekend’s fun.
The ‘Three Musketeer’s’ lined up for a clean first start and a Windward- Leeward course with the crew of W1626 rapidly discovering her ‘Surprise’ - a complete inability to point, particularly on starboard tack, owing to a bent mast incurred inverted at Whitstable whilst in the hands of another. Having to foot off at 10 degrees below the course of the leading ‘Teazle’ was going to make for a challenging race.
By the windward mark and first spinnaker hoist, ‘Teazle’ and ‘Black Mischief’ were fighting for the lead with ‘Surprise’ trailing the leading pair. Conditions were relatively benign for the first run with the fleet rounding the bottom mark in good order, Yeadon having made up some ground before the next beat. However, matters were going to change as the conditions worsened and the beat became a long hard slog before the next downwind leg. The earlier smiles of ‘Teazle’s’ crew were soon to be wiped clean away by as they span out of control in an all too familiar ‘1,2,3 Wanderer Death-Roll‘ (captured for posterity by photographer Will Stokely). With ‘Surprise’ gaining ground again on the run and ‘Teazle’s crew swimming for it, ‘Black Mischief’ would have to conjure up some extra reserves for the final lap and hold on to their lead.
Having pulled away again on the beat from the ailing ‘Surprise’, Philip and Adam decided that discretion was the better part of valour and kept their kite in the chute for the final downwind leg . Behind them and with nothing else to lose, Paul and Liz went for the hoist in what were now ‘lively’ conditions. Playing the angles seemed the safest option and they disappeared off on a blinder of a reach. Gybe executed and still on the dance floor, they came screaming back in to round the bottom mark on ‘Black Mischief’s heels, some 20 seconds behind them at the finish.
Race 2 could not come soon enough for the three cold crews and a quick clean get away was ensured. Having learned their lesson, the crew of ‘Surprise’ were bang on the line but this time to leeward of the other two boats and could foot away in clear air for the first beat. They were still trailing significantly at the first windward mark but closed again on the off-wind legs with some nifty spinnaker work, dropping and re-hoisting at the gybe if the winds were too frisky.
Often in a race or a regatta there is a turning point and for the crew of W1626, this came on the next beat. Choppier water to the right hand side of the course indicated the tide had started to turn in the channel and that this would be the favoured side. Despite the handicap of a wonky mast, they rounded the top mark in front of the other two boats, threw caution to the ever increasing wind and hoisted their trusty blue and white spinnaker. As they disappeared off in sheets of spray, the others followed.
Death or glory beckoned on the gybe. For ‘Teazle’, it would be the former as their boom parted company with the gooseneck. The crew of ‘Surprise’ disappeared off on the next reach, followed at a distance by ‘Black Mischief’ only for the gap to inexorably close again on the beat – not helped on W1626 by a recalcitrant bailer, what had become a very nasty chop and half of the retreating tide swilling around in the bilges.
After one final, buttock-tightening, rollicking run to the leeward mark and another rapid triangle, ‘Surprise’ had eked out a comfortable lead on ‘Black Mischief’ by the finish. With both boats on a first and a second, Yeadon and North entered the ever-welcoming Locks Sailing Club for a BBQ and the FA Cup Final in first position, after the benefit of ‘count back’. In this case, the first countback (which boat had more ‘firsts’?) did not work, so the second count back was which boat has the higher finish in the latest race ? Three races needed to be run before a discard could be taken.
Day 2 was a severe anti-climax after the breezes and waves of Saturday. Very light wind and watery sunlight beckoned the fleets out on to the water. The crew of ‘Surprise’ had tinkered with their rig to get it more vertical and any of the three boats could in theory still win the event.
Having reached the start area and the committee boat, the tide build, the winds died, rotated, and died again. Lowering grey clouds gathered and the combined fleets either drifted or tied up to a handy water skiing club’s floating platform. Patience became the name of the game and, whilst the committee tried several times to adjust to the conditions, that patience started to rapidly wear thin.
The waiting game was interrupted by the arrival of a water ski boat and ‘Johnston’, an amiable Alsatian who paced the deck of the pontoon, searching in vain for the nearest tree. And then we waited some more, with the rain now trickling down our necks and no promise of wind. After a mere two and a half hour’s, the ‘AP over A’ flags were hoisted, racing was postponed for the day – which rather ingloriously left Yeadon and North with their mitts on the National Championship Trophy, again.
Thanks are due to everyone at Tudor, Locks and Langstone Sailing Clubs for hosting the event and for being so accommodating despite the poor showing of numbers from all three fleets holding the National Championships. There was a lot of discussion regarding the diminishing numbers for race events and this particularly poor turnout. Questions will be raised in the WCOA National Committee as there are potentially serious implications for the very survival of racing within the Class.
Report by Paul Yeadon Photos by Will Stokely
Langstone Harbour Race Weekend 2017
Tudor Sailing Club, Locks Sailing Club, Langstone Sailing Club
WANDERER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS 2017 - FINAL RESULTS
Race 1 - WANDERER Fleet - Saturday 27th May at 11:45
Race 2 - WANDERER Fleet - Saturday 27th May
Sailwave Scoring Software 2.23.4
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