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Gill Inland Championship Report

Gill Inland Championship

The morning light revealed some sizeable cracks in the ceiling above me, a feature not mentioned in the Booking .com reviews but this gave me a good reason to exit the bijou single bed in the luxuriously named Carlton Hotel. The view from my room, a brick wall and alleyway, could have featured in a Jack the Ripper film and I studied a crumpled crisp bag as it tumbled down it erratically. If it had gone left it would have avoided the puddle, instead its right in the xxxx.

On the plus side, there was some breeze so I headed for Draycote Water, camera equipment charged, oilskins ready and enthusiasm restored.

The club was already busy with Solo sailors preparing for day 2 of the event and with no briefing, they were on the water by 10.15 a.m. I hastily consumed my sausage and bacon butty and drained the last dregs of tea from it’s mug before hailing my media ride.

Andy, my rib driver greeted me with the words “do you have cake” which always makes me feel defensive so I explained the kit bag was full of equipment and stepped aboard with the tentativeness of Neil Armstrong.

The breeze, much like day 1 was from the south and disappointingly weak in its strength, the clouds, higher in the sky and, like any good boy band, threatening to break up.

Race 4

Breeze at 8-10mph from 180 degrees and mark 1 looked about 0.5 of a mile away.

I reached into my kitbag and pulled out a Mars bar, gesturing to my driver to watch where he was steering while I surreptitiously chewed the sticky chocolate, they say it helps you work, rest and play.

A clean start with the majority towards the pin end, Jack Lewis closest with Horey, Gillard, Swain and big Dave Lucas holding for the gun. Horey, not averse to drama on the start line hit the rib and went into irons as the fleet cleared off, fortunately I have got that on camera and its content will provide a great Strictly Solo article in the next mag.

Wells, Armstrong, Tunnicliffe and Thomas popped out of the committee end and headed off right, possibly wanting to be close to the media rib so I could capture their expertise as they went the wrong way.

At the top mark it was Gillard from Davenport, Brown, Swain, Mathew Frary and Charlie Nunn who was enjoying his experience in his FRP Winder after campaigning a Gosling for a few years. Lewis misjudged his tack into the mark and the resulting turns cost him some valuable places as the fleet soaked down to the gybe mark. Tunnicliffe had managed to extricate himself from the right of the course and rounded in the top 15.

Brown worked himself through to second by the bottom of the course with Davenport, Swain and Frary right behind. The second beat continued to test the sailors, lines of breeze spreading down the course from various angles and Gillard was up to the task, eeking out a few extra lengths while Davenport, Morgan and Nunn moved up the leader board.

The triangle was hampered by the first reach being in the lee of the land and the second reach, very broad so planing was not flat out, despite a slight increase in pressure.

Gillard held down the final deep reach for his third bullet of the weekend with Davenport, Morgan, Frary and Nunn completing the top five.

Race 5

After consultation with a few of the sailors, PRO Dave Rowe reconfigured the course to a windward-leeward of 3 laps, the downwind element would hopefully provide more opportunity to gain places and lose them!

I directed my rib driver towards the pin end, his concentration on craft avoidance giving me time to sneak a bite of a second Mars bar (just incase I dropped the first one).

Wind at 190 degrees and 12-14 mph.

Pin end favoured and Tim Wade decided he would utilise his personal handicap, punching out 15 seconds early before heading down the line on port, windward side of it,(that is another Strictly Solo item covered). Tunnicliffe was lured into the Wade mindset and returned but was UFD as was Wells and Hopwood which was a shame really as they all featured in the top five at mark 1.

So, first there was Frary from Hoppy UFD, Wells UFD, Chris Bunn, Davenport and Gillard. The sky was darkening but the pressure was moderate with just the odd gust of menace, one nearly taking out Frary who nearly lost the lead but stayed dry. The fleet split down the course and at the leeward gate it was Frary with Hopwood, Davenport and Gillard all over him. A nice vein of pressure rolled in and sailors had to be on their toes as the gate marks loomed up. The sun also made an appearance and all was good in my world. The breeze had built to 20 mph and the big boys were in their element, Davenport leading in from the left with Hopwood UFD, Tunnicliffe UFD. Gillard was next and by the bottom mark he was back up to second, his high hot angles and therefore high planing speed a real eye opener.

At the end of the three laps it was Davenport with his second bullet of the series, the increase in wind strength really optimising his height, and agility while Gillard in 2nd was able to hang on upwind and scream down the run at angles more at home in an asymmetric. Swain moved up for 3rd with Frary and young Harry Lucas in 5th, which doesn’t bode well for his dad.

Race 6

So, straight into race 6 and very efficiently run by the Draycote race team. Gillard had already done enough to secure the title of Gill Inland Champion but he is a professional and competing is in his DNA.

Tunnicliffe nailed the pin end with Davenport just having to decelerate for a second as he was almost over. Brown, Nunn, Wells and Horey followed as the wind built to full-on/overpowered depending if you were +/- 90kgs. Gillard had started at the committee end, and was in ninja hiking mode along with Frary and Armstrong.

At the top mark Davenport led, and with a healthy lead over Tunnicliffe, Brown, Morgan and Nunn who was clearly not affected by the blow to his head from his boom in race 5.

The wind was really picking up now and Davenport excelled, the Superspar M2 taken to its limit on bend tolerance, given that Oliver has a hiking style with the leverage of a New York Laker. Not far behind him was Gillard, and this displays the Solos unique quality of optimisation given that Tom is a tad shorter. These two battled around the sun drenched arena like the hare and the tortoise, Davenport higher/faster upwind, Gillard higher/faster downwind.

Cloud of a very menacing demeanour filled the sky to the west of Draycote and I directed my driver into shore, not wanting to bust my Nikon P950 or corrupt the full SD card that was slotted within it.

The fleet rounded the top mark for the last time, just a simple run down to the finish and this, apart from Jonathan Woodward who spun out from a gust specifically aimed at him was done without much drama. Davenport held from a fast planing Gillard with Morgan, Lucas and Tunnicliffe completing the top 5. What followed was as dramatic as the squall which hit the fleet just as they left the shore at the Nationals in July. The wind veered 90 degrees to the west and increased to gusts in excess of 35 mph, the angle meaning that the fleet would have a dead run back to the safety of the club. Many Solos capsized, some blew off their trollies but fortunately the rescue teams were on hand and everyone returned safely. Had the squall hit ten minutes earlier it would have made for great footage!

Therefore, our overall Gill Inland Champion is Tom Gillard, 3 points clear of Oliver Davenport with Jonathan Swain 3rd, Andy Tunnicliffe 4th and former Inland Champion Chris Brown 5th.

NSCA President Patrick Burns, ably assisted by Jo Catterall handed out some fabulous Gill kit to those who were worthy, Gill produce some awesome kit and I would direct all our Solo members to their site.

1st Vet Chris Brown

1st GM Vince Horey

1st Sep Graham Wilson

1st Lady Brenda Hoult

1st Junior Jack Lewis

Huge thanks to Gill and Goat Marine for their support over the weekend and thanks also to Draycote who welcomed the fleet at the last minute.

This event concluded the North Sails Super Series and a full report will be published asap.

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