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Solo Winters Championships 2023.

Great picture of Oliver in full flight on his way to first overall.

Overall : RESULTS

Noble Marine Solo Winter Championship 2023

Northampton Sailing Club hosted the Noble Marine Winter Championship on a cold and blustery Sunday 26th March, the 29 competitors enjoying some very competitive racing on the famous Pitsford Reservoir. Whilst pre-entries topped out at 37, the argument to stay in bed and listen to the rain drops as they peppered bedroom window panes was obviously too strong for some.

I had made the 240 mile journey from Brixham with my good lady and this allowed me plenty of time to reminisce on my own experiences of racing on this stretch of water and also reflect on a story my father told me many times. In a nutshell, it was windy, he fell in and with Solo 186 fully inverted, a gust blew the hull clear of the water. To be fair, those wooden masts must have been pretty buoyant so maybe some truth in that tale.

I am unsure as to when my wife’s boredom level was reached but at some point, possibly quite early into the trip she directed me to drive her to her mothers house.

With that task complete I continued up a waterlogged M1, doing my best to avoid fellow drivers with a lust for aqua-planing. It was good to see that the pot hole problem in Devon is not exclusive, some of the larger craters were real trailer breakers. I took a moment to consider if Noble Marine, the Solo Class Insurer would/have received claims for damage suffered in such incidents, my guess would be yes, since they protect our Solos 365 days a year!

I arrived unscathed, the leaden sky was still full of moisture, the toasty climate of my Volvo V70’s cabin interior evaporating the moment I opened the door.

Competitors, brows furrowed and faces tortured, battled to ready their Solos as the Artic blast cut through inadequate insulation, their bodies shaking in an effort to force warm blood from vital organs to their extremities. Fingers would be needed to pull and release kicking strap control lines in just an hour or two, feet would be required for maximum hiking mode, no wonder they were looking uncomfortable.

I togged myself up in my Bainbridge Aqua Marine Offshore kit and sauntered out into the tundra, easing my collar so I didn’t overheat, only my five year old trainers were letting the side down, I estimated four hours until frostbite set in.

PRO Neil Barford provided a short and forthright briefing which was only punctuated by complete silence from the crowd when he initially confirmed it would be 3 races with all to count! Our Championship Organiser Steve Ede, seeing life drain from his fellow competitors faces acted quickly, his suggestion to include a discard was agreed and the sailors contemplated a very early bath.

Out onto the water then and with the icy wind coming from the North East of the lake, I estimate it was originally from Sunderland, the fleet set off for race 1.

Race 1 F4/5

I was aboard the lead boat and by that `I mean a safety rib, not the leading Solo, though some of the fleet could well have benefitted from my ample leverage, such was the strength of the gusts.

I had been shielding my Nikon P950 with a long life M+S carrier bag having misplaced my waterproof pouch somewhere deep in the bowels of the shed but fortunately the rain dissipated within a few minutes of the start gun. I folded the bag away, it would go back in the cupboard under the sink with the other four thousand.

The left of the course looked favoured and Oliver Davenport quickly took control, punching through the aggressive chop with his trapeze like hiking style, such is the leverage of the lad. The top of the beat was unpredictable, variances in wind direction making it difficult to gauge a lay line but Davenport played the shifts perfectly to hold a nice lead at mark 1 before blasting off to the first gybe mark in the reverse P course. Fergus Barnham rounded second, his bright yellow gloves providing a nice visual contrast to the grey backdrop, something a photographer of limited imagination always appreciates. Charlie Nunn and Jamie Morgan, sailing a brand new Winder were next with Chris Brown and Steve Ede biting at their heels. Someone had ditched it in half way up the beat and with safety team in place, had a little swim around before righting his craft. having witnessed this new fad of wild water swimming I would assume it’s warmer in the water than out of it.

Davenport continued to assert down the second reach and run before heading back up through the line to start lap 2. It was pretty exciting for the following pack as the wind increased, Morgan and Ede making great Elvstrom/Wells saves from almost certain oblivion. Brown, Pepperdine and Jasper Barnham were four, five and six with Kev Hall, Mike Dray and Dave Lucas in the hunt.

Lap 2 and 3 were hard fought but no one could get near Davenport who took the bullet from Jasper Barnham and Fergus Barnham with Nunn and Morgan completing the top five.

Race 2 F4 becoming F2

The pin looked favoured and Nunn, David Reekie, Martin Honnor and Dave Lucas hitting it with speed, Morgan and Davenport were slightly further up the line. Having seen the overall results I can tell you that Mr Honnor was just a little too punchy. The fleet tacked back into the middle as the wind swung left with Matthew Frary out on the far side with Fergus. The fleet were getting close to the top mark now and once again Davenport had judged the shifts perfectly, albeit with some added upwind speed to burn. He rounded with Frary tacking right behind him but disaster as he capsized right in front of me. Fergus Barnham inherited second with Morgan, Honnor and Dave Lucas next. Frary must have been cursing but fortunately my audio could not pick up his lamented cries and sad face.

The reaches were fun but the run was where the action was and Barnham hooked into better pressure to lead Davenport at the bottom with Morgan, Tim Lewis, Pepperdine and Honnor fighting it out as the next punishing lap began. Barnham, Davenport and Morgan extended with Pepperdine in a strong fourth.

At this point my concentration was broken by some mumbling in the background. My rib driver and his crew, who had been acting furtively for several minutes announced that they had coffee and were going to park up in a quiet spot, away from the elements. Oh how lovely I thought as I looked out to where the battle was raging, now I know how Bligh felt.The final lap was decisive, Davenport choosing the right of the course and picking up a big lift to extend away for an easy win. Barnham, Morgan, Pepperdine and Brown completed the top five.

The fleet were tired but the PRO was keen to get race 3 underway so we were into the sequence quicker than it takes to type it.

Race 3 F4 becoming F2

A nice even spread across the start line, good line setting and accurate time management, well done to the PRO.

Davenport was feeling ballsy and set up for a pin end start, with a depleted fleet and 2 bullets, why wouldn’t you? Morgan was easing his Solo down the start line with the seconds ticking down and with Fergus Barnham a no show, a win would give him second overall so all to play for. I heard a shout from the committee end and sure enough, Davenport had to crash tack to avoid Morgan, just sneaking inside the outer distance mark as the fleet set off up another punishing beat. Horey, Nunn and Pepperdine also chose the left while Dave Lucas and Jasper Barnham who, incidentally was wearing a hat of some volume, punched out to the right. I can only assume that is where he keeps his teapot.

I peeled back the reassuringly strong velcro from my Bainbridge Aqua Marine Offshore jacket and eased the cleverly inbuilt zipper from my Long John, the top zip, not the easy entry bottom one, hoping some of the heat would fall to where my feet used to be and instructed my rib driver to take me to the top mark.

Davenport was once again leading but Morgan was keeping him honest while Nunn, Horey and Pepperdine did all they could to reduce the deficit. The breeze had eased to 10-12 mph making sailing a pleasant experience for the competitors, though they were already shot to pieces.

Morgan took the lead up the second beat, Davenport had possibly rolled the dice, hoping for a righty which didn’t materialise this time and Horey took over third from Nunn, which incidentally, is higher than Spurs will finish this year.

At the gun it was Morgan with the bullet, a first of many in his new Winder/Superspars/P+B with Davenport second in a similar set up and Horey third. Pepperdine and Nunn completed the top five and the fleet returned to shore and a nice hot meal.

I did interview Oliver and Jamie post race but unfortunately had failed to turn the microphone on, must do better.

On the equipment front, Superspars M2 filled the first 7 places while Winder are the builder of choice. P+B were 1-2-3 which sets the benchmark for the season.

Special thanks to Northampton’s race team and the hospitality team for being so accommodating to the Solo Class and to Maria E Franco and Kev Hall for the club-NSCA interaction.

Noble Marine are the Solo Class insurer and have supported us since the mid 90’s, we massively appreciate the service they offer.

Goat Marine provided some spot prizes and these were warmly welcomed by the winners.

This event forms part of the North Sails Super Series, a load of big events where Solos rock up and race against each other, home and abroad so get one and join in.

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