Updated: May 16, 2022
Solo Spring Championship 2022
Felpham Sailing Club played host to the Solo fleet on Saturday 7th May, and with a favourable forecast of 10-15 mph (Met office), 7-12 knots (XC Weather) and/or 13-17 knots Windguru, I loaded my camera equipment into the V70 and set off on the 175-mile trip to Bognor Regis. The county of Devon had provided me with some early sunshine and this extended into Somerset but by the time I had reached my eventual destination, cloud cover from the north blotted out the sun and the side effect of warmth. The boat park was a hive of activity but this quickly evaporated when the competitors saw the size of the bacon door step Richie Lovering was consuming, I therefore had to ‘test one’ for research. Once consumed and sated I returned to boat park bimbling, walking off the slight cramp only whole-wheat can create. There seem to be many new builds this year, possibly as a result of hitting the 6K mark and there are also new faces in the fleet, and by that, I mean new sailors, still with old faces though. Highlights of my factual mission include seeing Mike Dray’s lime detailed Winder, Tom Gillard’s purple bottom and a very tasteful, Luna Rossa inspired grey hull with orange topside, owned by Noel Wright. It was pleasing to see a couple of woodies competing too, a John Poulson owned by Andrew Wilson who is the only Solo sailor on the IOW and the other, a Gosling ply-foam-ply owned by stalwart (and ex Concorde pilot) Derek Jackman.
There were a few no-shows but the class still managed to muster up 41 entries which some classes would dream of, such is the continued popularity of the Solo. Personally, I would have thought most of the fleet would have snuffed it by now. The PRO provided a concise briefing and also gave me an alias to use in my report if it all went Pete Tong, clever boy. As it was, I can confirm Ross Fisher is his real identity. The forecast NNE was threatening but a gentle sea breeze from 220 was holding its own and this is what we started with. Race 1 Breeze at 6 knots and the fleet were congregated toward the pin end which was handy as I was moored there in one of FSC’s safety boats. The first start was recalled, therefore the ‘round the end’ rule came into play. Unfortunately, Wilson, clearly keen to sail back to the Isle of Wight rather than suffer the crippling cost of the Red Funnel ferry was well over the line and did not exonerate himself so OCS. Nigel Thomas led the starboard tackers towards the pin but he was pushed over early, fair play though, he took his medicine and rounded the end as the rest of the pack headed upwind. At the top mark it was David Mason who rounded first, the Silver Wings S.C. sailor clearly at home in the fickle winds akin to his home patch, even if it is his first ever open meeting. Steve Ede rounded second from Vince Horey and Richie Lovering, the breakfast of kings fully digested and releasing the necessary carbs for BS (boat speed). Mark Harper completed the top five but Tim Lewis, Guy Mayger, Tom Gillard and Alex Butler were pressing as they headed to the wing mark. We made our way to the next mark, choosing to place ourselves in the safe zone on the outside of the reverse P course and awaited the fleet as they slowly headed towards us. There had been some significant place changing and Gillard had managed to pick up 7 places to lead from Lovering, Ede, Lewis, Mayger and James Goodfellow. The run down to the leeward mark saw the fleet split, I stayed on station so goodness knows what happened down there. Gillard continued to hold Lovering as they hugged the shoreline, only tacking out on the occasional header and this was the pattern for the beat. The front three extended slightly on the final lap with Goodfellow pipping Mayger on the line which was about as exciting as my day got. In his post-race interview Tom explained that he managed to hook into a few gusts by going slightly higher on the first downwind leg and this had taken him to the front and from there he just stayed in pressure for the rest of the race. Race 2 Fergus Barnham nailed the pin end but the big winner was Nigel Thomas who had been prowling like a Tiger awaiting his dinner at the pin end. He ducked a couple of starboard tackers, hardened up and crossed the fleet. So, Thomas led at the top mark from Mayger, Butler and Lovering with Harper, Goodfellow and Gillard among the front group as the fleet gracefully, gently and slowly filtered down the run. Gillard had work to do as this was to be a 3 race, all to count regatta and Lovering was holding a strong hand right now. As with all sailors who possess a little bit of magic, Gillard reached into his hat, gybed away from the pack and headed away on the unfavourable, unpopular, starboard gybe. By the bottom mark he was in the top four and following a very light upwind leg he was third with only Thomas and Mayger ahead. Lovering, Butler and Goodfellow completed the top six with just the downwind legs to go and a short beat to the finish. Thomas held for a well-deserved bullet with ex local hero Mayger second, big mover Butler third, Gillard fourth and Goodfellow fifth. Lovering had dropped to sixth but is certainly the heaviest of those competitors by a couple of pounds, though he may have been reflecting on his breakfast as he picked the bacon from his teeth. In his post-race interview Thomas explained that he is super confident with his boat speed sub 5 knots so just found a lane on port, tacked on the lay line and “hung in there”. Personally, I am super confident that I would not even get in a Solo if it was sub 5 knots.
Race 3 So, all to play for in this winner takes all, no discard event and Gillard is holding a 1-4, Lovering a 2-6, Goodfellow is on 4-5 with Thomas on 8-1 and Ede on 3-15. The pressure is just about holding at a light breeze (4-6 knots), though light air (1-3 knots) is threatening and a gentle breeze (7-10 knots) would be a miracle. The wind direction was playing silly beggars and the PRO must have been wondering if I would indeed resort to using his alias if this race went tits up but he held his nerve and after a few line adjustments we were into the finale. Thomas was once again hanging around the pin end like a hooker under a street lamp but this time he had no gap and tacked under our junior entry Jack Lewis who had judged his run to the line perfectly. Ede, Horey and Lovering were amongst those who had chosen the left while event leader Gillard was a third of the way down from the committee boat. The tide was taking the fleet upwind now and the fleet converged at the top with Lewis leading in from Lovering, Ede, Goodfellow and Mark Lee. Gillard was down in the teens and as the fleet filtered down the first reach the wind shut off completely. I holstered my Nikon Coolpix 950 and reached for the flask, taking photos in these conditions would have been futile and just as I did, a Spitfire flew directly above me. Expressions on the sailors' faces were mixed and depended entirely on how they had faired in the first two races. The safety team conversed as to what the PRO would do and we all agreed that abandoning and re-starting would delay us from tea and cake. Fortunately, and amazingly, from out of nowhere, a breeze returned, albeit from a direction that rendered a beat obsolete and this energised competitors and race teams alike. Ede was in the right place at the right time and had sped into the lead with Lovering, Lewis and Goodfellow, meanwhile Gillard was up to ninth.
The beat became a tight starboard fetch and the final lap was therefore without much drama, therefore Ede, Lewis, Goodfellow, Lovering and Simon Derham completing the top five. In his post-race interview Steve explained that he was “just lucky, but they all count”. Indeed, they did and Tom Gillard had worked his way up to seventh by the end of the race, putting him on equal points with Richie Lovering. His bullet in race 1 then was enough to win the Spring Championship on count-back. A great effort by Richard Lovering to claim 2nd and well done to James Goodfellow who has been showing some fine form in 2022. Tom Gillard's Weapon of Choice- Winder mark 1a, Selden D+, North P3 Quote from Richard Lovering
"It was a tricky days sailing. Very happy with speed and how I was sailing. Also very happy with the sail development we did after last year’s Nationals. Look forward to more tight racing this year."
Weapon of Choice- Winder Mark 2, Selden D+, Hyde ODL
Quote from James Goodfellow "I got into Solos for the first-time last year. I grew up sailing GP 14s in the midlands, more recently I have been sailing Fireballs and Merlin’s. Weapon of Choice- Winder mark 2, Superspars M2 and a north P2. Race 1 - I started committee boat end, there was a fair bit of tide pushing the fleet back from the line and I wasn’t expecting a general recall but we had one, when we finally got away I had a real battle to get clean air off the line and I got in a little bit of trouble, eventually I managed to get a clear lane however this forced me to the far right hand side of the course, I got a little lucky and must have rounded in the top 10. The downwind part of the course was a little unconventional, to make it down to the leeward mark the fleet had to complete two reaches and a run, i managed to close the gap on the boats ahead on the reach and took a place or two on the run. The next beat seemed to be a bit of a procession to the right hand side. I then maintained my position to the finish (just). Race 2, with 3 races to count and a decent first race with good boat speed I decided to have a conservative start at the committee boat end, (I was second row)and tacked off onto port immediately. This time I remember tacking a little more on the shifts and managed to round the windward mark in the top 10. I don’t think the right paid so much and the beats were much more open. Again I managed to close the gaps on the reaches and took a boat or two on the runs, another steady race. Wacky race 3…. god knows how many general recalls we had but clearly the black flag was not having the desired effect, this was not helped by the wind (it was all over the place). With all this uncertainty I started mid line to keep my options open, I tacked on a couple of shifts and found myself on the left in some breeze, (unlike the majority of the fleet…. ) I think I rounded 5th. The wind started to drop and the reach turned into a beat, then some drifting took place (I was getting flash backs of Wednesday evening racing at Ardleigh). Eventually the breeze filled in on the next beat (fetch) and I found myself hiking where I pulled through to 2nd, but dropped back to 3rd on the last leg." So, Nigel Thomas was first Vet (40+) and is back in the hot zone and Steve Ede continues to post consistent top ten results at majors. Jack Lewis is our first junior in 6th with Vince Horey first GM (50+) in 7th. Derek Jackman was first Septimus (60+). Results link here
Many thanks to Felpham Sailing Club, the great race team, Drone pilot Chris Whitney and the off-water hospitality.