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Magicmarine and Craftinsure.com Contender Nationals

“Highcliffe Hum-Dinger”

The season had been building to this weekend. The Contender fleet converged on Highcliffe SC to do battle in Christchurch Bay; at stake the crown of National Champion.

Race 3 – Stuart Jones

After a leisurely Saturday ashore with no racing possible, the 53 strong Contender fleet tested the shifting waters of Christchurch Bay today with a patchy force 1 blowing from the North.

The race officer, starting on time, caught out some latecomers, but his trickery was thwarted by a sudden dash for the line causing a recall. The second larger attempt had the same effect but the black flag finally got the fleet away. At first the right seemed to be paying but in true comedy style the left got the nod.

Stacey Bray led and comfortably held on to the shortened finish. Tim Holden and Rodger White followed along with a grateful gaggle some distance behind. Due to the gusts, hole and shifts there were opportunities all causing many place changes, so at the finish Matt Aston pulled comfortably through to second with White closely followed by Stuart Jones making up the next places.With the tide now rushing westward and with the wind all but gone the fleet was sent ashore for the day, just in time to prevent being washed out past Swanage and beyond.

Race 6 – Pete Dives

Race 1 Monday. After 2 days and just one race, the RO amended the SI’s for a prompt 10 o’clock start and 4 races a day.The fleet duly arrived in time to be greeted by no wind. After a 2 hr postponement a gentle westerly began to build with fleet eventually getting away at 12pm in 8kts.Jones led from the start followed by Bates while Aston and Langdown worked their way up through the fleet. Aston overhauled Bates for 2nd. With the pumping flag now up, Langdown tried to close up on Bates by taking ‘Rocking and Rolling’ to a whole new level until the inevitable capsize. This gifted 4th to Dives who was being hotly pursued by Scott. Langdown came in a bedraggled 6th.

Race 7 – Tim Holden

The second of 4 races sailed on Monday, with the wind from the SW force 3-4This time no black flag was needed, but the surprise for Matt Aston was to have a flying start at the pin end and to find a rib moored by its prop about 2 boat lengths to windward of the pin - Penned in by other boats he had no option but to t'bone at full speed. Luckily no damage, and redress elevated him to 5th in the race.The left had side of the first beat paid off, with a close group locked in a pumping battle down the next two reaches.After the second beat, Simon Mussell had shown his upwind speed to take the lead from Gary Langdown, with Graham Scott and Tim Holden in close contact. The race was shortened after the second triangle, giving Mussell his first win of the series, Langdown holding on to a good second for a light boy ! Scott and Holden followed up, with John Browett leading the charge from the pack behind.

Race 8 – Gary Langdown

Race 8 got underway with a port biased line and tide underneath the fleet under a black flag. The port side was favoured and Scott rounded first from Holden in second. Jones and Langdown moved through the fleet on the reaches so by the leeward mark they were in third and forth respectively. These 4 pulled away from the remainder of the fleet and were never seriously troubled.

RACE 1 – MATT ASTON

The final race of long 7hrs on the water run to pull back lost races from Saturday.The sea breeze was fully established and steady – great Contendering weather. F4 full wiring all the way around the course with fantastic, rolling waves to surf down.With the pumping flag still flying this was to be a test of stamina as well as the skill.The fleet got away under now familiar black flag circumstances – the RO taking no prisoners – this catching out front boys Ben Holden and Keith Paul.Mussell showed he had the metal where it mattered – his bulk! – and streaked out to win comfortably from Jones by some margin. Scrapping for the minor place Tim Holden held off Aston for 3rd. Notably reigning champion Langdown went for his now routine race dip, this time after fluffing a tack, dropping out of the top 5 and eventually retiring with exhaustion. All the competitors and race team certainly deserved their championship dinner and a beer that night!

Race 9 – Matt Aston

First race of day 4 started on time as the RO was on a mission to get at least 3 races in. The regatta finish time had been extended to give the RO some breathing space but 1 general recall was enough as the race team went straight into black flag mode.Mussell was out of the blocks well, for a change, along Ben Holden and Browett. Scott and Jones joined the front 3 but Mussell’s pace was too much for them all and again he won convincingly.Jones picked his way through to lead Scott and Browett home as the morning breeze built.

Race 10 – Simon Mussell

The RO set a port biased line for race 7 and with 30 seconds to go everything was looking pretty tight. Stuart, Graham and Matt all got good starts and sailed away in clear wind. Simon Mussell was forced to make a tack and immediately collided with another competitor which resulted in a 720 turn. The first beat saw the fleet split with some choosing to head right in towards the shore expecting the wind to bend right and others headed out to sea looking for the tide which was now on the change.  At the top mark it was clear that the right had paid and Graham rounded first with Stuart, Tim and Ben in hot pursuit. The reaches were fast and furious with allot of frantic pumping and by the leeward mark the first 4 remained the same and Simon had recovered to 9th place. With the tide now running steadily from left to right across the course and the wind bending right up the beat there was a difficult choice to make. The front of the fleet chose right whilst Simon headed to the far left in search of clear air. By the top mark Graham and Stuart remained 1st and 2nd with Ben up to 3rd and Simon now up to 4th. The remaining part of the race saw the front 4 move away from the fleet and whilst Simon did sneak past Ben up the last beat he dropped back to 4th when he capsized at the last mark (idiot!!!) . Graham calmly secured victory which moved him in to pole position to with the championship, Stuart was second with Ben and Simon following.

RACE 2 – MATT ASTON

What turned out to be the final race and decider for the championship was sailed in near perfect conditions.The right hand side was paying, although the heavily port biased line and hope of more pressure out to sea drew many towards the left windward mark layline.The first 4 boats of Mussell, Jones, Scott and Aston pulled clear of the fleet by the second round, the front 3 unknowingly dicing for the championship.Mussell powered his way clear of the other 3 showing great technique off wind, particularly on the run, to comfortable victory. While Jones and Scott luffed each other high of the rumb line they almost let Aston through at the last mark.Had they done so there would have been a different name on the ‘auld winners pot’, as unbeknown to them the championship had been decided by a single point and count backs!. Scott and Jones were level on points and Mussell a further point adrift but with more firsts.

Once the RO called time on racing for the day, much to disappointment of some!, the fleet headed ashore unsure of who had won.

After 4 days of tough, trying conditions for all, Graham Scott emerged victorious to claim his 9th National Championship on countback.

Excellent series by both Martin Jones (12th) and Tony Cook (20th) resulted in them claiming the Silver and Bronze fleet prizes.

Tom Hooton (38th) collected first youth and Scott also picked up first Veteran.

A massive thanks must go to all at Highcliffe SC including Paul Walker (RO) and his team for running an excellent series, plus everybody behind the scenes who made the event great value and a real treat.

Bring on Filey in 2010!

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