Report by Nick Grace

Contenders at Chew Valley – 2/3 Oct

A light breeze greeted the 22 Contenders who descended on Chew Valley for round 11 of their TT series. Such was their enthusiasm that race one didn’t get away until the 4th attempt, and only then with the aid of a re-set line and the black flag. It was Stacy Bray who led the way followed closely by Matt Aston, Ben Holden and Ben McGrane. This group where never challenged although the order continued to shuffle throughout the race as the breeze slowly built. At the finish it was Holden, McGrane, Aston and Bray.

By the start of race 2 the breeze had build sufficiently to allow the pumping flag. It was Aston who led at the windward mark with McGrane and Holden in hot pursuit. The wind was continuing to build but with some serious holes and shifts for the unwary. Aston kept his head (and his boat upright) and took the win followed by McGrane and Holden with Martin Frary getting 4th.

By the start of race 3 the breeze was starting to loose its grip and by the top mark had dropped considerably. It was Mc Grane who rounded first closely followed by Frary, Nick Grace and Chris Boshier. With the pumping rule still turned off there was some serious rocking and rolling down the reaches as the fleet jockeyed for position. As the wind continued to drop Alan Orton found some nice breeze on the LHS during the second beat to sail up to Second with Frary holding 3rd. The pumping rule was turned back on at the windward mark and it was Aston who took full advantage with his own private wind supply to sail up to challenge for 3rd. The final beat was sailed in dying breeze and at the finish it was McGrane, Orton and Frary with Stuart Hudson spotting some nice pressure on the LHS to sail up to 4th.

Sunday dawned with rain wind gusting at over 40 knots. The race officer held his nerve and with the wind forecast to drop went for a start after a 1 hour postponement. There where some anxious faces as the fleet launched (particularly as the Fireballs we were sharing with had elected to stay ashore) however by the start the wind was sub 20 knots but still with some serious gusts. At the top mark it was Holden followed by Grace, Aston and Frary. Holden and Grace pulled away as they had their own private duel and by the last leeward mark it was Grace just in front to Holden. The wind had gone hard right and with both tacking together it was a straight drag race for the finish. It was Holden who took the win from Grace by a boat length, in no small part thanks to that extra naan bread he had eaten the night before. A chasing Aston got 3rd and Frary 4th.

Race 5 started with the wind appearing to be building again and some major gusts rolling down the course. With the wind looking like it might still be tracking right a small group chanced their arm out on the right hand side. This just paid with Carl Tagoe and Pete Barr rounding first and second with Grace leading the charge in from the LHS to round 3rd. By the gybe Grace was leading but this could all change as a serious gust hit the fleet half way down the second reach. Such was the ferocity of the gust that Boshier in 4th accidently dropped his main sheet but continued to trapeze down the reach with his boom on the shroud! Aston was not so lucking, having powered though to second he got a little over excited and took a customary swim. Grace went on to take the win with a fast improving Pete Barr coming through for a definite 2nd, only to pop it in 100 yards from the finish. This let a damp Aston take second with Holden sneaking 3rd having broken the trend and gone hard left on the last beat.

By race 6 the wind was showing definite signs of easing. At the top mark it was the trio of Aston, Holden and Grace bickering for the lead as they pulled away from the rest of the fleet. A bad second beat by Grace left Aston and Holden to their own private battle and let Nick Noble have a brief sniff around 3rd. By the last lap Aston and Holden where still well clear and, as the breeze continued to ease, it was McGrane who was climbing his way up through to challenge for 3rd. At the finish it was Aston who took the gun a boat length in front of Holden. With McGrane closing fast Grace panicked and completely miss read the finish line, letting McGrane cross for 3rd.

Once the maths had been done it was Aston who took the event with Holden 2nd. Both had the same points and the same results on count back so it was all down to that last race. Overnight leader McGrane ended up 3rd.

Credit must go to the race team who banged out all 6 races in some very difficult conditions. The windy races on the Sunday showed Contender sailing at its best and it is all credit to the class that despite the high winds there was still plenty of close racing and tactics, it wasn’t just survival! With some strong new faces coming up though the fleet things are looking very good for the Contender in the build up to our World Championships in Weymouth next year.


  1. Matt Aston 10 pts
  2. Ben Holden 10 pts
  3. Ben Mc Grane 18 pts
  4. Nick Grace 21 pts
  5. Martin Frary 22 pts

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