The Contender fleet is no stranger to Highcliffe SC, in fact it is one of the favourite venues for the fleet so returning to the scene this year was a pleasure. The last instalment turned out to be one of the closest finishes in recent years with Stuart Jones just popping out ahead as he is want to do.

With varying forecasts leading up to the event no one was sure which end of the lard scale would pay but going to the first day the form book still had World number 2 Simon Mussell pitched against the seasoned campaigners of Jones (Again), Graham Scott and Tim Holden. 40 boats made their way out for the first start in 15 knots with lots of lumps; just the right conditions for a big Contender showdown. Si Mussell put down an early marker by gaining a 200yd lead on the 1st lap which he maintained until the last leg where the decision to go left instead of the favoured right side cost him dearly putting him down to 7th at the finish. Stuart Jones made use of this bad luck to pull in a 1st place in wind that would normally suit 2nd and 3rd placed Neil Wilson and Tim Holden.

The next race with building breeze would again see Jones win well against the odds, disconcerting those who would have expected to overhaul him. All this lead to much conversation at the bar for the Commodores reception.

As day two dawned it was clear that the wind had was now coming more from the north and would not build as nicely as it had on day 1, however a very unstable 12knots with extra holes did show and this meant the PRO Paul Walker would need to be on fire to get the starts away. Naturally the Contenders helped him in this by false starting as soon as they could, and our old friend the Black flag was required. In these nasty, shifty, difficult conditions everyone expected Stuart Jones to keep on nicking 1sts as this is his natural habitat, but it was not to be; instead Tim Holden and Si Mussell showed the vision to hold him back to 2 2nds. The front 4 were staying consistent as only Mike Murley had managed to prize a top 3 position from them. A night of BBQ, bar-wrestling and live music allowed the athletes to relax.

Day 3 dawned light, and with a short postponement the RO got the boats out in just enough wind that was slowly building, Tim Holden a master in big wind was showing that the lighter stuff is equally appealing to him a took the 1st race but again Jones got in there with 2nd refusing to capitulate. For the first time local hero Gary Langdown showed his talents by gasping 3rd but was frustrated by inconsistency as many were in the changeable conditions. Si Mussell refused to be taken out of the equation by storming the next race and proving that he has worked hard to fix his light wind weakness.

Slightly poorer results for Wilson, Holden and even Jones meant the Championship dinner was enjoyed in the knowledge that the championship could be won all 4 sailors, Jones had an advantage and 1 more good result would seal it. Bleary eyed the fleet set out into very little breeze but all keen to get racing and witness the majesty of our top Yotters trying to outwit each other on the field of glory. That was up until Jones scored another bullet and ended it; as he describes “without really understanding how”, Typical.

So Well done Stuart you deserved it, and well done for competing the last race even though he had it wrapped up; risky manoeuvre as some devious types were assessing how to get him a non-discardable DISQ, but instead of that he took the last bullet anyway.

The top 4 pulled away all event but a new name made it up there too, in 5th Iain Horlock a relative infant in contender terms has made huge gains this year. This year the standard logic of competitive weight was challenged as heavy guys won in light wind and light guys won in the breeze. The bronze fleet was able dominated by David Evans and the Silver goes to Rob Smith. 1st Grand master is Keith Paul with additional bum pads included and the youth prize goes to Andrew Wilson.

Big thank you goes to Highcliffe SC who provided us with a superb venue and slick operation as we have come to expect from them. Thanks also go to our sponsor Craftinsure who provided the generous support to the event. The next big thing for the Contenders is the 2014 worlds in Australia; spaces are still available for those wanting to get to this unrivalled event (details on the Contender Website).

Rank SailNo Club Name R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 Total Nett
1st 2465 Datchet SC Stuart Jones 1.0 1.0 (2.0) 2.0 2.0 (4.0) 1.0 1.0 14.0 8.0
2nd 2503 Halifax SC Tim Holden 3.0 2.0 1.0 3.0 1.0 (7.0) 3.0 (6.0) 26.0 13.0
3rd 2420 Highcliffe SC Simon Mussell 7.0 3.0 (14.0) 1.0 5.0 1.0 (8.0) 5.0 44.0 22.0
4th 685 Holyloch SC Neil Wilson 2.0 (6.0) 4.0 (8.0) 4.0 5.0 5.0 4.0 38.0 24.0
5th 2376 Exe SC Iain Horlock 5.0 7.0 9.0 (10.0) (41.0 BFD) 2.0 6.0 2.0 82.0 31.0
6th 2574 Highcliffe SC Gary Langdown (15.0) (15.0) 7.0 9.0 3.0 6.0 7.0 10.0 72.0 42.0
7th 2409 Whitefriars SC Richard Gimmler (14.0) 12.0 6.0 7.0 9.0 (16.0) 2.0 14.0 80.0 50.0
8th 2373 Weston SC Mike Murley 12.0 (22.0) 3.0 12.0 10.0 14.0 4.0 (20.0) 97.0 55.0
9th 2315 Halifax SC Ben Holden 6.0 4.0 8.0 15.0 8.0 (31.0) (41.0 BFD) 15.0 128.0 56.0
10th NED 9 WV De Helling (Holland) Paul Verhallen 11.0 13.0 13.0 5.0 6.0 (29.0) 15.0 (41.0 DNC) 133.0 63.0

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