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Light shifty wind features in Christchurch

Monday June 27th 2005, Author: Phil Laycock, Location: United Kingdom
There were 42 entries for the 2005 Finn Nationals at Christchurch, the most boats since the 1960s, this despite the fact that six of the full time sailors were competing abroad.

Christchurch Sailing Club is set in a beautiful location up a river a mile or so from the harbour and the open sea. The club has wonderful grounds and the weather was generally kind to the sailors and supporters. The organisation in terms of race management and also on the social side was first class. This was one of the best nationals that the Finns have had for many years.

There was a training day and some practice races on the Thursday which were held in a light sea breeze, 12 boats were coached by Dave Mellor one of the RYA’s Finn coaches.

There is something of a tradition in the Finns to have a bit of bash the night before racing started and so the sailors went to a local wine bar owned by one of the Christchurch Finn fleet. Whether it was the sun stroke, the strong larger or the questionable pizza; either way there was some sore heads and delicate stomachs who made it down to the race briefing on Friday morning. Some sailors were not able to surface until later and sailed rather delicately out to the race course.

When racing started for real on the Friday the fleet were met with bright sunshine and a force four. Ideal conditions for Finn sailing with a first beat that was a mile long in a building swell proving to be very testing. This turned out literally to be the lull before the storm. Nick Craig had led the fleet away followed by Jim Hunt, Alan Burrell and Jerry Andrews and the chasing pack was led by Phil Laycock and Tim Carver.

After two legs the fleet were engulfed by the largest electrical storm we had ever seen and it was really quite scary out there with one boat choosing to capsize and sit it out rather than risk lightening hitting the carbon mast.

A 120 degree wind shift and a 25 knot squall made an interesting reach out of the final beat and the a long run down to the finish. Nick won quite comfortably from Jim and Alan with Tim and Robert Deaves just behind. Racing was abandoned for the day and the fleet raced back to the harbour out of the storm. Not before time.

Lighter airs were in place for Saturday with four races planned. And the wind played tricks all day. In race two, after two general recalls and the introduction of the black flag Nick Craig and Phil Laycock broke clear at the start from the pin end and tacked on to a lifting port tack, they found pressure coming in from the left and led around the windward mark from Tim Carver and Jim Hunt. With the jury boat in close proximity the leaders sailed an immaculate run conforming with rule 42 and the places remained the same. The windward mark had been moved following a wind shift and it took some finding. Eventually Nick and Phil saw it out to the left it and kept their noses in front to the finish. Tim held off Jim and Russell Ward came though into fifth place.

The pin end was again the place to be in race three and Nick got it right again. On a different tactic Simon Percival from Christchurch banged hard the right corner and found some really good pressure. He came surfing in, with a pack of boats behind him and rounded the windward mark in second place a position that he was to hold to the finish pushing Nick very hard. Jim finished in third place with Alan Burrell in fourth.

In race four Jim Hunt made a well-timed start just back from the pin that was won yet again by Phil Laycock who seems to favour that end of the line. Jim was chased by Tim Carver and Nick Craig, these three sailors showing very good consistency in the conditions.

Phil Laycock overhauled Nick on the last beat and the two of them battled in pursuit of Jim and Tim down to the final mark where Nick claimed water and secured third place from Phil. Alistair Evans showed well in this race and claimed fifth.

Race five, the final race of the day was again won by Jim who led from start to finish and finished well ahead. Nick was second from Alan Burrell with Tim in fourth. Russell Ward and Robert Deaves were leading the chasing pack home.

Four races in one day, 30 degree shifts, four course changes and the race boat having to move each time was managed superbly and there was very little delay between races.

Over night Nick was leading from Jim but only just. Tim Carver was clear in third and Phil Laycock was in fourth equal on points with Alan BurrelI fifth but with a better discard. Henry Bagnall was first junior in sixth.

The first beat for race six was all over the place and the shifts were very telling. Jim Hunt got the final shift into the mark right and led from Nick and Tim. The fleet bunched at the leeward mark and it was chaos with a 20 boat raft up and some damaged gunnels. Some new faces took advantage of this and Keith Fedi held his nerve to secure fourth place from Alan Burrell and Graham Page.

Despite Jim’s comprehensive race win Nick was still looking good going into the final race and with a shifting wind the start for race seven was delayed. The black flag had been used since race two and in true Ainslie fashion Nick Craig took himself and Jim over the line for an instant disqualification, thus winning him the regatta. They sailed home for an early bath and left the fleet to fight it out for the minor places.

The start was recalled and with a shifting wind it was difficult to work out which way to go. No such problem for Nick Daniels who started in space at the port end of the line and played the first two shifts just right. It paid to work your way up the middle with a final port lift helping those on the left side of the course. Nick led round the windward mark from Justin Chisholm and Andrew Mills with Russell Ward and Phil Laycock in pursuit. The bulk of the fleet had gone right and were a long way behind.

The run was quite tricky with wind filling in from the right and then a shift from the left. Nick held on to win from Justin and Andrew. Russell and Phil had a tussle, which Russell won. In sixth place was Ashley Taylor from Christchurch.

Tim Carver had done enough to secure third place overall and with Alan buried back in 25th place Phil Laycock secured fourth place. Andrew Mills and Henry Bagnall had battled for the first junior place which Andrew won by finishing sixth from Henry’s eigth. Justin’s excellent last race pulled him up to seventh.

The presence of a jury boat in the light winds made for a very fair regatta, which was sailed, in excellent spirit and a fun time was had by all.

Special thanks go to Andy Dennison and Christchurch Sailing Club for organising a fabulous event and it was no surprise that the Finns voted to return in 2007. Next year’s nationals will be sailed at Mengeham Rythe on Hayling Island.


1-Nick Craig
2-Jim Hunt
3-Tim Carver (+ first veteran)
4-Phil Laycock
5-Alan Burrell
6-Andrew Mills (first junior)
7-Justin Chisholm
8-Henry Bagnall
9-Russell Ward
10-Nick Daniels

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