Tightly contested PoW

Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane claim International 14 National Championship in Falmouth

Wednesday September 9th 2009, Author: Ed Clay, Location: United Kingdom
The Prince of Wales week is going on from Restronget Sailing Club this week and is half completed, but oddly the points from the week are not the main focus. The one all 14 sailors want to win is the one race national championships, for the Prince of Wales Cup. Finish in the top 6 and you win a replica of the cup and the crew gets the dubious honour of being 'initiated' into the crews union.

Race day, in contrast to the previous days was sunny and the wind had swung round to the North. 41 boats set out for the start, including number 285 Saskia, an Uffa King design built in the 1930s. The start area was just off the Helford River with the windward mark set under Pendennis Castle around 1.5 miles away. The fleet were greeted by 12-15 knots of breeze, with the top half of the course near the land being particularly shifty.

The tide sweeping the fleet away from the line meant they got away first time. The one race nature of the event means that you always see a lot of boats in the corners and this year was no exception. Up the first beat the left paid as the wind went left approaching the land and it was Rob Greenhalgh and Simon Marks sailing their immaculately prepared Bieker 5 who, while not furthest left, emerged in the lead at the top. They were followed around by Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane and Andy and Tom Partington both in Ovington built Pickled Egg designs. Tom Heywood and Ed Clay were fourth in their Beiker 4. Andy Fitzgerald and Harvey Hillary had the best beat of those on the right side, but rounded the first mark in 8th. A gap appeared after them after Martin and Neale Jones in 10th hit the windward mark and tacked onto port, forcing those behind to tack as well.

The first run saw stable positions at the top, except for Mark Upton-Brown and Phil Kennard who made the most of good pressure on the right to get themselves right back into it and up to seventh. On the second beat Heywood and Clay worked their way past the Partingtons and also closed on Gilbert and McGrane. At the front Greenhalgh and Marks were sailing cleanly and beginning to extend their lead.

The Prince of Wales race must always include reaches so the next downwind leg consisted of two reaches to a gybe mark. The top one was too tight for most to hold the kites so required judgement of when to drop and re-hoist. Heywood and Clay managed to roll Gilbert and McGrane on the top reach to take them into second. Upton-Brown and Kennard also had a good set of reaches and by the bottom mark had moved into fifth, behind the Partingtons and ahead of Alistar Richardson and Dan Johnson in sixth.

The third beat saw the leaders still chosing to work the left hand side, looking for the lifts back into the windward mark on port. While Greenhalgh and Marks still held a solid lead and had now extended to around two minutes on second place, it was Upton-Brown and Kennard who had the best beat and closed on the Partingtons for fourth.

The fourth lap saw no change for the top three, but Upton Brown and Kennard continued their charge and overtook the Partingtons to claim fourth. Douglas Pattison and Mark Tait also worked their way around Richardson and Johnson into sixth. By the start of the fifth beat Gilbert and McGrane had closed right up and Heywood and Clay and Greenhalgh and Marks were no longer extending. Again getting the shifts correct near the top of the beat proved cruical and it was Gilbert and McGrane who did this best, moving past Heywood and Clay and to within seconds of Greenhalgh and Marks who had got stuck on the right hand side near the top, fighting headers to get back. After hoisting Heywood and Clay managed to pick up a band of pressure that they carried down the first half of the run. This allowed them to sail deeper and get inside Gilbert and McGrane who had also got inside Greenhalgh and Marks.

Gybing for the bottom mark it was Heywood and Clay who judged the layline best meaning all three boats were now within a few lengths of each other. It was Gilbert and McGrane who emerged from the bottom mark in best shape after sailing around the outside of Heywood and Clay. From this lee bow position Heywood and Clay were forced to tack off leaving Gilbert and McGrane with the decision of who to cover. They opted for Greenhalgh and Marks who continued for several minutes before tacking out. After Heywood and Clay crossed Greenhalgh and Marks easily it looked for a time like they might also have gained on Gilbert and McGrane but the wind shifted back and Gilbert and McGrane crossed ahead and covered both boats behind for the rest of the beat. From the top mark Gilbert and McGrane held off the last lap PoW race nerves to lead down the final two reaches and crossed the finish line nearly a minute ahead of Heywood and Clay, with Greenhalgh and Marks 30 seconds behind them. Upton-Brown and Kennard were fourth, the Partingtons fifth and Pattison and Tait managed to win their long-running battle with Richardson and Johnson to take sixth.

Further back in the fleet there were many close battles, even after two and a half hours on the water, with many boats finishing within yards of each other. The classic division for boats designed before 1984 was won by Brian Willmot and Edward Allen from Andrew Hunter and Nik Blasdalte.

Tomorrow sees the return to the points series and with wind forecast there should be more excitement. But this evening the fleet is going to enjoy looking back over a truly classic Prince of Wales race with sunshine, wind, plenty of place changes and 4 different designs in the top six. As the gear guide below shows there was a huge range of kit and sailing backgrounds in the top six and across the fleet. With 27 UK boats going to the worlds in Sydney this winter, the class is clearly in good health. The relative stability in hull designs means older and cheaper second hand boats are competitive and with the worlds in Weymouth in 2011 it is an ideal time to move into the fleet.

Results and gear

1st Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane, 2009 Ovington/Morrison 'Pickled Egg', Selden mast, P&B sails
2nd Tom Heywood and Ed Clay, 2003 Bieker 4, CST mast, P&B sails
3rd Robert Greenhalgh and Simon Marks, 2007 Bieker 5, Selden mast, North sails
4th Mark Upton-Brown and Phil Kennard, 2006 RMW/Morrison M12, Selden mast, Hyde/Dynamic sails
5th Andy Partington and Tom Partington, 2009 Ovington/Morrison 'Pickled Egg', CST mast, P&B sails
6th Douglas Pattison and Mark Tait, 2004 RMW/Morrison M12, CST 14 mast, Alexander sails

More photos on the following pages...

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