13 boats from a variety of clubs arrived at Stone Sailing Club on Friday morning for the annual UK Tornado National Championship, sponsored by Zhik.
Friday started with light winds and it didn't look as though the predicted wind was going to arrive. Come 12.30pm and the start of the first race we had a nice breeze across the race course. With the wind forecast looking bad for Saturday the race officer decided to bring one race forward so four would be raced on Friday.
The conditions were very fluky with holes in the wind spread across the course, picking your way through was essential. In the second race the majority of the fleet sailed up the middle of the course and stopped allowing the others to tack later to sail straight past. All four races were completed with Aaron Young and Rob Butterfield coming out on top after day one.
In the evening Stone Sailing Club put on a commodores reception for the sailors with cheese, biscuits and wine available, a very hospitable evening was spent watching the sun set over the River Blackwater.
Saturday arrived with a bang with big winds as predicted; the water looked very flat for the conditions so the competitors headed out for the three scheduled races. The first race was sailed as the winds were building, the second race proved too difficult for some with boat and crew breakages along the way.
10 boats finished the second race, but soon after the race officer hoisted the abandoned flag as the squalls came through the river. This was Grant Piggott and Robby Jon Garka’s day to rule the waves sailing General Lee, their newly refurbished bright Orange Tornado. They took both race victories to launch them to the top.
The UK Tornado Class laid on a BBQ for the sailors on Saturday night, not great weather for a BBQ, but having the day's video on the big screen helped. They were then treated to Geoff Tindale’s DJ skills as he pulled out the sound system.
Although less wind was forecast on Sunday, this really wasn’t the case when the Tornado sailors arrived at the sailing club, the wind was gusting down the river at around 20 knots.
The fleet headed out to see which races could be sailed, three boats decided to skip the first race with half of Team Weston packing up to head home.
The first race got started and there was no skill involved - it was all about survival. The race was made more interesting by a random Wayfarer sailor who thought he would sit around and watch the racing.
In between races the race team asked if we wanted another race, they were registering gusts of 30 knots from the committee boat, the majority thought ‘we’re here, we might as well do another.’ Chris Schiel and Ivo Jovanovich, nationals newcomers got into a bit of a situation and decided having a swim in between races was the way forward, that sudden gust really caught them out.
We had one more competitor for the second race with Paul Mines and Stewart Smith coming out to brave the weather. Unfortunately during the first beat the rain kicked in and it was coming at the competitors, the gusts were also getting worse with some close escapes upwind and during the bear away at the windward mark.
Downwind was a little more interesting with a few teams not escaping the gusts and ending up swimming. Chris Schiel and Ivo Jovanovich had kite problems in the second race so tried the leg two sailed, they made it all the way to the downwind gate and then the final gust tipped them in with spectacular style.
After race 2 the abandoned flag was swiftly raised and everyone headed for shore.
Overall a great weekend's racing making the most of the conditions with some old and new faces sailing the Tornado.
1st - Grant Piggot and Robby Jon Garka
2nd - Aaron Young and Rob Butterfield
3rd - Pete Jary and Adam Kay
4th - David Allan and David Wood
5th - Lee Harrison and Andrew Dowley
6th - Lee Morgan and Matt Gregg
7th - Paul Palmer and Richard Hamblin
8th - Dan Tindale and Jack Tindale
9th - Chris Schiel and Ivo Jovanovich
10th - Paul Mines and Stuart Smith
11th - Barry Arnison and Nic Davy
12th - Jim Mundy and Mark Sutcliffe
13th - Rich Thoroughgood and Kevin Lott