With the UK basking in an early summer heatwave the fleet of canoes gathered for the UK National Championships. For those that arrived early conditions were perfect on Portland Harbour for the three days prior to the start of racing with just enough wind to get the boats fully powered up. However as the Morning of the first race came Portland Harbour was getting wilder.
The start of race 1 caught many out as a large number of canoes were significantly late to the start. Alistair Warren, Colin Brown and Chris Hampe lead the fleet away with the breeze into the high teens. As the front runners started to make mistakes, Robin Wood was on a charge back through the fleet to take the race win from Colin Brown, The first One Design boat was Mark Goodchild who finished 9th on the water just ahead of Steve Bowen in the first placed Asymmetric boat.
Following back to back race 2 was a much simpler affair as the committee boat repositioned the signal flags to make them easier for the fleet to spot. Robin Wood built such a strong lead that even when he capsised at the final gybe mark he still had a safe lead over the rest of the fleet. Alistair Warren stayed in 2nd place for the whole race despite a strong challenge on the downwind legs from Chris Hampe in his new Morrison 3. Mark Goodchild and Steve Bowen once again finished ahead of the respective One design and Asymmetric fleets.
With the wind blowing a little harder than the previous day the race officer was in no mood to mess around and sent the fleet out to be ready to go on the scheduled start time of 10:30. Weymouth however decided to declare war on this invasion and the ic fleet were seen hurtling all over the harbour with some boats seaming to be just in control for brief moments. Steve Clarke decided that a yellow bow was too easily spotted so decided to pinch some of the purple paint from Simon Allen's boat in an extreme makeover that would require an overnight nose job. With the wind increasing and daggerboards regularly being waved at the excellent safety boat crews the race officer sent all the boats home with racing for the day postponed.
Windy Weymouth continued to blow harder as the race officer started race 3. When sailing a canoe on a championship course in strong wind, there is one single area on the beat known as the taking zone. This is due to the great difficulty in taking these narrow craft that to attempt more than one tack per beat would be met with greater risk of a capsise. This race saw the greatest number of capsises and near capsises in the tacking zone than any of the other races and with plenty of gear failure only 10 boats would complete the race. Alistair Warren finished with a 3 minute lead from Phil Robin with Mark Goodchild again the first one design in 3rd place on the water. The first AC was Phil Allen in 7th on the water.
With another windy forecast some thought that the fat lady had sung her song and that the event was all but over. The call from the race management however came back that racing was on. The fleet launched and headed downwind in conditions that appeared to be a little more moderate than the previous day. As the day progressed the wind increased and sadly this reporter suffered a broken spreader shortly after turning upwind for a brief practice beat so can only report on what I saw . As the day went on the wind got stronger and by the time the 2nd race of the day had started the dinghy park had more boats packing away than those that remained to fight out to survive the final race. From the Balcony of the WPNSA the bear-away's looked scary and nobody did admit to who had the fantastic wipeout on the final reach of the day which produced a splash so big it must have been visible from space.
Alistair Warren would win the final race, But Robin Wood's had won the previous race so his 3rd place in the finale was just enough to regain the the national Championship title on tiebreak. Philip Robin Scored 3, 2 to secure 3rd place from Colin Brown. In the One Designs Mark Goodchild scored a clean set of 5 bullets while Hugh de Longh from Castle Cove finished 2nd Overall after SImon Allen suffered from a mast step failure in the final race. It was another Castle Cove sailer moving upwards in the Asymmetric fleet with Terry Curtis securing a final race win to leapfrog Phil Allen into 2nd place.
There are now around 50 days for the fleet to regather ahead of the World Championships to be held from the 19th August at Plas Heli in Pwllheli.
Full results can be found at:- http://www.sailwave.com/results/WPNSA/2017_International_Canoe_Nationals/