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2019-20 SSW Winter Series Review

Mother Nature threw all she had at the 2019-20 SSW Winter Series. We experienced wild storms, big tides, freezing temperatures and a good dose of sunshine and light breezes too. The Series, sponsored by Allen Sailing, is made up of 10 long distance pursuit races, each hosted by a different sailing club in the southwest UK. Throughout the series, competitors are also entered into several prize draws to win custom built launching trollies by Admiral Trailers, and they can also score points in CMPR Ltd’s Club Championship, to earn prize money for their club.

The 2019-20 SSW Winter Series started with a bit of rapid reorganisation as storms forced the opening ‘Cornish Double-header’ of races to be delayed a week.

Finally, though we were able to begin on the 9th November with R1 - the Porthpean Pursuit. The day broke with sunshine and gentle winds, but it soon escalated into something much livelier! NDYC’s Angus Cook and Jon Miles led the fleet away in the Firefly but later succumbed to as S-shaped mast! Brixham’s Mark Smith in his Blaze and MBSC’s Chris Hampe in his International Canoe suffered other breakages, not even making the start! K1 sailor Simon Hawkes of Wimbleball SC took advantage, hitting the front early and staying there, despite the best efforts of his son Ben Hawkes in the Contender (3rd) and Penzance’s Colin Stephens in his Enterprise (2nd). Duncan Jones in a Farr 3.7 and Nick Downing in RS Vario both from Penzance, each did a fantastic job to finish the race in winds that approached 40kn!

The following day we headed a little further west to for the Penzance Pirate – R2. Thankfully the conditions had eased considerably, and 20 boats made it onto the water. Simon Hawkes in the K1 was back in the mix straight away, setting a pace for the rest to follow. Colin Stephens, now on home water, continued to impress, battling it out with another local and leading laser James Muir, and two RS200s. It was Muir who would prevail, yet he was unable to hold off Chris Hampe who, in lighter conditions, was able to carve his way through the fleet. Muir finished 3rd, Hampe was 2nd and Simon Hawkes took another comfortable win. Penzance picked up good points in R1 & R2, putting them in pole position in the Club Championship.

A few weeks later and it was time for R3, the NDYC Wrecker. After the excitement of the storms in Cornwall, the Devon breezes threatened not to materialise at all! A fleet of 26 made it to the line, and the early leaders were Jono Pank and Angus Cook in the Laser 3000. The wind remained light making it difficult going for the cat sailors, but gradually a strong fleet of blazes began to make progress through the field. Chris Hampe was one of the last starters, but he more than made up for it. Chris hit the front with 10mins to go and stayed there. Local Hugh Kingdon (Blaze) was 2nd, Paignton’s Nick Ripley (Halo) was 3rd.

The final race before Christmas was Paighton SC’s Christmas Cracker. Many arrived bright and early only to discover 6ft waves crashing onto the beach! There was no way the boats could be safely launched, leading to the first cancelled race of the series.

Race 5 on the calendar was the Starcross Steamer on the 19th January. The wintery sun shone for the 76 starters, but once more, we had very light conditions and temperatures close to freezing. The Firefly was back on the water after their breakage at Porthpean, and Jono Pank and Angus Cook did a stellar job, leading the fleet away. Penzance’s Jeremy and Lloyd Williams and Paul Young battled hard in their enterprises to catch up, and the Comet Trio sailed by Exe SC’s Andrew and Caroline McAusland also showed some pace. The K1 fleet looked strong too, with the series leader Simon Hawkes, Liam McGrath (Starcross), Ben Hawkes and Chris Dyer (NDYC) all chasing the firefly hard. The wind eased further as the faster boats got away, leaving a big Merlin and RS400 fleet with a lot of work to do, but they were making progress. Mike and Jane Calvert of Axe YC in the Merlin managed to break free and began picking off K1s and Enterprises. In the final minutes, the Firefly rounded onto the beat uptide, leaving them at the mercy of the Merlin. Mike and Jane Calvert win, Jono Pank and Angus Cook 2nd. The battle for 3rd was between Liam McGrath’s K1 and the McAusland’s Comet with the K1 taking the final podium position. NDYC and Penzance once again picked up useful team points.

A week later we headed to the Sutton Bingham Icicle for R6. As usual, conditions were tricky, the wind once more was light and rather uncooperative! The Mirror of Sean and Thomas Semmens of Brixham YC led us away, putting some good distance between themselves and the pack early on. Ben Flower made a valiant effort in the chase, along with local Andrew Frost in is RS Aero 7. SBSC’s Pete Barnstaple and Chris Bottomley sailed a good race too however, they were ultimately unable to hold off a marauding fleet of K1’s! Once more, Simon Hawkes looked to be the major threat to Sean and his son Thomas in the Mirror. The onlookers from the shore were willing the Mirror on in the closing moments of the race but Simon prevailed, taking the win by a small margin. The Semmens’ were 2nd, Ben Hawkes (K1) was 3rd.

The next two races on the calendar were first the Roadford Rocket and the Channel Chop. Unfortunately, Mother Nature continued to flex her considerable muscle, with Storm Ciara quickly followed by Storm Dennis putting an abrupt end to both races before they could begin. The Rocket was rescheduled for the 28th March.

So, into March and R9 of the SSW Winter Series was the Exmoor Beastie at Wimbleball SC. The weather proved to be fairly light and very shifty! This made for challenging conditions for the 26 sailors, although most were just happy to be on the water by this point. It was a day for the RS400’s with Welsh visitors Jon Helssig and Nicky Griffin winning on the lake, followed by Bob Warren in 2nd. Peter Barton of Lymington Town in the RS Aero 9 took 3rd. Chris Hampe needed to produce some magic to catch Simon Hawkes in the final races of the Series. However, the odds though were stacked against him at Wimbleball Lake, which is the home club to Simon and an impressive fleet of K1’s. It wasn’t to be for Chris, he finished 11th, likely ending his chase for the Series, whilst Simon was the best of the K1’s in 5th place.

R10 of the Series was the Torbay Tornado, and we also had the postponed Rocket to play out. However, Coronavirus hit the UK’s shores, meaning neither race would run.

So, with 3 wins in the 6 completed races, Simon Hawkes in his K1 was the winner of the 2019-20 SSW Winter Series. Chris Hampe accumulated a 1st and 2nd to finish 2nd overall, and Ben Hawkes took 3rd in his Contender, despite also racing twice in a K1! Brixham’s Mark Smith was consistent, finishing 4th in his Blaze, whilst Enterprise sailor Colin Stephens took 5th just ahead of Chris Jones (Sutton Bingham SC) in the RS Aero 7.

The SSW Winter Series Club Championship sponsored by CPMR Ltd saw points awarded in each race to teams of 3 or more sailors. Brixham YC made an admirable effort to field teams, and despite losing 3 of the races closest to them to unforeseen circumstances, managed to finish 3rd overall. North Devon YC took 2nd thanks to some good performances from Hugh Kingdon, Angus Cook and Chris Dyer, but it was Penzance SC who were the winners, with Colin Stephens, James Muir, Duncan Jones, and Nick Downing all picking up good points throughout the series.

The 2019-20 SSW Winter Series certainly provided a varied test, with a mix of storms and gentle breezes without much in between! The wild winds of the Porthpean Pursuit will certainly live in many people’s memories, whilst the tight finishes in the Steamer and Icicle were just thrilling to watch – you can see GPS replays via Our sponsors Allen Sailing make this series possible, whilst the support of Admiral Trailers and CMPR Ltd has truly helped the series to flourish.

Thanks to the clubs, race organisers and volunteers for making this year’s series a success, despite all the challenges they faced. With the uncertainty that coronavirus has brought to the nation, we wish everyone in the sailing community and beyond the very best, and we hope to see you all out on the water for R1 of the 2020-21 SSW Winter Series next Autumn. Follow our Facebook page for updates and schedules and visit for all the results, reports and information.

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