July 4, 2019
RS 600 Volvo Noble Marine Allen National Championships, Stone Sailing Club
Very rarely does an event come together quite as well as last week’s RS600 National Championship. We had everything we could have hoped for; the biggest fleet for many years with 31 boats, close racing, sun, tides, waves and a great bunch of people to swap war stories with. Stone Sailing Club, on the Blackwater Estuary was the venue for this year’s championship and proved to be more than up to the job.
The practice day turned out to be a day for fettling and bimbling for some and all out blasting for the rest. Most of the fleet enjoyed the soon to be racecourse for several hours once the tide had turned and the waves had moderated. It proved to be a good choice to test the boats in heavier conditions while others got in some much-needed surfing/gybing/surviving practice. A few others learnt first-hand where the sandbanks were hidden under the water. Unfortunately, Chris Haslam broke the bottom section of his mast, but in one example of many, the fleet pulled together and Mr Sailboat Deliveries (Ian Jubb ‘www.upforsail.com legend’) pulled a spare from his van and Chris was good to go. The fleet retired happily to the bar, looking forward to the main event.
Friday dawned with whistling winds and clanging halyards. The 1PM start gave some chance to clear their heads and for the last few stragglers to arrive and hastily rig. A no-nonsense “don’t hit my boat and we’ll get on fine” briefing from the RO, Neil Fulcher, set the tone for the day which would prove to be a brilliant one.
As promised the racing got away on time and in a very solid 18+ knots of easterly breeze against a still outgoing tide which produced great wave conditions. This proved to be a day to remember for most. Getting the waves right was the challenge for both up and down wind, with a nosedive or capsize being the price for getting it wrong. Taking the leader’s yellow jersey was George Smith with a fine performance of 1,2,1 chased hard by the ever- present Richard Smith (Dickie) in 3rd and making a welcome return to the fleet, was the very consistent Andy Peake in 2 nd overnight. The fleet retired to the bar for the Nationals dinner with more tales of capsizes, waves and what could have been. A real classic days sailing.
Day 2 rang the changes, although still an easterly breeze, it was down to 9 knots giving a flatter racetrack but still producing some great racing conditions for the powerful rig of the 600. Staying consistent proved much more challenging with no-one going slowly and no easy pickings in the pack. Chris Haslam had the best of the day showing last year’s race win was no fluke by picking up results of 1,6,1. Ian Montague (Monty) also had a good day with 7,1,2 moving him into 3rd overall which was well deserved bearing in mind he had the burden of organising the event. Also, notable performances for one of the longest standing members of the fleet was Ian Marshall, with three 4 ths , whilst one of the newest, Ben Latham, secured three top 10 results. With the leaders’ jerseys changing hands overnight, the fleet settled into the AGM, commodore’s reception and the local club band.
The final day came around all too quickly, but we were greeted by a fresh westerly against an incoming tide to change the complexion of the racetrack. At least five boats were incontention to win if the day’s racing went their way and maybe more could have snuck onto the podium. The first race was a lumpy affair with the tide still opposing the wind, which had settled into a solid 15 knots at the time of launching. The windward mark was as crowded as it had been at any point, and the reach and run were nip and tuck, with all the main players virtually together with small gains to be made with the right wave or gust.
Positions swapped regularly but ended with a fist pump from Dickie who had narrowly edged Chris in his blue boat and Alex Piggott in his light blue one. Despite the race win, a podium spot for Dickie was not a certainty, neither was the overall winner at this stage, leaving the title to still be decided between the five front runners.
The tide by this point had begun to turn and the best of the wind was going with it. The sea state was lumpy at times but there was enough to punch through for the first lap. George made it to the windward mark first making the best of the committee boat end start, Mike Iszatt wasn’t far behind with the rest of the front-runners chasing hard. The race would be flipped on its head as the wind was starting to turn off. The front three were left bobbing on the right of the racecourse as a fresh lifting breeze took the yellow and red jerseys of Andy and Monty around the left side and into the lead. The final leg to the finish although the shortest, proved to be tactically the hardest. The tide was in full flow and most were barely making ground from the leeward mark to the finish. With the points so close the title was being decided on this last leg. The occasional puff of breeze would break the deadlock between tide and boat and allow progress towards the line. Eventually Andy snuck his bow over the line just ahead of Monty and Mike, although none of the three were sure who had made it first. George was left to flounder in the tide with another 4 th going to Ian Marshall who trapezed past in a rogue bit of breeze.
The race officer made the decision that the building tide and dying breeze wouldn’t make for any further racing. As the anchor was pulled up sure enough a shifty breeze filled in down the course as is typical, but at least the fleet avoided a long tow back.
With the closeness of the Top 4 results it proved that no-one’s maths was quite up to the job of working out who had won and so all would be revealed at the prize giving. Eventually, it was Andy's consistency that would win him the title of 2019 RS600 National Champion followed closely by Dickie, George and Monty with only 2 points separating these three. 1 st youth and a well-deserved 5 th place for Chris Haslam, who definitely owes Jubby a beer (when he starts drinking) for the loaner mast section that saw him through.
Overall, a superb event that wouldn’t have taken place if it weren’t for the hard work of Ian and Debbie Montague who made it look effortless. Thanks to Stone Sailing Club for their warm welcome and all their volunteers as well as the galley and bar staff who kept us fed and watered. Thank you to Neil our race officer who did a superb job and to all who helped on-board the committee boat. Massive thank you to our sponsors Allen, Rooster, Volvo, Noble Marine and to Silverhook for providing the great goody bags and Boat Yard at Beer for the free beer on coming ashore. Also, a mention to Alex Newton-Southon who generously provided one of the Classes new Square Top designed sail which was drawn and won at the prize giving by Adam Watson. A well-deserved winner for travelling up from Plymouth.
If you’ve read this and thought that you’re missing out, then you would be right. Get out there and get yourself a boat, these are still available from around £1000 or less! The final two events of the season are not too far away and if you would like to know more, join the active and helpful RS600 Facebook group, who will get you up to speed and answer all your 600 related questions.