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Report on the Centenary Vane A National Championship 29th July to 4th August 2023

Firstly, a huge thank you to those who sponsored the event: Gosport Borough Council; the Model Yachting Association (MYA); Graham Wyeth; The Chair of the MYA, and for lots of cake and biscuits, particularly from Shaun and Cassie Wyeth. Also, thank you to the hardworking Organising Committee and the whole Race Team; The curators of the two exhibitions, Martin Bandey and Susanne Lewis/Jim Jakes; The work of Jeanette Geldard and Andrea Roberts on the social front; and finally, Gosport Model Yacht and Boat Club (GMYBC). All contributed to an amazing celebration.

The Centenary event was started on Saturday 29th July with a Vintage Model Yacht Group (VMYG) event celebrating the more elderly examples of A Class yachts. Around 20 boats attended. Fourteen beautiful examples entered the Concours d’elegance. Congratulations to the overall winner GMYBC member, Nigel Brown with his The Saint sail number K797, a Gill design. The judges had a difficult job in choosing the winner. There were three other prize categories: The oldest boat was registered in the 1930’s. One boat was racing and in original condition. Others were exquisitely renovated with period fittings and sails and new builds of period designs were also on show. Informal racing topped off the day with the Stollery’s Clockwork Orange sail number 921 collecting the most points. She also raced in the Centenary National Championship.

Sunday, the first day of the National championship began with a promising SSW/SW forecast, however, the wind did increase and become gusty and it rained. Not ideal Gosport weather! The Mayor, as Patron of GMYBC and Mayoress of Gosport welcomed competitors and visitors wishing them an enjoyable event. The Mayor started the first board of the 22 boats competing.
Five heats were completed. The unpredictability, shifting direction and varying strength of the wind turned many initially winning boats into having to settle for no points!
By the end of the day, three skippers were consistently winning, dropping only one run each to gain 23 points. Dave Geldard and mate (daughter) Amber Geldard racing Syana, a Bill Sykes design; Chris Harris and mate Graham Bantock racing Jouster, a Bantock design and Graham Butler and mate Keith Wiseman racing Dignity, also a Bantock design. They were closely followed by Sam Dicks and mate (father) Mark Dicks with 19 points sailing another Sykes design and Thomas Wyeth and mate Sam Roberts with 17 points racing a Bantock boat. Several skippers and mates were real rookies in vane sailing and did well to score points in the challenging conditions. At the end of the 5th heat, racing was called a day when the increasing wind led to two boats hitting the unforgiving concrete of the lake at speed and one skipper having to jump into the lake to prevent damage to the boat.

Day 2, Monday, was brighter but windy at the start. Gradually it was calmer in the rain! A further six heats made 11 in all. Graham Butler and mate Keith Wiseman leapt into the lead with 7 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Chris Harris and Graham Bantock, and they were 8 ahead of Dave and Amber Geldard. Martin and (wife) Andrea Roberts moved up into third equal place.
There were some exciting spinnaker runs, close finishes, changes of position and tacking duels as competitors raced the length of the lake. Inevitably there were quite a few resails. The wind direction shifted, almost doing a complete circle at one point, keeping competitors on their toes. On more than one occasion, a chasing boat suddenly was in front as their opponent headed across the lake and were therefore able to take line honours and the points!

On day three, the wind was described as ‘all over the place’, but largely around the SSW and W directions with occasional bursts towards SW. However, the avenue of trees in the SW corner often made starts on the downwind leg ‘interesting’…..
The direction was good, in other respects, giving some exciting tacking duels, where boats crisscrossed, banked, and attempted to avoid their opponents. As many may know, failing to avoid your opponent just after you have left the bank will lose you the race! Some took risks and were successful, others regretted their actions.
The race teams, led by the excellent starter, now in their stride, worked effectively to have a continuous stream of boats on the water or ready to go, so in spite of the great number of resails a further six heats were completed.
As can be seen from the results sheet, the race leader, Graham Butler and mate Keith Wiseman retained their position, but with a slimmer, two point lead from Chris Harris and Graham Bantock. Four other boats were hot on their heels: Martin Roberts and mate Andrea Roberts, and Shaun Wyeth with mate (son) Russell Wyeth, Peter Fothergill with mate Paul Edwards and also Derek Priestley with mate (daughter) Lisa Priestley.
An analysis of the scores demonstrated that quite a few skippers were losing more points on the downwind spinnaker runs than on the beats. The famous Gosport ‘knuckle’ lived up to its reputation frustrating the efforts of skippers and mates to move their boats on speedily. Conversely a couple of skippers were losing far more beats than runs, although some by a narrow margin. There were two dead heats, as well.
A huge thank you to Jeanette Geldard and her team for providing boxed lunches for the competitors and race team, packed with interesting finger food which really put smiles on faces.

Wednesday the 2nd of August was the Yachting Monthly Cup. The weather forecast for Gosport was dire – 40 knots plus gusts and rain.
However, the RO for this prestigious centenary race, Martin Roberts, set to preparing the four groups of boats required for the event. Contingency arrangements, should the weather become extreme, included omitting the runs from the quarter finals onwards.
Sadly, an original 26 boat entry was reduced to 16 in view of the predicted adverse weather conditions. In the event, however, although it was gusty, the strength was well under predictions and contingencies were not needed.
Graham Wyeth, as starter, did a brilliant job setting pairs off. There were rather a number of re-sails a hint of what was to come in the next stage. At the end of the initial session, the first and second skipper in each group moved to the quarter finals which were closely contested:
David Bell, sail number 79, the defending skipper beat Derek Priestley, sail number 87.
Martin Dovey, sail number 21 beat Lewis Wyeth, sail number 77
Peter Stollery, sail number 39 beat Mike Dann, sail number 42 – they did have to have at least, 6 goes to get to the winner!
Dave Geldard, sail number 94 beat Russell Wyeth, sail number 66.
In the semi-finals Martin Dovey beat David Bell and Dave Geldard beat Peter Stollery.
Then a very exciting final! A real battle with many resails, sometimes from almost the finishing post! So, the skippers and mates concerned certainly did their 10,000 steps.
Finally, Congratulations to Dave Geldard and his mate, daughter, Amber, who prevailed and won the Yachting Monthly Cup in the centenary year. Our thanks to Julia Jones, representing the editor of the Yachting Monthly magazine that had presented the trophy, all those years ago, who presented the trophy to Dave and Amber and a runners up prize to Martin and Graham. Also thank you to Martin Roberts for running the show!

Thursday was back to the Championship. The penultimate day started well with sunshine and less wind which had moved from the SSW to the NW overnight and was another tricky direction for skippers. During the day the cloud built, light rain made an appearance and then a deluge including hail stones and lightning….. Finally, there was a flat calm.
Most of us were wet through although five heats were raced to end of the first round, and the beginning of the next round were achieved. Positions did change. Chris Harris moved into first place, one point ahead of Graham Butler. Shaun Wyeth was now third with 78 points, followed by Peter Fothergill and mate Paul Edwards with 71.5. The leading group was completed by Derek Priestley and mate Lisa on 71 points and Martin Roberts dropping to sixth. The ice cream van was a great idea (thank you Jeanette and Andrea) and most took a short break to enjoy the diversion.

The last day there was again a NW wind with cloud and sunshine at times. The prospect of potentially a further five heats meant that 25 additional points could be won or lost. Certainly, an exciting finale. In the event Chris Harris and mate Graham Bantock kept their heads and only dropped 5 points. Lewis Wyeth did well to take three of those points! So, with a total of 111 points, Chris and Graham secured the victory. Second and third places were really close with Graham Butler and mate Keith Wiseman coming second with 97 points and Shaun Wyeth and mate Russell Wyeth, third with 96 points. In 4th place Peter Fothergill and mate Paul Edwards clearly had some downwind issues but retained their 4th place with 91.5 points. Martin and mate Andrea Roberts moved up into 5th place with 88 points ahead of Derek and Lisa with 83.

Chris and Graham also won the trophy for winning the highest number of beats, by one point from Peter Fothergill and Paul Edwards and, the trophy for most runs by 2 points from Peter and (father) Roger Stollery! Overall prize list attached.
Largely thanks to the brilliant efforts of the starter and the race teams, and the compliance of the competitors. Pairs were kept moving so 28 heats in total were achieved. Very well done everyone! It was also a family affair: 15 of the boats were skippered and mated by members of the same family. Very much in the free sailing tradition! The RO’s job was made easier by all in all, a very good-natured and highly competitive event at every level. Interventions, where needed, were managed with quiet words and appropriate decisions made. There was no need to intervene when it is blindingly obvious, and the opposition are walking their boat away. It is part of the DNA of vane sailing that participants race fairly, a facet to be emphasised and hopefully, experienced and enjoyed, particularly by the first-time rookies.

The event was rounded off by a fantastic twenties themed dinner dance organised by Jeanette and Andrea where the Mayor gave out the prizes. A centenary to be remembered, or, as was commented by several – ’the best ever Vane A National Championship’!

Jacque Cook Race Officer

Waiting for call to the line
Spinnakers on a sunnier day
Yachting Monthly Cup Winners
It rained and hail stoned……..
Chris Harris, the Centenary Vane A National Champion 2023 and the Mayor
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