Monday, September 12, 2016

HARLEQUIN Wins Ullman Sails J/70 UK Nationals

J/70 UK Nationals sailing off Plymouth, EnglandLiardet’s COSMIC Top English Team, JUST4PLAY Crowned Jack & Jill Champion!
(Plymouth, England)- This year’s J/70 UK Nationals were hosted by the Royal Western YC in Plymouth, England.  The racing was intense, fun, and saw many of the nineteen teams experiencing enormous swings of fame & fortune + disaster, all on the same day!  In the end, a Royal Malta YC crew on HARLEQUIN (Sebastian Ripard & Jonathan Calascione) won the Open Division, with Patrick Liardet’s COSMIC winning the UK Nationals!  Here is how it all went down over the three-day regatta.

Day 1-  Incredibly, there were four winners in four races on day one.  The crews awoke to a steady breeze of 10-15 kts from the southwest. The skies were grey with light drizzle in the air, but with the forecast for sun later in the day, spirits were high as the crews headed to the south side of Plymouth breakwater.

The start of Race 1 confirmed the committee’s suspicions that getting this very competitive class away would be tricky, with a general recall followed by the first (and by no means last) use of the black flag. Luckily, all teams were clear the next time of asking. With 3 laps of the windward leeward course, a snakes and ladders effect was felt across the fleet. Clive Bush’s Darcey, a newcomer to the fleet this year, snuck away to secure an early bullet. David McLeman, fresh from a few weeks cruising the Brittany coast in his 46ft catamaran, showed he was just as comfortable back in a 23 footer by taking 2nd place in Offbeat.

The committee of the Royal Western Yacht Club wasted no time in getting the second race going. With good breeze holding, crews searched for tidal benefits in and around the breakwater. The large rolling seas tested even the best of drivers. Cosmic owned by seasoned J/sailor Patrick Liardet, took full advantage and sailed away to finish first.

The breeze began to ease in race 3, but super sailing from Allan Higgs and his crew saw ESF Energy split from the fleet in to a great position which they held to finish first.

With the wind rapidly dropping and shifting left, the committee were forced to move the windward mark a few times in race 4 keeping the crews on their toes. Jonathan Calascione’s Harlequin fought right to the end to take the last gun.

After starting a murky day on the water, crews were pleased to sail in under the West Country’s mostly brilliant sunshine. On the dock awaited a drinks party courtesy of event sponsor Sol, which was enjoyed whilst the teams reminisced about the day’s events. Most agreed that conditions were tough and any small error meant places would be lost, but it’s the challenge of constancy which is the draw of one design racing. Proven by the team on Ian Wilson’s Shiver; no bullet to celebrate on day one, but a score sheet of 3-5-2-2 was good enough to hold the top spot overnight!

Day 2-  The BIG Breeze brings BIG grins on day two of the BIG UK regatta!  Yup.  It was a Brilliant BIG Day for all! But, it was a BIT damp!

What a difference a day makes! With BIG breeze forecast, the committee kept the fleet inside the historic Plymouth breakwater on Saturday, a wise decision as gusts of up to 28 kts were recorded!!  Under these conditions, it was the teams who kept cool under pressure who were set to see their fortunes change. In the first of 3 races, the black flag made an early appearance, with the tide helping to push the confident fleet over the start line. However all boats got away on the second attempt. Awesome planing conditions meant not even the rain could dampen spirits, and with the tidal effect from Drake Island, staying right was a tactic that continued to pay throughout the day.

Harlequin helmed by Sebastian Ripard was on fire in the breeze, with a hat trick performance today they are certainly hungry for the title. Back in the bar, his crew (and uncle) Jonathan Calascione described the boat as a joy to sail. The team will be competing at the ALCATEL J/70 CUP in Lake Garda, Italy next weekend.

Others that were on the podium today included Allen Higgs’ ESF Energy who are in their final stages of preparation for the J/70 Worlds in San Francisco later in the month. With a 2nd and 3rd on the board today they have plenty to play for going in to the last day.

Other teams who were having a great time in the high breeze and moving through the fleet included the J/111 World Champion Martin Dent, sailing with his daughter Ruby on JELVIS (also training for the J/70 Worlds in San Francisco!).  Nigel Evans with Spinnaker Wealth Management, who recorded 15.3 knots on a downwind leg, scored a 3rd place in race 5, their best result so far.

As the weather continued to deteriorate (like a LOT more wind), the decision was made to head home after 3 races. The crews were delighted to seek shelter in the welcoming bar of the Royal Western YC and a drinks party courtesy of sponsor Sagres. A delicious class supper was also on the menu.

Day 3-  The final showdown took results to the wire on day three of the J/70 Ullman Sails UK Nationals!  After the thrills and spills of Saturday’s high winds, a brilliant sunny start was a welcome sight to competitors as they followed the committee back to the south side of the break water for the final 3 races of the championships.

With the same 3-lap race course format as the previous 2 days, the crews were well aware in a tight fleet how quickly fortunes could change. The day’s first race had a variable breeze of 10–14 kts and dropping, combined with a rolling swell. The crew of Harlequin continued their trend and took the first bullet to further extend their lead overall.

Whilst the top position was now looking secured, the rest of the podium was still very much up for grabs and Shiver‘s consistent finishes in the top 5 were showing their value. A 5th place in race 9 put him into second place with one race to go.

Tension grew as once again the pressure of the start with 19 closely matched one-design boats was too much and caused a general recall. The committee once again raised the black flag to maintain order on the start line. At the second time of asking the fleet were away cleanly, once again remaining in close contact around the course but it was Patrick Liardet’s COSMIC who sneaked away to finish the regatta on a bullet. Thereby, joining Wilson’s SHIVER in second place on equal points, but beating them on count back! They also take home the title of top Corinthian team!

Prizes were presented outside the Royal Western’s club house by Nigel Dunkley. The winner, Sebastian Ripard, thanked the club, sponsors and the J/70 committee for their hard work and effort they put in to this great event.

Additional awards including “Top Young Crew”- Cowes Race Week winner- Jack Davies on YETI; “Top Senior Crew”- Ian Wilson’s SHIVER; and “Top Mixed Crew”- Simon Cavey’s JUST4PLAY (e.g. the “Jack & Jill” Champions!).  For more Ullman Sails J/70 UK Nationals sailing information