The 19 teams sailing at the J/70 Ullman Sails National Championships awoke to a steady breeze of 10 to 15 knots from the south west. 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 a murky day on the water, crews were pleased to sail in under West Country 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.
For results visit http://rwyc.org/j70-national-championships/