Inland Champs 2008

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The Merlins travelled to the beautiful Cheddar Reservoir for this yearís Inland Championships, hosted by Bristol Corinthian YC. Apparently there was not much wind to greet them on Saturday morning but by the time we arrived, having accidentally taken a trip to Wales and an intentional one to a car wash, it was blowing a sufficient force 2 over the Mendip hills. Because of the slight issues of the hills in its way the wind was shifting all over the show, with some great bands of pressure, and some not so good thumping great big holes!

The fleet got away first time for the first start despite the strong port bias. A front pack consisting of Roger Gilbert crewed by James Stewart, Mike and Jane Calvert, and Andy Davis and Ellie Bremer each taking their turn of leading the fleet, the race course somewhat resembling a snakes and ladders board of lifts and deadly holes. By the penultimate lap Andy was pulling out his lead, only to have it swiped at the last minute by the stealthy Matt Biggs and Rob Kennaugh who had opted to lull the competition into a false sense of security with a poor start. The battle for 3rd was won by Mike and Jane.

Race 2 had a similar feel to it, however a general recall caused the black flag to come out. This time it was the Calverts who took the gun, with Simon and Jilly Blake in second and Julian Parry and Holly Scott taking third.

For Race 3 the pressure filled in a bit on the right hand side of the course with lots of places gained by banging right. Again the competition was tight with places changing right up to the finishing gun. Simon and Jilly held on to the lead, from Matt Biggs in second and Rich Whitworth in third.

Having had enough of the frustrating conditions the sailors headed in for a much needed pint, kindly provided by SailSport via Teignworthy Brewery. The Club put on some tasty food and a great band, and plenty of cheap booze, what more can you ask for!

Those kipping in tents would have had an inkling the Sunday was going to be a bit more exciting, I personally was a tad worried with our lack of tent pegs and the possibility of a trip to the Wizard of Oz, Munchkins and all!

With the breeze having increased but still in the same direction, it seemed to be swinging to an even greater extreme. The first start had to be postponed due to a big shift causing most boats to want to start pretty much onboard the committee boat. However the fleet got away clean on a second attempt. At the windward mark Matt Biggs rounded first having overstepped slightly on the port lay line; Alan Warren was close behind but not close enough, nearly taking Taxiís bow off coming in on port. He promptly did turns leaving Taxi and Rich Whitworth to chase Matt down. With the wind now blowing a good force 4-5 the fleet had some cracking screaming reaches across the reservoir. Andy and Ellie took the lead and continued pulling out, with Matt chasing them down in second and Roger Gilbert fighting off the rest of the fleet for third.

In the final race it was Tom Stewart and Liam Dempsey who took the lead, followed by Willy Warren and Chris Robison in second and Chris Lewns and Tom Pygall following close behind. The top reach proved a bit tight for the conditions leading to a 2 sail fetch. By the second time round the windward mark Roger Gilbert and James Stewart had come through to take the lead, which they held to the finish, Tom Stewart taking second and Willy Warren third.

All in all a great weekend of tactical racing was had, with five races and five different race winners. It just shows the brilliant standard challenging sailors in the fleet. Overall it was Matt Biggs and Rob Kennaugh who took the trophy home, with Andy Davis and Ellie Bremer in second and Roger Gilbert and James Stewart in third. Some very nice prizes were kindly provided by Fotoboat and SailSport.

Report: Ellie Bremer
Photos: Gemma Reid

See also:
    Full results
    Vintage results
    Loads of photos - on the Y&Y website, from Fotoboat)