|The RYA National
The Hornets descended on Herne Bay SC for their 2009 National Championships, and thanks to our hosts for stepping in at the last minute, due to a change of venue. The short notice meant that several boats had prior commitments, so this was reflected in the 16 boat entry. The event was generously supported by Frisby Solicitors.
On the Saturday, the 15 knot breeze from the west boded well, with a wind-over-tide chop making it interesting. In the first race, Peter Bennett and John Shelton from Shoreham got to the mark first, but were quickly rolled by Harry Ashworth and Ruth Walker from Bartley on the reach, with Dave Edge and Martin Arnison from Weston snapping at their heels. These three swapped places a few times around the course, with Bennett pulling away with astonishing speed on the downwind legs to take the win, followed by Edge, and Mark & Clint Styles from Downs taking third.
In the second race, Edge pulled out a nice lead at the first mark, with the Muddy Boys Dean Saxton and Rob Smith from Maldon in pursuit. Bennett and Shelton were enjoying the Shorehamesque waves on the downwind leg, and pulled through to take their second bullet, followed by Edge, who had suffered some trapeze problems, and Saxton taking third.
As the tide changed, the wind dropped slightly, and the locals including Chris Brealy & Gary Danielwicz were seen heading for the beach to cheat the spring current. Those that went with them benefitted, and Bennett led this one from start to finish in a drag race from Edge and Ashworth.
Sunday started a bit lighter, and the earlier start meant the tide would be even across the course for longer. Again, Bennett revelled in the short chop, especially downwind, taking the bullet ahead of Edge and Saxton.
The second race of the day saw a couple of false starts, caused by the strong tide carrying the fleet over the line, but order was re-established by the nifty use of a black flag. Some vicious squalls caused a bit of consternation further down the fleet, but this looked like it would be Edge's race, taking the lead for most of the way round with Styles and Bennett in hot pursuit. However the Shoreham boat pulled through on the last leg to put the championship beyond reach.
The final start went straight to black flag, as the wind rose and became more variable. Those who went left on the beat were rewarded by a nice shift to the south, so Steve Cooke and Alistair Hardy from Stone, and Eric Styles & Alex Church from Downs formed a group with Mark Styles to break away from the rest. Some place-changing ensued at the front, but Bennett managed to grind them down to get into the mix. Eric Styles then managed to get a lift to the last windward mark, lee-bowing the increasing ebb to carve out a good lead, followed by Cooke and Bennett. At the last gybe mark, both Bennett and Mark Styles carried a strong gust past the mark, while Cook gybed and stopped to read a book. Bennett couldn't quite catch Eric Styles on the last reach, so dropped a point for the weekend.
The final scoreline looks like a whitewash on paper, but every race was full of events, with places changing right up to the wire - typical Hornet sailing.
Bennett & Shelton were sailing a wooden Coombe boat with North Sails, Edge & Arnison a home built epoxy Revolution with Macnamara sails, and Styles & Styles sailing an all-wood Goodwin with Macnamara sails, showing the variety of choice in this evergreen class. Credit must go to Mark Styles who broke both wrists in a fall earlier this year, and still coming in third place overall. It was also exactly 25 years since Peter Bennett won his first Hornet National title.
Our thanks go to Herne Bay SC for stepping into the breach at the last minute, our prize sponsors Frisby Solicitors, and the organisation on and off the water was second to none. The conditions, water and race officer were all excellent, and we were all left wondering why we hadn't been back there for a Nationals since 1975!