|The RYA National
Hornet Europeans 2016 - Herne Bay Sailing Club
Back in the day, the Kentish coastline, from Whitstable around to Downs, was a veritable hot bed of Hornet sailing. With new builders coming on line, where better then to hold the 2016 Hornet Europeans, with Herne Bay Sailing Club hosting the class for a 4 day event.
After surviving a day of travel that saw just about every arterial route in the South blocked at some point, the fleet arrived at the club and started pitching tents in the allocated camping area, only for the Council to arrive with official eviction notices that referred the campers to the local shelter for the homeless. The local council soon owned up to the cock up with camping, boat rigging and drinking restored to their rightful order.
Saturday morning didn’t dawn with a positive forecast, the very best of these suggested that the wind would peak at 6 knots. However, with the first signs of the sea breeze arriving, the Race Officer and his team headed out on their deluxe Committee Boat, complete with the attendant fleet of RiBs. Cue the Police again, this time with a helicopter and a large matt black rib who thought that PRO stood for ‘people running organisation’. As things stood, they could have sent the whole Race Team to Dartmoor as they wouldn’t be needed that day; the wind had again died and would not be reappear until the following day. No matter, the bar was open, the lack of racing just mean that the Hornet social programme could start early!
Giant Jenga! Simple concept but made somewhat harder with the introduction of a few of the very palatable local brews and teams of two boats randomly selected by the Hornet Social committee. Much hilarity ensued before the fleet adjourned indoors to the backdrop of a stunning sunset.
The following day could not have been more different. From the outset it was breezy, with the short sharp chop that is so characteristic of the shallow waters in the estuary. Keen to get the programme back on schedule, the Race Officer gave the fleet 3 good races with quick turn-arounds between heats, though the conditions were by now taking a toll of the fleet. Mike McNamara, normally so reliable in a boat, was swept off his Hornet, though his crew did the honourable thing and sailed the boat back to collect his helm. Other boats suffered a variety of damage, there were a few injuries to contend. By Race 3 the tide had turned, the wind freshened further and some of the wiser crews had already headed for the shore. Those that finished the scheduled 3 races were thankful that the Race Officer had not added a fourth heat in as they made their tired way to the beach.
Good fortune was certainly smiling on some. Dick Garry and Sam Woolner won the first race but with the tiller barely hang on after being sat on during the last downwind. They were able to return ashore and replace the rudder and get back just in time for the second start after a very fortuitous postponement during a start sequence to adjust the line.
Mike McNamara’s swim seemed to fuel whatever had been missing from the first race and despite the swim was only narrowly beaten into second after a match race to the finish with Dick and Sam. The third race was a masterclass apparently, however he was too far ahead for most of the fleet to see! Dick and Sam did enough to lead overnight from Mike and Tim Riley. Third were Toby Barsley-Dale and Richard Nurse.
More boating antics were had in the evening. A blow boat tournament was arranged again in teams based on the buddy system. With such a wide variety of designs and highly competitive fleet the race officer was summoned to bring some order to the proceedings – he failed miserably!
It was still breezy on the Monday, though nowhere near as full on as the previous day. Mike Mac gave the fleet a masterclass lesson in sailing, with his offwind speed on the last race of the day being something that will be talked about for a long time.
Behind Mike the usual protagonists were clashing and the scrap for the other placings was well and truly on. Dick and Sam had a conservative day but held on to second place. Toby and Richard held on to third but were looking over their shoulder to Terry Curtis and Terry Palmer and Nigel Scudder and Keith Hills who were both uncomfortably close going into the last day.
After a cracking BBQ, the fleet had a slightly more sedate evening with a quiz night. Alex Rogers managed to round off the hat-trick and be in the winning team for all three socials... I’m not sure what that says about him!
After two days of strong winds, the last day started with a good sailing breeze but as the fleet started the last lap, the wind softened off leaving the boats to struggle their way around. Despite the best efforts of the Race Team to get another race started, the wind swung around, died, swung again and caused repeated delays. With the end of sailing deadline looming the breeze steadied enough for a last race to get away, with a big shuffling of the usual front runners.
With Mike and Tim winning the first race and Dick and Sam second, the first two places were set in stone. However the reshuffling of the final race meant that some frantic sums were being done for the final podium place. Toby and Rich sailed their worst race and discarded it but despite being beaten by both Terry/Terry and Nigel/Keith, neither of them did quite enough to close the gap for third.
The class would like to thank Herne Bay Sailing Club for a fantastic event and for all the effort put in by the club members who are all volunteers. It was good to be back!
2016 European Champions, Mike McNamara & Tim Riley
©The RYA National Hornet Association