COSTA DEL SOLENT CONDITIONS FOR SONATA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Strong Costa del Solent conditions greeted the 19 One Design Hunter Sonatas that made the trip to the Island Sailing Club in Cowes to join the 12 strong home fleet for the postponed Goodall Roofing supported 2020 Sonata National Championships on their first return to the Solent for 15 years.

With the event starting on Sunday, visiting boats had time to travel and launch on the mainland (with thanks to Drivers Wharf for their support in getting all the boats safely craned in and out on time). Special mention to Tom White who sailed 140nm from Mevagissey to attend the event!

When Sunday did arrive, the fleet headed out into the Solent to 25-32 knots from the South West racing on the choppy waters of the Bramble Bank. Safe and consistent boat handling was key to the day, with Steve Goacher and his team on ‘Eric the Boat’ showing all their experience to nurse the boat around the course and take a 1,2,1 in the 3 races on day 1, with Max Richards in Little Scarlett (rescued from the brink of an argument with an angle grinder and a trip to the nautical scrapyard last summer) maintaining the pressure with a commendable 2,1,2.

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Considering the age of the boats, it was miraculous to see the boats come through the strong conditions of the day with minimal damage (Just 1 mast and 1 rudder!). Meanwhile in the lifting keel fleet, Jim Lawrence and team onboard Fiddler’s Elbow produced a respectable 1,2,1 to lead the way after 3 races.

Monday morning soon arrived, bringing with it a few sore heads and bodies following an opportunity to explore Cowes on the previous evening and a freshening 15 knots from the North West and the associated complexities for Race Officer Richard Palmer and his team. From the start of race 3, it was clear that the slightly more manageable breeze was going to compress the fleet, making some already fantastic racing even tighter.

This was highlighted particularly by the 3 different race winners for the day, Race 4 going to Max Richardson and Team in ‘Little Scarlett’ having had a close battle with team ‘Joey’, Race 5 to Steve Goacher and Team in ‘Eric the Boat’ and Race 6 to a dominant Mark Angell and Team in ‘Minim’ (Another boat rescued by the class association and masterfully restored by Mark).

Day 3 delivered a similar gift from the wind gods (not so much champagne sailing, but still a very enjoyable bitter shandy type day). After a series of windshifts in sequence caused a series of postponements and an unorthodox method of mark retrieval from the mark laying RIB, a flurry of enthusiasm lead to a few general recalls before racing finally got underway.

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With the early front runners ‘Little Scarlett’ and ‘Eric the Boat’ trading blows at the front of the fleet, the pecking order of the boats behind was slowly being established, with Lucian Stones ‘White Noise’ showing the type of form that earned them a podium place at the 2018 Nationals in Medway, and ‘Minim’ showing the pace which delivered the goods for COVID weathered Cowes Open Meeting in 2020 and ‘Joey’ posting results sufficient to keep them in the chocolates.

Heading into the final day with all to play for throughout the fleet, the pressure was on ‘Little Scarlett’ to keep their nose clean and keep their discard available for the 13th they suffered in race 5 following a start line raft up with ‘Minim’ and ‘Joey’ (never start next to your local rivals…). 15-20 knots from the southwest and the turn of the tide provided ideal conditions to battle for the final points.

In the end, ‘Little Scarlett’ produced a masterclass of consistent sailing to hoover up 3 bullets on the final day, whilst ‘Eric the Boat’ were close behind to take a comfortable second, followed by another consistent day for ‘Joey’ to round out the podium.

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A podium result for Joe Cross and the ‘Duette’ team, on his return to the class having won the nationals in 2018 shows an ominous return to form to be watched!

Special mentions must go to the crew of ‘Maverick’ for making up the youngest crew at the event and mixing it with some excellent teams in challenging conditions, to ‘Araya’ for making it back onto the water after losing their rig in race 2 and to the lifting keel fleet for holding their own against the fin keel boats in tough conditions!

Thanks must go to the Island Sailing Club for an exhibition on how to run a sailing event, but especially to Mark Angell for his relentless push to make this event happen to the level it did, to Richard Palmer for his excellent race management, to Cowes Harbour Commission for providing berthing for the fleet and also to Luke Goodall and Goodall Roofing for their overall support of the event.

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