British Formula Championships
1 June 2005
The time had come to take to the water and see who would be the British Formula Champion of 2005. Britain boasts a very strong formula fleet which attracted both French and Dutch sailors to the open championships. The timing of the event provided an ideal build up regatta for the Europeans the following week in Rhodes.
Race 1 on the other hand was not a warm up - the wind built from 15 knots to 22 knots. Competitors struggled to hold down their sails, hindered by a worsening sea state. Jamie barely acknowledged the increase in wind to take a solid finish, with Keith and Nick not far behind. Christine had a bit of a nightmare with two collisions, despite being on starboard both times. She retired from the race, which made her more determined to get two solid finishes in races 2 and 3.
Rapid change downs were made, and due to the sea state the feasibility of running more races was questioned. With the tide coming, in making launching more and more risky, only the formula fleet returned to the water. (because our gear costs the least!)
Two short but very exciting races took place. Keith and Nick changed down to their 9m sails giving them the control that was needed in the v. short steep waves. Xavier, Dennis, Jamie and I relied on fin changes to give us the control, battling on with our trusty 10m's. There is a point after which weight and height no longer provide such a huge advantage, past this point strength and technique count for much more. Alan Jackson, self acclaimed survival conditions guru, fought to take second in the final race. France's Lematayer also excelled with a bullet, explaining that the sea-state was very similar to that experienced in St Malo, his local training ground.
Saturday's racing was all about control, because without great control, huge speed losses were made from spin out or excessive air time. There was little to be gained tactically upwind due to a huge startboard bias on the line. This made holding a clean lane off the start all the more important. However places changed regularly on the downwind legs as judging the layline was made difficult by large waves hiding the buoy.
After a heated dispute between a minority of windsurfer's and the race committee, regarding the safety of the conditions and dangers of the shore break at high tide, the preparatory flag was replaced with a return to shore postponement. This favoured Jamie and Dennis who had already started heading for the beach. Whether the complaints were based solely on safety or regatta strategy is debatable.
It was agreed that racing would resume at 5pm when the sea had retreated down the shingle back, but with mixed views from the competitors it was eventually called off for the day. Several of the sailors returned to the water this time armed with freewave boards and sails ½ the size of the formula kit lying on the beach. Nick Dempsey pulled off some solid back loops and grubbies proving that racer's can rip given the right kit.
Sunday was uneventful with little wind. Hove lagoon provided great entertainment over the weekend, including wakeboarding displays and dragon boat racing which eased the passing of time. Races 4 and 5 were held in very changeable conditions on Monday. The morning dawned with a gentle south-westerly which was enhanced as the land warmed, providing 10-14 knots. However, as the day unfolded, dark clouds filled the sky and caused some substantial shifts taking away the speed advantage of some sailors. This played into the hands of Nick Dempsey and Keith Atkinson who led the fleet.
In Race 4 Dennis and Jamie failed to notice Xavier, Nick and Keith who were starting at the favoured end of a long start line. Xavier managed to hold on to 3rd place until the final lap when the speed of Dennis and Jamie prevailed. The final race saw Nick take the lead early on by heading inshore towards a group of dark clouds. However Keith and Dennis gybed inside him on the final downwind causing a very tight photo finish to decide whether Nick or Dennis took the title. The only difference being that Nick chose the favoured end of the line, giving him the second place he needed to win the championships.