9 May 2012
Stena Line Cup 1
On the Bank Holiday weekend of 5/6/7 May Abererch Sands near Pwllheli witnessed the arrival of almost 80 windsurfers from all over the UK to take part in the first event in the Stena Line UKWA Windsurfing Cup Championships of 2012. Camper vans and trailers began to roll into the site during the day on Friday and windsurfers started to rig their sails and check their equipment in preparation for the weekend's racing. The beautiful bay with its backdrop of mountains is without a doubt the most spectacular racing venue of the entire series which visits a total of six superb seaside locations throughout the summer, Pwllheli, Herne Bay, The Mumbles, Bridlington and Christchurch, finishing at the Olympic Sailing venue, Weymouth, in October.
Several different types of windsurfer would be in action - the RS:X which will be taking part in this year's Olympics, the Formula boards with their sail sizes going up to 12 square metres, the 3.75 metre long Raceboards and for the under 17s the Technos with either 6.8 or 7.8 square metre sails.
The weather forecast for the weekend promised some reasonable wind on the Saturday with some sunshine, no wind and lots of sunshine on the Sunday and rain and gales on the Monday. It was shaping up to be a challenging event!
At the Sailor's Briefingon Saturday morning, at which UKWA Chairman Bob Ingram welcomed aboard new sponsor Stena Line, who have agreed to become lead sponsors of the 2102 Cup Championships, providing the trophies for the series and special ferry discount vouchers to the winners.
All the fleets except the Formulas went out to the start line on the Saturday morning sporting their Stena Line sail stickers in the chilly northeasterly wind, which blew around the 8knots mark and two races were sailed before lunch. The wind increased however during the afternoon two races and boards were beginning to plane. The Formulas were called out onto the course and managed to complete one race before the wind began to die and they had to come ashore.
At the end of Day One Lewis May was leading the 7.8 Technos by three clear points and James Hatcher was ahead of 2nd place Emma Labourne in the 6.8 Class. Joe Bennett had stamped his authority on the RS:X fleet with three first places out of four. Rob Kent had managed the same feat in the Raceboard class where he had edged ahead of his great rival, Mark Kay who won the Cup Series in 2011. The only Formula race sailed that day was won by Keith Atkinson, the former British Champion making a welcome return to racing.
Sunday lived up to the forecast, sun and very little wind. The morning was enlivened by the antics of some of the local dolphin population who were frolicking around the western end of the bay. There are some great pictures of these dolphins on the Net, just Google "Pwllheli dolphins" and you'll be enchanted. The sun shone brightly but to everyone's disappointment despite several false alarms there was never quite enough wind to make it worthwhile starting a race. The Techno coach took them out onto the water to practise starting which enabled the youngsters to work off their excess energy, but the remaining competitors simply sat around enjoying the sunshine and speculating about whether Monday's ominous weather forecast would actually materialise.
Monday morning fulfilled our worst expectations, it had rained hard during the night and the camping site had been buffeted by strong winds. Once again the cold northerly was in command, bringing the temperature down to a mere 4 degrees, although later in the day it did climb to a blistering 8 or so!
The last possible start was 2pm, a time dictated by the necessity of getting the Committee and safety boats back into the harbour and ashore with sufficient depth of water, so there was just time to fit in three races if things went smoothly. A number of sailors were deterred by the extreme conditions and only the hardiest braved the increasing shore break to make it out to the start line. The wind was blowing at around 20 knots or more, gusting 25 and whipping up a vicious chop.
Two races were completed and the fleets came in for a brief rest, however by the time competitors were called out for a third race the shore break had become more aggressive, masts were being broken and sails trashed as sailors came to grief in the surf, so the Race Officer called a halt to the destruction and the competitors wearily carried their gear up the beach and made for the hot showers.
The Prizegiving was held in the drizzling rain - but the triumphant smiles of the winners refused to be dampened.
Formula fleet leader from Saturday's race, Keith Atkinson, held on to his lead to win his class. Henry Bloodworth won the 6.8 Technos and Oliver Bradley-Baker the 7.8s. Joe Bennett stayed in front of the RS:X fleet but in the Raceboards Mark Kay and Rob Kent finished on exactly the same points. However a win in the last race meant that the victory went to Mark, who also won the Stena Line £50.00 Irish Ferry Discount Voucher.
Full results can be found on the UKWA website.
The next event in the Stena Line UKUWA Championship Series takes the fleets to Herne Bay on the north coast of Kent at the first weekend in June.