Thorney Island and the testing waters of Chichester Harbour were the location for round four of the hotly contested 2000 Class Crewsaver Millennium Series held over the weekend of 18-19 July. 25 teams battled it out at this event, which was hosted jointly by the Army Sailing Association and Thorney Island Sailing Club. Two points separated the top three teams in the series so competition was always going to be fierce and all eyes were on father and daughter team of Matt and Gwen Sargent to see if they could cause an upset in their own back yard.
The fleet was blessed with glorious conditions throughout the weekend with bright sunshine, temperatures rising to 25 degrees and a starting force 3-4 which steadily built throughout both days as the sea breeze kicked in.
Race one got underway against a strong flooding tide in a busy harbour. Despite a 360 turn for hitting the pin end, the Royal Navy team of Natalie Roach and Alex Pickles demonstrated excellent upwind speed reaching the top mark in good shape and competing for the lead with Rob and Sarah Burridge. Good boat handling was essential on this short course which afforded the competitors little time or space to relax. Rob and Sarah eventually sailed themselves into a position where they could control the race and opened their score-card with a bullet, closely followed by Natalie and Alex then the Sargents.
As the temperature increased the wind continued to build for race two; however, this didn’t hinder the Sargents who demonstrated that young Gwen, despite weighting only 30kgs, by using good technique and determination could compete against the heavy weights at the top end of this competitive fleet. They sailed excellently to win race two with the Burridges and the Navy team following closely behind.
The yellow flag signalled that the final race of day one would be a windward leeward followed by a 2 mile spinnaker run against the ebbing tide down the Thorney Channel to finish on the club line – in these conditions this was something the whole fleet was looking forward to. Natalie and Alex managed to eek out a narrow lead on team Burridge, which they held before setting course for home. Trying to stay out of the tide but in the wind without hitting the bottom was challenging and led to intense gybing duals developing throughout the fleet. Natalie and Alex managed to hold on to win race three despite the constant pressure from Rob and Sarah.
Day two promised to provide more close racing with all to play for leading into race four. With the wind slightly more Westerly and a strong flooding tide, the ideal tactic on the first beat was to stay inshore on the right hand side of the course. This was made more complicated by a pin end favoured start line. However, the Burridges managed this expertly by starting more towards the middle of the line and getting onto port tack early before edging ahead with their legendary upwind speed. They dominated throughout this race and posted their second win of the weekend. Natalie and Alex finished 2nd with Chris and Gill Jordan in 3rd, starting to revel in the max power conditions.
The penultimate race was led by the Jordans for a while before they were overhauled by the Burridges and the Sargents, who pushed hard all the way to the end, but couldn’t prevent Rob and Sarah winning what would be the deciding race in the series. The Jordans posted a consistant 3rd and Natalie and Alex stumbled slightly with a 4th, opening the door to the Sargents for the possibility of 2nd overall.
So the stage was set for race six which would again finish up channel at the club line. The Burridges had already secured 1st place but the Navy and Army would have to fight it out for 2nd. Teams Jordan and Phillips and the RAF Sailing Association Team of Ali Barker and James Sargent would be battling for 4th overall. With marginal planning conditions in the channel and gusts filling in from behind massive gains were possible on the run home, the final places being decided by three separate photo finishes between the first three pairs of boats. Race six was won by a half bowsprit by Matt and Gwen from Rob and Sarah to the delight of the home crowd cheering at the club finish line. Natalie and Alex also just pipped Ali and James on the final gybe to take third.
Overall, the Burridges sailed a consistent series of races to take a comfortable overall win, followed by Matt and Gwen who defied the heavy weights in the class to post an excellent set of results and take 2nd place at their home club. Natalie and Alex from the Royal Navy Sailing Association showed a fantastic turn of speed throughout the weekend to take 3rd place and will be a team to watch at the National Championships in Abersoch. The Jordans seemed to enjoy the windy conditions sailing well and doing enough in the final race to secure 4th ahead of Ali and James from the RAF Sailing Association. Helen and Andrew Phillips had to settle for 6th after the Race Officer was unable to separate them from the Yardleys at the finish line. This was an excellent weekend both on and off the water so thank you to everyone involved in running this event from Thorney Island Sailing Club and the Army Sailing Association. Thanks also to the generous sponsorship of Crewsaver.
The 2000 Nationals will held at South Caernarfonshire Yacht Club 8 – 14 Aug 15. Please go to the 2000 Class Association website for details at: http://www.2000class.org/
Report by Ali Barker