With the overall Championship all but sewn up by Chris Rashley and Billy Vennis-Ozanne, there was still all to play to for many of the teams lower down the order on the fourth and final day of the Volvo Noble Marine RS800 National Championships, not least the battle for 2nd with Pete Barton and Chris Feibusch on equal points with last year’s champions, Luke and Emma McEwen.
A fresher breeze than the previous day and the Easterly flowing tide was throwing up some chop across the race course making for some challenging conditions and the prospect of potentially costly mistakes in the final two championship races.
Lining up for the start, the big decision was whether to fight for the port bias gains or to start further up the line and tack off out into the stronger favourable tide as early as possible. With a bit of local knowledge to help them on their way Chris Rashley and Billy Vennis-Ozanne called it perfectly and led the fleet out to the starboard lay line and round the windward mark closely followed by Peter Barton and Chris Feibusch and the stars of the previous day, Tim Gratton and Fiona Hampshire. Under clear blue skies and champagne sailing conditions, the downwind legs were fast and bouncy and the racing tight.
At the end of two more rounds, the top three positions remained in that order, with Luke and Emma McEwen coming through from 6th on the final downwind leg to take 4th and keep the pressure on Barton and Feibusch in the battle for 2nd going into the final race.
For the final race and with the Easterly tidal flow weakening inshore and the port bias on the line seemingly less, Rashley and Vennis-Ozanne, Barton and Feibusch and the McEwens all opted to start towards the committee boat end of the line and tack out early. Unfortunately this was to misjudge the gains that were to be made from the pin end and a number of boats gained a big advantage with the eventual race winners, Josh Belben crewed by local hero and Olympic rock star Alain Sign, among them. Rashley and Vennis-Ozanne had already done enough to win the champs, but the battle for 2nd raged on.
The McEwen’s spinnaker pole snapped on the first hoist, which appeared to hand the advantage to Barton and Feibusch, but with a discard of a 6th to fall back on it meant that Bartonand Feibusch needed a 5th or better to break the tie. Buried in the pack at the windward mark, they pushed hard, but only managed to recover to 9th at the finish, handing the McEwens 2nd overall by one point. The “Kids”, Phil Walker and John Mather hung on for 2nd with returning 2013 National Champion, James Date crewed by James “Jimmy” Green, finally finding some of his old form to take 3rd.
All in all a fantastic championships, at a great venue, blessed with incredible hospitality from the club and its members and perfect weather enabling all 10 races to be completed on schedule. On shore, the competitors enjoyed a packed social programme with a talk by Mike Golding OBE on the first night, a pirate-themed games night and a disco night with plenty of fun and frolics on the dance floor!
Huge thanks to everyone involved in organising the event and of course to the sponsors: Volvo, Noble Marine, Forward WIP and SpeedSix
There is a great buzz of positivity within the RS800 class at the moment with a number of young new teams and returners to the class, many attracted by the recent rule change allowing the crew to take the mainsheet, which has brought the class right up to date again and broadened the demographic of people able to, and wanting to, compete.
A quick look at the top places at this event and it is occupied by a healthy mix of size, age and gender demonstrating that skill and ability is all that’s required to compete at the front of the fleet in the RS800.
Report by Chris Feibusch