The Flying Fifteen Northern Championships were hosted by Royal Windermere YC over the weekend of 21st-22nd April and attracted a large and very competitive fleet of 47 boats, numbers being boosted due to the event being part of the qualification series for the 2019 World Championships taking place in Ireland.
The unseasonably hot and sunny weather of the preceding week continued into the first day of the event with the fleet launching under a cloudless sky and very little wind - in fact by the time everyone had reached the starting area the wind had disappeared entirely, resulting in a lengthy postponement before racing could get under way. Eventually the forecast 8 knot breeze did materialise and three good races around a triangle-sausage course could be held.
In the first race, and after the obligatory couple of general recalls, Royal Windermere local Steve Goacher sailing with Tim Harper (current World Champions) established a healthy lead ahead of the chasing pack and went on to win the race followed by Jeremy Davy & Martin Huett from Draycote SC in second and Simon Patterson & Simon Thompson also from Draycote in third place.
Goacher & Harper also led the fleet home in the second race, this time followed by Ian Pinnell and Graham Vials & Chris Turner.
Vials & Turner (also previous Flying Fifteen World Champions) went one better by winning the final race of the day with the ever-consistent Goacher & Harper this time in second place, followed this time by Pinnell in third.
The provision of race tracking by Sail Racer allowed the racing to be followed by many both at the clubhouse, and further afield, we are told the website had 5000 hits for day one. This can still be viewed courtesy of Sailracer here
So the results at the top of the fleet were extremely tight at the end of the first day, but with the possibility of everything still changing as a weather front moved-through overnight, accompanied by some spectacular lightning and short but intense rain showers.
Sunday dawned wet and grey and with a chilly 15-knot breeze - but remarkably by the time the fleet launched the wind had again almost disappeared and it was a long sail out of Bowness Bay to the race area.
Once again, the wind returned on schedule to allow the final two races to be held, but this time conditions were typical Windermere - very shifty and with lots of holes and the occasional strong gust. Vials & Turner continued where they had left off and won the first race of the day, followed by Davy & Huett in second and Goacher & Harper in third.
A large wind shift at the start of the final race of the event saw boats at one end of the start line almost reaching across the line as the gun went, with some boats to windward of them being forced-out and having to circle-around before being able to start and then having to play catch-up for the rest of the race - and that's a very difficult thing to achieve in the Flying Fifteen fleet which is famous for the strength-in-depth of its sailing talent and the very even boat speed through the fleet.
Greg Wells and Andrew Jamieson from Hayling Island SC won the final race, followed by David McKee & Mal Hartland from Dovestone SC and Dave Heron & Chris Ducker from Royal Windermere YC. Overall Steve Goacher and Tim Harper were worthy winners of the Northern Championships, followed by Vials & Turner in second and Davy & Huett in third.
Royal Windermere YC are to be congratulated on the efficient manner in which the event ran both on and off the water, especially given the demands of accommodating a fleet of 47 Flying Fifteens within a fairly small area, and then getting them all launched smoothly.
With thanks also to the sponsors and supporters of the event Slam UK, Goacher Sails, Pattinson Builders, as well as Peter & Lynn Gooch without whom the event would not have run so smoothly. The provision of additional spot-prizes enabled many sailors down the fleet and the army of helpers to go home as winners too.
The next big event for the UK Flying Fifteen fleet is the Southern Championships at Hayling Island SC is also a qualifier for the 2019 Worlds. In total five qualifiers will take place, with only three results required to qualify - so there's still time to beg, borrow or steal a boat and join the fun and the excellent racing!