The Southern Championship was hosted by the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) over the weekend 7th and 8th May. After five closely contested races the Championship winners were Jeremy Davy and Martin Huett in 3760. Only three points separated the top three boats but wins in two of the races were sufficient for Davy and Huett to pull ahead of the second placed boat, 4002 sailed by Richard Lovering and Matt Alvarado.
The forecast for the weekend indicated that, if it was not quite the beginning of Summer, then at least the cold sailing conditions of previous weeks were behind us. More importantly the various wind forecasts indicated that we could expect around 15 knots from the south east, gusting up to 20 knots or more.
The conditions on the Saturday were much as forecast but the wind was lighter than forecast at between 10 and 15 knots. As the conditions appeared to be fairly light, the first day’s racing took place in Portland Harbour. The first race got away promptly at 12.45 and without any recall. The course set was windward/leeward as it was unlikely that reaches would produce planning conditions. Ian Cadwallader and Dave Sweet were leading at the end of the first run, followed by Greg Wells and Ricky Rigg. Wells and Rigg were still in second place at the start of the third lap but moved up to lead and the order at the finish was Wells and Rigg, Cadwallader and Sweet and, in third place Davy and Huett.
The fleet were now getting into their stride and the black flag had to be shown for the second race. The wind had increased to about 12 knots and Race Officer, Bryan Drake, set a sausage/triangle/sausage course. The wind speed held up for the first lap but became very light for the second beat. It came back, however, in time for modest planning on the reaches. During the final run, the wind veered, to the benefit of the boats on the left side of the course. Both during Race 2 and Race 3, there were substantial wind shifts of up to 30 degrees. Many of the race team had honed their skills at the 2012 Olympics and this was clearly evident in both the setting of the courses and in making the necessary changes to the legs of the course during races.
If there had been differences of opinion in the first race as to the best way up the beats, the consensus for the second and third races was, go left. Alex Storrar and John Preston led on the first lap, followed by Simon Kneller and Dave Lucas. Kneller and Lucas took the lead on the second lap and held it to the finish. They were followed across the line by Chris and Tom Waples and then Lovering and Alvarado.
The wind became lighter and more changeable as the afternoon progressed. During the third race there were quite substantial changes in wind strength over the length of the course. On the final beat, although the wind never went below 7 knots at the Committee Boat and was more than that at the windward mark, conditions in the middle were little more than a drifter. On this occasion, it seemed that most of the boats which went right gained some advantage.
The third race was won by Davy and Huett. They, evidently, were able to master the very difficult conditions as they led from early on in the first lap. Lovering and Alvarado were second. In third place were Kneller and Lucas and this put them as leaders at the end of the first day jointly with Davy and Huett.
WPNSA laid on a meal for all competitors soon after they had come ashore. Live coverage of the Americas Cup heat taking place with Manhattan as the backdrop was streamed on a big screen. The sight of four exotic cats (well, possibly three) being taken over the start line by the tide and in no wind demonstrated that even this most prestigious competition depends on the same luck with the weather as everyone else.
Early rain on Sunday morning cleared as competitors arrived and it was sunshine and breeze for the rest of the day. 15 knots plus was indicated in Weymouth Bay, with more forecast. The fleet sailed out in ideal conditions to the Committee Boat which was moored in the middle of the Bay. The wind had increased slightly and was probably a good 20 knots in the gusts. The first race got away at the second attempt. Davy and Huett were soon in the lead again, followed by Kneller and Lucas and then Lovering and Alvarado. These three maintained these positions for the rest of the race and crossed the line in that order. With just one point between each of them (after a discard), everything hinged on the fifth and final race.
Unlike the previous day, the wind was very steady both in strength and direction. With the waves building, the reaches and downwind legs provided superb planning and surfing.
The final race was the decider. Lovering and Alvarado led from the first lap to win that race. Cadwallader and Sweet held second place on every lap. Davy and Huett were third. Kneller and Lucas were lying sixth at the end of the first round but could only improve to fifth on the second and third rounds. This placing was enough for Davy and Huett and allowed Lovering and Alvarado to move up to second overall.
The first “local boat”, coming 8th overall, was 3793 sailed by Pete and Jo Allam. They were perhaps doubly qualified as Pete sails at Parkstone YC and is Chief Executive of WPSNA. Jo won the trophy for first lady.
The testing conditions of the Saturday, the “champagne” sailing on the Sunday plus the excellent organisation of the race team and on-shore team and facilities meant that all competitors could go home with a smile on their faces regardless of the results.
The final positions were:
1. Jeremy Davy & Martin Huett (3760) – Southern Champions
2. Richard Lovering & Matt Alvarado (4002)
3. Simon Kneller & Dave Lucas (4024)