To: KOA Members and Kestrel sailors
From: Chris Grice, President, KOA
Date: October 15, 2019
Subject: Kestrel Nationals 2019
It only seems like yesterday that I was walking back up the Southbound M6 at Stafford in the pouring rain looking for the trailer wheel that had somehow worn it’s way right over the wheel nuts and departed……..Vehicle problems coming back from far flung Nationals seem to be a recurring theme for me, I’m afraid. But in fact it was over 2 months ago. Many apologies, here is an abridged report on the Kestrel Nationals 2019.
The Kestrel Nationals this year were held at Plas Heli, North Wales at the Welsh National Sailing Academy, in company with the Miracles and Signets. One doesn’t really expect constant blue skies from North Wales, but the weather for those of us driving there on the Saturday was appalling, even by Welsh standards. A full on gale with driving rain, meant an iron grip with both hands on the wheel of our rather softly sprung camper as it attempted to wander all over the road in the crosswinds. Wisely, we chose to come across the top of Wales, rather than take the roads through Snowdonia. Glen Enkel, who was towing his Kestrel with a diesel Suzuki Alto (possibly the most gutless vehicle on British roads), took that road and found himself down in 1st gear and slowing down trying to climb one of the gradients. Since the ratio in reverse is lower, I have suggested to him that he fits a tow ball on the front of the Alto as well, so that he can swap around at the bottom and back up hills like this in future………
Anyway, we all got there and found that, due to the weather, the 29ers had decided to stay an extra day. This meant that our booked camping spaces, in what is just a car-park, were not available yet, so no electric etc etc. Not great. Sunday morning was still a bit grim, but the fleet amused itself by looking over Stewart Murdoch’s brand new Kestrel, 1648 “Pure Dead Seathing” (this name, apparently, has some meaning to Dundee folk). The green deck took me back 40 years to Willy Davidson’s Tiki’s. The boat looked smart and quick, although you could still smell the new glass and gelcoat. As rival competitors, perhaps our only hope was that it hadn’t quite finished curing and would be soft all over? No chance, it was a bullet from Race 1.
By Sunday afternoon, the weather had moderated enough for a practice race and 1st Championship race. Both races were sailed in a force 3 gusting 4 breeze. Henry and his race team, as they did all week, set great courses. The wind was a bit shifty, but not crazy, and racing was tight. I can’t remember whether Stewart or Malcolm won the practice race, but the first race was lead by Stewart Murdoch and Ken Scott-Brown 1648 all the way, with Malcolm Worsley and Richard Harper in 1638 attempting to close the gap. However, at the last mark, Stewart blithely sailed on up the beat again instead of heading for the finish line, so Malcolm snuck in and took the win. Lauren and myself were third in 408, with Ian Hunter and Trevor McDonald fourth in another new-ish Tay boat, 1644, and Jan and Pete Barnes from Cornwall fifth in 1637.
By Monday, the weather had eased further to a 2 – 3, and the wind had shifted around a little more Northerly. Coming right over Snowdonia made the direction and strength of the wind pretty variable. Trying conditions, and it stayed like this for two days. I can’t remember so many beats where you could be feeling that you were doing really well and then be down the pan again within two or three minutes. However difficult, it was always Malcolm or Stewart who found their way to the front, so it was not just luck! Malcolm took both races on Monday, with Paul Barnett and Sandy Bremner second in the first one, from Stewart/Ken and then Larry King / Archie Quarrier 1639 ( all the way from Lake Saratoga, New York State) in fourth and Ian/Trevor 1644 in fifth. In the second race, Stewart came through to second and Paul and Sally Gray in 1600 were third, from Ian and Trevor 1644, and Chris/Lauren 408 fifth.
Tuesday and Race 4 brought new winners, Paul Gray and Sally Gray from Maylandsea Bay in 1600. A really tight race, with the lead changing hands in the shifts, but Paul and Sally, having lead at the first windward mark, came through from 4th at the last leeward mark to lead at the windward mark and defend to the finish. Stewart/Ken were second, Chris/Lauren third, Malcolm/Richard fourth and Ian/Trevor fifth. Race 5 and Stewart got his first win from Malcolm, with Ian/Trevor in third, Paul and Sally fourth, and Chris/Lauren fifth.
The weather changed over night, the national flags along the car park boundary battering away all night kept the campers awake, and Wednesday dawned with a full Westerly gale blowing itself out across Cardigan Bay. Racing was postponed twice, but by 2 ish it has moderated enough for Henry to take the decision to take the Kestrels out to race and leave the Miracles and Signets ashore. We can handle it, you see! These were the conditions I had been hoping for, a big swell and force 4 to 5 wind by the time race 5 got underway. The beats were hard, with the boats launching off the waves and coming down with an almighty thump. But downwind was something else. launching and retrieving spinnakers was troublesome, but once up the rides down the waves were amazing, the only difficulty being the risk of planing down a wave and into another boats cockpit. Malcolm and Stewart shared the honours, with Stewart taking a 1st and 2nd and Malcolm a 2nd and 1st. Ian/Trevor were 3rd in Race 6, from Jan/Pete in 4th (felt right at home in the surf, being as they are from Cornwall) and Paul and Sally in 5th. In Race 7 Paul/Sandy were 3rd, with Paul/Sally 4th and Alasdair Hood and Campbell Morrison in 1636 5th.
With the long term forecast making it quite clear that there would be no racing on Friday, Race Officer Henry took the decision to get our remaining three races in on Thursday. It was back to the light-ish shifty weather conditions of Monday and Tuesday. The Championship was still wide open between Malcolm and Stewart, but Malcolm did his very best to scupper his chances by test sailing to the windward mark and rounding it just as the five minute start warning signal sounded! Chris/Lauren lead at the windward mark, but Stewart/Ken were soon past and opened up a good lead. Chris/Lauren were safe in 2nd, with Paul/Sally in 3rd, but the main interest was in how quickly could Malcolm, who had crossed the start line four minutes late, claw his way through the fleet? Blind rage lends wings, and he made it through to 4th at the finish, so still hanging in there. Ian/Trevor were 5th. To make amends, in Race 9 Malcolm/Richard lead from start to finish, but Stewart/Ken were buried in the chasing pack, until the last beat, when Stewart did one of those Stewart things, banged the left hand corner, taking a header all the way to get out there, and somehow came out in 2nd! 3rd were Ian/Trevor from Paul/Sally in 4th and Chris/Lauren in 5th. Still to play for in the last race, but again Malcolm and Richard lead the way to take the win and the championship, with Stewart/Ken 2nd, Ian/Trevor 3rd, Paul/Sally 4th and Paul/Sandy fifth.
Overall, a very good championship with a full range of conditions. Despite the initial problems, the people at the WNSA were very welcoming and the race organisation was first class. Especially good that Malcolm and Richard, having been second several times ,and after getting the wrong end of the four way tie for the Championship at Brixham, finally got it over the line to take the 2019 Kestrel National Championships. A very well deserved win with fantastic consistency in sometimes challenging conditions. Also good to see Paul and Sally win a Nationals race for the first time since the 80’s, come in 3rd overall, and for Ian and Trevor to push them all the way and finish up 4th. Thirteen boats was not a great turn-out, but given it is halfway between our two main fleets, I thought it was OK. Next year we are back to the Tay, where we are more or less guaranteed a mid – 20’s turn out. Those of us who have been there before will definitely be returning, so make sure you join us there. 2nd – 6th August 2020 in your diaries, please!
See you on the water,