Once more the forecast for the first day of the Army Championships was poor: sunny but not a lot of wind. It was a nice surprise, then, to be greeted by 12 kts on the committee boat at midday on Monday and so we cracked straight off into 4 rounds of Master Blaster. SSgt Doc White AAC posted an immediate first, followed by Capt Allan Cross RLC and WO2 Brian Grieve REME. The second race saw three different sailors in the top places; Sgt Rob Jackson AAC, Cpl Iain Beaton RA and Capt Jamie Clarke RLC. Those 3 were on top in the third race and Brian, Doc and Jamie took line honours in the final race in that discipline. After one discard, the final places were Doc, Ian and Rob, with Brian in 4th and WO2 Jed Cunningham REME in 5th. Next up was a long distance race, half an hour of sailing in "gybe and tack" slalom, testing the sailing and transition skills of all competitors. Only the top 8 sailors out of 30 managed to complete more than 5 laps, the winner being Doc White, 2nd place going to Allan Cross and 3rd to Jed Cunningham.
Finally, a round of "fig 8" slalom of 4 heats of 6 sailors each was held in just 10 to 12 kts of wind. Navy sailor Jamie Walker won his heat, as did Cross, White and Jackson. The first 3 sailors from each heat went through to semi-finals, and it was looking pretty straightforward for the final until the top 4 racers in the first semi all crossed the line early - instant disqualification! The second semi was a more careful affair, leading to the final for Jackson, Russ Jenkins RLC, Grieve, Walker and Cunningham. At the gun it was Cunningham who broke for the lead, followed by Grieve and Walker. After the 3 laps were up Cunningham raced to 1st place and thus put himself into top spot overall, winning by one point from Walker, with Grieve 3rd, White 4th, Jackson 5th and Cross 6th. Russ Jenkins in 9th place was the best newcomer. You had to feel for poor old Doc White, who was leading overall until he was dsq on the slalom!
The forecast for Wednesday was awful (or excellent, depending on your skill level!) - F5-6 becoming 7 or 8 and heavy rain. We set a fig 8 slalom course just above Chesil Bank and ran the Inter Corps team event, with one sailor from each Corps in 6 heats of 6 sailors. The conditions were at the top end of what was acceptable, with very closely spaced swells up to 1 metre high, making just sailing along the course a real test in 17-24 kts. The AAC committed themselves to success early on, taking 3 first places, with only REME being anywhere near contention. After a hectic round of races, the AAC were one point in front, with only themselves and REME having 6 sailors good enough to cope with the conditions. The second round was just between those 2 Corps, and after the first heat it was clear that AAC were unbeatable and they actually increased their lead by 11 points to win 29/41 overall. This was a triumph for Maj Steve Wood and his team, who have been at the leading edge of Army sailing for 10 years but have never previously got all their sailors together at the right time to win. The conditions, their mental attitude and their team spirit all combined to give them a memorable victory. This was the first time that a team event has been decided by a Slalom competition: in fact the ground rules for the event were hammered out the evening before when it was clear that strong winds would make Course Racing impossible. The new guidelines are easy for both competitors and race crews to follow:
Wind and sea state suitable for Formula boards - let's say up to 16 kts open sea or up to 20 kts on sheltered water - run Individual and Team racing on Course race basis.
Wind and sea state not suitable for current Army sailors on Formula Boards (17 knots or more on the open sea or 21 kts on sheltered water) - run the Team racing in Slalom heats with one team member in each heat, scoring their place. Run individual racing to "Open Championships" format, with 4 Master Blasters (one discard), 3 giant slalom races (one discard) or one long distance race counting as one race result.
Conditions in excess of what can be sailed by the majority and up to 25 kts open sea - run individual racing to the Open format.
The forecast for Thursday was for the middle option, but just as everyone got out to the race area with their slalom boards and 6 metre sails, the wind settled to a steady 12 kts - very frustrating! Course racing got under way with Jamie Clarke winning the first race and top contenders Beaton and Cross over the line, letting White take 2nd place. The rest of the afternoon was spent dodging the massive downpours, which were marching across the Downs and down over the Harbour. In the next race Beaton (1st) and White (2nd) began their battle for the Championships, ending the day one point apart after 4 races and a discard each. Allan Cross did less well than expected, being underpowered all afternoon on too small a sail and a number of sailors went round the wrong course in the 4th race, making a mess of their "have a discard up your sleeve" plans.
In between the Formula fleet races, the Novices had a set of short-course racing. 2Lt Julia Rennie RA made her mark early on, winning all 3 races with Paul Robinson AAC 2nd. Julia usually sails an RS 200, so her superior wind awareness paid dividends in an otherwise very equal contest. On the final day she won another 3 races to take the Novice title back to 47 Regt RA - where else but Thorney Island!
After a couple of false starts on Friday, the wind finally settled down to the SW and 12 - 15 kts: perfect conditions for the final course races. Allan Cross won the first race with 200 metres to spare but Beaton was 2nd and White 3rd making them all square on points at that stage.
The race officer had set slight port bias on the line and at first very few racers started on starboard tack. The better wind seemed to be on the right of the course, aided by a wind bend round the land on that side, so "port tackers" seemed to have an advantage. Gradually the more combative sailors (led by Doc, it has to be said) came over to start on starboard, (for no better reason than to frighten the others?), but losing 20 board lengths on the extra tack was to prove a decisive disadvantage. Beaton, however, took a chance at the start and sailed above White at the pin end, but was a second too early and was over the line. Cross won again, followed by Major Dave Hinsley AMS. So with one race to go, Iain had to beat Doc by 2 places. As the photo shows, on the last leg of the last race, he did just that, with Cunningham getting in between them and giving first place by one point to Iain.
The final results were:
1 WO2 Jed Cunningham REME 2 WO2 Brian Grieve REME 3 SSgt Doc White AAC
1 AAC (Jackson, Jurgens, Jarvis, Mawer, White, White) 2 REME (Cunningham, Finn, Grieve, Moles, Sands, Young)
1 Cpl Iain Beaton RA 2 SSgt Doc White AAC 3 Capt Allan Cross RLC
1 Cpl Russ Jenkins RLC 2 Lt Col Tim Sands REME 3 Sgt Mark Young REME
1 2Lt Julia Reeves RA 2 Ssgt Rich Robinson AAC 3 Cpl David Curry RE
However, a huge thank you must go to Starboard/Tushingham, Sola, Homewaters, Boardseeker.com and Oxbow for there Sponsorship and Prizes which was gladly received by the sailors, especially our Novices who all received a prize. Remember Army Be The Best!!!