A month after the Youth Nationals at Plymouth, during which the Class has held transition training at Poole and in the Solent, the 420 fleet returned to competition at the first Grand Prix event of the 2021/22 season. And there were some new faces at the front end of the fleet who gave the experienced crews a good run for their money in the four races in tricky and unforgiving conditions.
The sailors were first met with unfamiliar experiences; launching at low tide out of West Mersea involved weaving through the moorings in between the huge banks of mud. Beyond this however, lay a large course, and a steady 8-12 knot breeze from the West. Perfect conditions for the day. With heavy tide underneath them, most boats were tentative on the first startline. George and Olivia Creasy used this to make a great start off the pin end, joined by Ollie Meadowcroft and Oscar Cawthorne, who began consolidating their lead over the fleet. By the windward mark however, staying in the deeper channel favoured Heather Quinn and Gwyneth Lanyon, who held a good lead down to the bottom gate. The race remained tight, as Sam Grayton and Haydn Sewell took the lead by choosing the layline perfectly, followed closely by Ella Lance and Will Martin. Sam and Haydn would go on to take the win just ahead of Ella and Will, with Henry Heathcote and Hector Bennet close behind.
The fleet pushed harder early on in race two, with Joe Warwicker and Hugo Valentine taking an early lead winning the left-hand side of the course. Followed in pursuit by 5 boats, Ella and Will would once again nail the port layline and take a considerable lead to the finish, followed by new team Harry George and Ralph Cawthorne in second and Henry and Hector taking a solid third. Race three saw a similar pattern, with a tight bunch of 8 boats all in close contention round the first mark. Mathias Potter and Ellie Thomas would stretch their lead on the second beat but were caught by the chasing pack on the heavily tidal downwind. In a close fight for the finish, Henry and Hector would take the win, with Joe and Hugo in second and Alice Davis & Olly Rayner taking the third. By the final race of the day, the tide had reached its maximum and the fleet were all eager to dominate the left-hand side. A front pack emerged of Henry & Hector, Ollie & Oscar and Megan Farrer & Ellie Rush, who had been quietly posting a consistent set of scores throughout the day. On the final run, Ollie & Oscar pulled away to take the win, leaving Megan and Ellie to take second, and Henry & Hector in third. After the racing, the fleet returned ashore for a dinner of fish & chips, followed by the successful return of 420 socials. After a couple games and many hours of dancing, the fleet called it a day.
The following day, despite the best efforts of the race committee, there was too little wind to compete against the strong tide. This left the scores of day-one to decide the fate of the event. In the overall standings, a strong performance of 1,2,4 gave Ella & Will the win in their debut, beating Henry & Hector on countback who carried 1,3,3. Ollie & Oscar took third with their win in the final race boosting them up the scorecard. First girls were Megan & Ellie who took fourth overall
Notable results included Joe & Hugo taking fifth overall owed to their strong tactical display, as well as George & Olivia in seventh, owing to their consistently excellent pin end starts. It was excellent to see so many different people taking top 5 results throughout the day and sets a brilliant start to the new season of sailing. Following on from this, the British Nationals at Pwllheli on the 25/26 September will be the next big event, as well as the following event in the GP series at Itchenor SC from the 25-27 October. The 3rd and final GP is at Chew Valley on 6/7 November.
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