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Phantom Nationals 2019

Lee-on-Solent SC, 6-8th September

 

It was the least I could do, really, to offer to write the report after being loaned a boat for the event. Normally I’m not a fan of the Solent chop due to a PTSD-inducing event there a few years ago, but when someone offers to lend you their boat it would be churlish to turn it down. ‘Just bring it back in one piece’, they said. ‘No problem’, I said. More on that later.

Luckily for us lightweights the racing was called off on the first day as 30 knots blew in straight onshore. Although the Phantom fleet is well known for being the perfect ship for the, er, more generously proportioned athlete there were, in fact, many who were more than relieved to be held ashore. This was especially fortuitous for me as, a) it wouldn’t have looked good to trash a borrowed boat in the shore dump, and b) it gave me time to get my head round the super-adjustable rig. Shrouds, adjustable forestay, adjustable lowers, what are they all about?

So, onto the racing. Saturday was far more amenable weather-wise. The sun was out, making the Solent look almost inviting and the wind was blowing 12-15 knots from sort of North West but it wasn’t as steady as it might have been.

Race 1 and Harry Briddon (2016 and 2018 National Champ) sailed over me off the line so I tacked off to clear my wind. And capsized. I can exclusively reveal that boom on the Phantom is lower than that of the RS300 I normally sail. Another 300 sailor, Richard Le Mare, did exactly the same. He had polished his hull though and kept sliding off. Anyway, Andy Couch, who has basically won just about every Nationals since he was 14, won from Martin Watts, Ian Stone and Harry.

Race 2 was a peculiarity. Following a large left shift just before the start, Simon Clark and I were the only boats at the pin end so you can imagine our delight when we tacked and easily crossed the fleet. Joy upon joy as we stretched our legs and the new breeze didn’t reach the boats at the committee boat end until we were well up the beat. Simon got caught on the second lap as the chasing group organised itself but I managed to stay clear to the end ahead of Ian Stone, Andy Couch and Harry Briddon. Happy days! However, I thought it a little uncharitable that Nick Orman had to ask three separate people before he believed the result.

Harry Briddon had race 3 all wrapped up until 100 metres from the finish when, as the wind went sloppy, he allowed both Norman Byrd and me past on the final reach to the finish with Ian Stone also in close attendance. Maybe this Solent chop isn’t so bad after all.

However, Briddon made no mistake in race 4 and finished ahead of Martin Watt, Norman Byrd and Andy Couch.

Back on shore I had the double realisation that the metallic bouncing sound I had heard in race 3 was, indeed, a spreader bolt hitting the deck before launching overboard and that I had been UFDd in the day’s final race. Outrageous! Apparently I was over the line not once but twice. If you’re going to do something, I guess you have to do it properly.

At the top it was extremely close, a real testament to the consistency of the leading guys. Harry Briddon was leading from Martin Watts, Andy Couch and Ian Stone but with a few more lurking once the first discard kicked in.

Day 3, the wind was slightly lighter, had kicked right a bit and was shiftier than a second-hand car salesman. My Nationals nearly ended at the start of race 5 as my shroud parted company from the deck as I sheeted in. Discovering that the real use of lowers is to hold the mast in one piece until you stop panicking, I managed to lash the shroud to the deck and was able to carry on.

Nick Norman led for the first lap of race 5 and looked to have it in the bag but was overtaken by Andy Couch, Norman Byrd, Terry Crook and Jon Nuttall by the finish. I had to ask three separate people before I believed he hadn’t won.

Having got in a bit of a pickle at the start of race 6 I went right just to find clear wind so you can imagine my delight when I got a private gust and planed into the top mark on a broad reach while everyone else was still actually beating. You make your own luck in this game. Couch wasn’t to be denied though, spotting the new wind on the right of the run before everyone else, going on to win form Alister Morley, who was beginning to find form, Nick Orman and myself.

Bob Portway then sailed an absolute blinder in the 7th and final race. Backing up his 5th place in the previous race, he won from Mike Webster, Andy Couch and Alister Morley.

With all racing done we headed back to shore to be greeted by free beer which had warmed nicely in the sun. The prize-giving was a tour de force with everyone, and I mean everyone, getting a prize thanks to the extremely generous sponsors. I won a nice Ovington t-shirt and bit of glass for being top old bloke, but not as old as Chris Roberts who won the really old bloke’s prize.

It was then just a matter of packing up and marking the critical shroud-holding-up bit of dyneema so the owner could recreate the setting. I’m thoughtful like that.

Looking forward to next year’s Nationals already, at Rock from 11-13 September 2020.

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