ASAP Nationals Mayflower SC 15 / 16 September 2007

The 2007 Vortex Nationals were a resounding success with fabulous racing and a nail biting finish. Friday had been reserved for a class association sponsored training event; twelve boats enjoyed coaching from 3 of the “hot shots”, with on shore tuition followed by on the water exercises and short races in perfect conditions. Mike Gower won the mini-regatta from John Turley and Terry Pressdee. All attendees were delighted with the chance to get accustomed to the race area, check out the tidal conditions and pick up tips from the front of the fleet.

Saturday was bright, sunny and warm with a gentle Force 1-2. Triangle / sausage courses were the order of the day and R.O. Mark Evans set tight reaches to allow trapezing downwind to the approval of all competitors. Defending champion Keith Escritt romped home the clear winner in race 1 from Phil Whitehead and John Turley.

Escritt led from the start again in race 2, this time with Jonathan Carter and Phil Whitehead doing the chasing. In race 3 Terry Pressdee was very fast upwind and clung on to Escritt, these two easily holding off Chris Tillbrook and Whitehead.

The overnight leader board was dominated by Keith Escritt – would the forecast of a stronger breeze for Sunday materialise and give the rest of the fleet a chance to fight back?

Sure enough race 4 started in a solid F 4 with a nice swell which suited Whitehead perfectly. His ballistic upwind speed was matched only by Lister - who was sailing in a different fleet – and with no mistakes Whitehead went on to a massive win from Tillbrook, Chris Cunningam and Angus Winchester, all revelling in the breeze. Newcomer Jon Steward was lying in second until an exhibitionist cartwheel earned him the most spectacular capsize award. Escritt meanwhile was having serious kite problems and finished well down the fleet, blowing the event wide open.

Whitehead knew he was on the pace and just had to win the next 2 races to take the title – he smoked off the line and had established a nice lead, but unfortunately didn't notice that the windward mark had been moved, so whilst Whitehead sailed off towards France for next years Carnac Europeans, Tillbrook, Cunningham and Carter took advantage.

At the start of race 6 the points were now so close that either Escritt, Tillbrook or Whitehead could still take the title, with Escritt needing 3rd or better and the other two needing wins. The main contenders split off the start line with Whitehead and Steward going left, Escritt and Tillbrook going right, but a very large Brittany ferry prevented either group from reaching the windward mark. After the restart Whitehead once again dominated the first beat with Tillbrook in contention; Escritt dropped to the back of the fleet whilst clearing weed from his rudder – this was just the chance that the 2 front runners needed; however a lap later Escritt had battled back into 3rd place until a careless capsize at the leeward mark. Whitehead and Tillbrook pressed on to finish in that order, unable to influence events behind them as Escritt blasted down the final set of screaming reaches to just pip Carter for the vital 3rd position and the championship.

With just 2 points between the top three boats this was yet another cliff hanger, with Escritt the worthy (some would say lucky) winner from Whitehead, Tillbrook and fast improving Cunningham. Competition in the middle of the fleet is certainly hotting up with Jonathan Carter, John Turley, Chris Stanbrook, Terry Pressdee, Mike Gower and Angus Winchester all on the pace in certain conditions. Jonathan Lister had broken 2 ribs prior to the event but gamely sailed in standard mode – often arriving at the windward mark ahead of the pack he was easily rolled downwind without a kite but earned the Classic Championship for his efforts and pain!

Mayflower SC were extremely welcoming and provided top class race management both on and off the water; this is a venue that the Vortex fleet would love to return to.