Ladies gamble on the infamous Solent in the UK. North Sails clients take the top 3 spots in the overall IRC results
The 9th Dubarry Women’s Open Keelboat Championship was hosted by Hamble River Sailing Club (HRSC) over the weekend of 3rd and 4th June 2017 and sailed in the central Solent.
A record number of 20 boats and some 150 women came to sail, continuing the growth of this event as a go-to for women’s keelboat racing. This number included the welcome return of the J/80 fleet as well as good numbers in both IRC Class 1 and IRC Class 2. Notable newcomers were the Royal Navy Team led by Laura Blagden in the J109 Jolly Jack Tar. This was the first time a complete crew of serving women have turned out to represent the Navy, and how appropriate on the centenary of the Women’s Royal Naval Service! If six races in two days were not enough, half the crew were going to sea on Monday for their day job. The ladies from the Senior Service were keen to lay down a challenge to the Royal Air Force and Army women for next year so that Jolly Jack Tar can win the 2018 services prize. After a number of years of interest, Southampton sailmaker Nicky Octon turned up for the first time in the Corby 35 NJOS. Another new Corby was the 25, M,Enfin!?, entered by HRSC’s own Sophie Chudziak.
The forecast was for sun, and wind from various points west, so race officer Kathy Smalley, with a heavily female gender biased group of Hamble’s finest, set up station between Jonathan Janson (4Q) and Hamble Yacht Services (4V). There was quite a bit of north in the westerly, so to warm the crews up Race 1 featured a triangle windward-leeward. The size of the race courses all depended on the class you were in.
Defending overall champions J111, Journeymaker 11, Louise Makin, were in the Class 1 start but were forced to take third place at the end behind the J122 R&W, Jo Quigly, in second and J88 J-Dream, Becky Walford, in first, proving that the J88 can sail to its handicap. Jolly Jack Tar, Laura Blagden, got off to a blistering start in Class 2, winning over Dubarry WOKC regulars, Black Jack 11, Annie Kelly and the much improved Berret Half Tonner, Chimp, Amanda Marino. The J80 Class saw Jitterbug, Clare Carden, win the first race ahead of Wildcat 111, Lucy Burn and Josie Gliddon in North’s Peloton.
Regular Solent Sailors will know that when there is some north in it the wind, it is seldom from a steady direction, and so it proved for Race 2. The pressure was gradually building, however, and for crews who do not normally sail together the rest of the year, the sailing became more challenging. By Race 3, normal service was resumed in terms of direction with a classic south-westerly coming up from Lymington. The pressure, however, continued to build with 20-23 knots across the race course which concentrates the minds of most sailors.
By the end of Day 1, North’s Peloton had proved that maturity, experience and the ability to hold a J/80 up in a blow gave them two bullets in races 2&3. Jitterbug was lying in second and Wildcat 111 in third. In Class 2, Blackjack 11 also went top of the leaderboard with two wins, from J92 Nightjar, the Scorpion Class Association, and Chimp. The same pattern led to Journeymaker 11, leading Class 1 over R&W, Mat 12 and Night Owl 2, sailed by Julie Fawcett with Dubarry WOKC chief organizer Jen Smyth on board.
The highlight of day one was a double broach by J88 J-Dream near the leeward mark in Race 3, which meant that Nikki Woodroffe had to hang on to the boom, not once, but twice to avoid getting anything worse than wet legs and tired arms.
Day two dawned and there was an eerie quiet over Hamble as the sailors recovered from the infamous “frocks and flip-flops” party the night before. Cruelly, the start times were half an hour earlier on Sunday and it seemed that the committee boat, Implacable, was going out on the Hamble on its own until slowly but surely all 20 competitors made it to the start area just southwest of Royal Southern (4S).
The breeze was already SW and indeed it would not vary all day in direction, so Kathy Smalley was able to set up for a series of windward/leewards using East Knoll (4H) as the windward mark and Royal Southern (4S) as the leeward mark. Although not becoming as strong as Saturday afternoon’s conditions, the wind built to the upper teens in strength, which gave champagne sailing for those suffering from the previous night’s Prosecco. It also gave the opportunity for spectacular downwind legs and the odd incident or two.
The first to go home early was NJOS, Nicky Octon, who had problems with their jib. At least they know a local sailmaker! The J80, Jitterbug managed the “mother of all wraps” on the last downwind leg of Race 4, and though they eventually recovered the red cloth, whilst disappearing towards Ryde, they decided to call it a day.
Race 6 brought the most interesting incident. The Scorpion Class Association’s Nightjar stung Blackjack 11 up the transom with their bowsprit, as they surfed down a wave, which led to a bit of a cuddle before both retired. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
And so, as they say, to the results. In the J/80 Class, those wily old birds on North’s Peloton managed to discard their first race 3rd and end up with a perfect score. The ever improving Seafire, Ali Hinds, came second and Wildcat 111, Lucy Burn was third. In Class 2, the bump up the rear end did not stop Blackjack 11 from winning by a good margin from Amanda Marino and crew in Chimp. The Royal Navy women in Jolly Jack Tar, Laura Blagden, sailed a consistent series to take third place. Army and Airforce women are warned. Journeymaker 11, Louie Makin, with only a slightly wet spinnaker trawl to their name all weekend, came home 2 points ahead of R&W, Jo Quigley in second with J-Dream, Becky Walford third.
All that remained was the naming of the overall champions. When questioned about the formula used, Kathy Smalley gave a very credible answer which ended with “and multiply by the first number you thought of.” There was, of course, no supplementary question. It was a close run between the three class winners. Blackjack 11 scored 24.95, Journeymaker 11 scored 24.75, but the champions with 22.36 were Josie Gliddon, Jody Slater, Becs Reynolds Jones, Jane Saunders and Rebecca Sykes in North’s Peloton.
Once again thanks go to Dubarry for some super prizes and the team at HRSC for running the event. The event raised money for two charities, Breast Cancer Care and the Hamble Lifeboat, which is still being counted as we speak!
Next year will be the 10th Dubarry Women’s Open Keelboat Championship, which will be quite a milestone. The date will be announced shortly when the final RORC and JOG dates have been confirmed. Stay tuned ladies, this is a not-to-miss event!