Trevor Chanter reports on his recent National 18 sailing on the River Blackwater.
The 18 English Championships was hosted at Blackwater SC over the first weekend in July. Having never sailed on the East Coast before it looked to present some interesting challenges with a narrow launch area into the tide, a relatively long sail to the race area off Osea island, varying levels of mud and it was breezy on the Saturday.
The sail out to the race area was fairly uneventful despite some strong gusts coming down the estuary. The 18s are split between the new and old designs and at the English Championships we were all sailing together despite the significant performance difference. This made starting interesting but once on the beat we were able to sail our own course, for nearly 20 minutes to the windward mark. Three races done and it was time to head back against the ebb tide. As usual we dropped the main within easy drift of the clubhouse, or so I thought. The wind dropped at the same time so we were heading backwards into the returning Optimist fleet until a light gust pushed into the shore. Sunday saw a little drop in the wind with another 3 races completed and the mainsail stayed up for the return. We were 1st Ultimate.
Two weeks after the Blackwater event the National Championships took place at West Mersea. We were pleasantly surprised by Mersea, the area was picturesque, the locals very friendly and West Mersea Yacht Club provided a good base for the week along with Dabchicks SC. Having arrived a little later than planned we sailed out to the practice race area but the race had started by the time we were there. We had four days of three races back to back with one rest day ahead so we did not stay out for too long. The loads on the National 18 can be large so saving energy was likely to be useful.
The tides presented a significant challenge when getting out to the sail area. We launched as the tide was flooding but still low so the channels were narrow and dotted with moored yachts, ribs, fishing boats, smacks etc. One day with the wind directly down the channel we were tacking every 10 seconds or so, only one 18 lost its rudder!
The other issue was seaweed. The race area seemed to have a lot, maybe helped by the warm weather, which meant checking the foils just before every race. We did forget once and were slower as a result.
There were a many highlights. We had been unable to beat a very well sailed, carbon rigged Ultimate from the Isle of Man until the final day. The wind had picked up in the second race and strong gusts were hitting every few minutes. As we approached the windward mark we were, as usual, 50 metres behind when I called out “gust”. Just ahead the “unbeatable” 18 ahead capsized and we sailed by. The rescue boat was already hovering and we could see three heads but it was going to take them a while to get going. Overall it was great to be racing against other 18s in a lovely sailing area.
We could not repeat the division win from last year at Hayling but secured second behind the carbon rigged 18 from the IOM.
The National 18 is a 3 person boat and requires a co-ordinated crew to get the most from its potential. Therefore I must thank William for his expertise at the front and Lucy Smith for her enduring patience in the middle. Also, A big thank you to SailingChandlery.com for their support,
National 18 (346)
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