The Cadet family descended on Thorpe Bay Yacht Club for an extended, if frantic, August Bank Holiday weekend of ten races over just four days. Perhaps we had all been seduced by the long hot summer which had just passed us by because the field next to the boat park soon became transformed into something more akin to a summer festival with tent city growing rapidly alongside an excellent turnout of 44 boats which included entries from Belgium, Spain and, with seven boats – the best showing for several years – from South Cerney which has seen such a great resurgence in their Cadet fleet. Had no one really studied the weather forecast for the four days ahead?
The entry also included a Regatta fleet of nine boats – predominantly Nationals first timers who raced with their own start and a coach boat (well done Ben Warrington who lost his voice as a result of his considerable efforts) to help them develop their skills for the future. More from them later….
After some light touch measuring on Thursday evening, things were set for 3 races on Friday. Launching started early as one of the features of Thorpe Bay is that when the tide turns it’s like the plug has been pulled out so that there’s a limited window to get races finished before the tide retreats for miles over the mudflats. In Gold and Silver fleet Thibaud Drix and Helena Schoonooghe from Royal Yacht Club of Belgium served early notice of their form in the windier weather, winning the first race comfortably from Angus Collingridge and Ed Fletcher; second and Kate White and Rhona Enkel; third – a foretaste of things to come?
First Silver fleet boat was Ollie and Will Mears – a very young pair of lightweight, predominantly Oppie experts scoring a very creditable 9th place after having a quick swim at the leeward gate whilst right up with the leaders. In Regatta fleet first was taken by Ben Goult and Alex McEwan from Phoebe Barr and Angus Beal.
Race two followed in the force 3 to 4 with the chop kicking up nicely – this time Charlotte Videlo and Tom Shepherd continuing their form from the recent Worlds took the win. Second were Rosie Targett and Sophia Sfaxi with Thibaud and Helena third. Jess Everson and Tom Walker came top Silver fleet boat in 10th place after the Mears boys had unfortunately broken their mast in a capsize. In Regatta fleet Jess Watling and Lillie Buckton took the win with Phoebe and Angus second.
Race 3 saw the tide start to turn with opportunities to take or lose places aplenty if sailors underestimated its force or called the laylines too early. Angus and Ed put their Waldringfield tidal experience to good use and came through on the second beat to lead and extend from Thibaud and Helena with Charlotte and Tom third. These were tricky conditions to master but in Silver Fleet Olivia Gowland and Hettie Thorogood got it right with an excellent 8th place. Regatta fleet was won by Ben and Alex – their second of the day, with Amelia and Robbie second.
As the sailors came ashore the difficulties of retrieving boats on a virtual lee shore became clear but the cadet family being what it is, a number of parents stripped off – some rather more than others – to wade into the Thames Estuary and stop boats being pounded on the beach by the breaking waves.
On to day two and a somewhat lighter wind day – still reasonable but with rather more west than south in it and certainly shiftier than a Southend secondhand car dealer…have I got a deal for you? Ollie and Will with a borrowed mast tuned at haste nevertheless served a master class in the conditions winning each start of the three races and taking three consecutive bullets with relative ease. They are clearly going to be a force for the future once they get to grips with the big breeze (and probably grow a few more inches!). Race 4 saw Hazel Whittle and Gwen Thorogood in second and Kate and Rhona keeping the pressure on the leaders with a third. Race 5 had Connor Line and Toby Bush second and Emily Spiers and Hamish Taylor third. Ollie and Will of course took top Silver fleet boat in all three and left a few of the pre-event favourites wondering overnight if we might see a bit of an against the odds upset. Regatta fleet saw the start of proceedings being dominated by Amelia and Robbie – they too taking three consecutive bullets with Phoebe and Angus second in Race 4 and Jess and Lillie taking seconds in both of races 5 and 6.
So with the Champs more than half completed Angus and Ed led overnight with Thibaud and Helena, Charlotte and Tom and Kate and Rhona all sniping from close quarters. Big wind forecast for Sunday left some wondering if the sailors would manage to get afloat at all.
The sailors shouldn’t have worried though as the parent ribs worked hard to provide rescue cover and those parents left on shore realised it was warmer to be in the Thames than standing at the side of it on the beach. All three fleets launched into a pretty solid force 4 to 5 Southerly with some solid walls of water crashing about. Thibaud and Helena, having had a day to forget on Saturday set about taking two straight bullets, In race 7 they were chased home by Kate and Rhona with Rebecca Videlo and Ned Fairhurst third and in race 8 Lia Fletcher and Mish Collingridge were second enjoying some screaming reaches and giving Thibaud a real run for his money with Connor and Toby third. In Silver Jess and Tom recorded two more 17th demonstrating they were certainly enjoying the boisterous, if moist, conditions. Regatta fleet wisely just raced one shortened course as the conditions were pretty foul – wind increasing and horizontal rain closing in so that Kent on the south shore of the Thames disappeared into the murk. The two Williams – Farrant and Salmon – took the race after some start line confusion with not everyone returning to exonerate themselves.
It had been a brutal, bruising day but one which showed the cadet dinghy at its best – seaworthy and fun – back ashore any anxiety was quickly left behind and the sailors were eagerly looking forwards to more of the same – ok, perhaps just a bit less wind, a lot less rain and a bit more sun, but yes please to screaming reaches and waves to surf on.
One day left – Thibaud and Helena looking very well placed for the Overall Championship but of course, as is the rule in the UK Cadet Class, as Belgians, ineligible for the UK National Championship (it’s true of all non-UK competitors, not an exclusive ban on Belgians by the way!). Behind them it was very close between Angus and Ed, Charlotte and Tom and Kate and Rhona. The mathematics was going to get complicated as the second discard would come into play only on the completion of the final race.
With the wind still blowing – probably a couple of knots less than the day before – Thibaud had a short lived panic as the block parted company with the end of his boom on his way out to the start but that was soon fixed and he was on his way to once again revel in the conditions and take two more firsts. In the intense competition for the UK National Champions title some nerves were beginning to show. Race 9 saw Connor and Toby take second with Ethan Davey and Alex Enkel third. In the chase for the title, Charlotte and Tom (5th) looked to have gained places on Angus and Ed (8th) who themselves came in just behind Kate and Rhona (7th) but Angus was later crucially to discard this result as his previous scores had been more consistent. Silver fleet was taken by the Mears brothers bouncing back with a 13th from the day before and Regatta fleet yet again saw Amelia and Robbie win twice, both times from Ben and Alex.
Final race and Thibaud and Helena pretty much home and hosed for the Overall Championship win – rather than retiring for moules frites they sailed on of course. They win again, this time from Katie Yelland and Dom Rowell in second. Angus and Ed had rounded the top mark in second and looked good still when they rounded the leeward gate but with Kate in 6th and Charlotte a few further back, Kate and Rhona inevitably split to the other gate and hey presto headed inshore to overtake Angus and ultimately secure 3rd in the race. Pinned in and unable to tack to cover, Angus and Ed suffered several more setbacks upwind but crucially clawed a place back down the run to come through and take 6th with Charlotte in 9th. This delivered Angus and Ed the UK National Champions title they coveted by just one place from Kate and Rhona who had pushed them hard to the very end although for some time the maths was close enough to be reworked and double checked. First in Silver fleet race 10 was taken by Max Buswell and Monty Hampton from South Cerney with a 17th. This left Olivia and Hettie as overall Silver fleet winners and Amelia and Robbie as overall Regatta fleet victors.
What else to mention? – well Thorpe Bay Yacht Club under Commodore Bev Warrington and her bevvy of helpers and drinkers – they fuelled the sailors tirelessly and drank the adults into submission (well me anyway) every day and night. The campsite was a hive of activity and more or less survived the rain and wind. Zhik once again sponsored the event contributing some great prizes and are hugely appreciated. Ex-cadet Daisy Collingridge showed up from the British Sailing Team to present the prizes. Arky Wainwright, our class race officer was at his best – challenging conditions, a committee boat without a propeller, gallons to get through each evening – none of that he found daunting, and Steve the juror who didn’t have to show a yellow flag all week although I’m sure his presence didn’t go unnoticed. Our international visitors were much appreciated…. but most of all we need to mention the sailors. This class is much more than the sum of its parts – older kids looking after the younger ones, everyone pulling together to get sailing and to retrieve precious boats from the crashing waves, spare masts being loaned to get broken boats back afloat and most of all a generation of little ones coming through the starter ranks with aspirations to be the champions of the future…..its alright to dream the dream a little. The comments that follow all come from Cadet Nationals first timers and sum it all up rather better than I ever could:
“This was the best experience I’ve had since the start of my sailing career.” Elisa Power from South Cerney Sailing Club aged 10
And from Elisa’s younger sister aged 9 crew: “I had a amazing time – we got wet, cold, but I had the most fun ever – it was a fantastic experience.”
Thomas Pontet wrote: “The experience was really good and I enjoyed it thoroughly. My sailing improved a lot. Thorpe Bay Yacht Club was very hospitable and a brilliant place to stay.”
“This was my first Nationals and it was really tough. The tides were a real challenge. I made loads of new friends and am really looking forward to the next event.” Ethan Miller
This from Matteo Mancini: “Overall I thought that the 2018 Nationals was amazing because it was well organised and fun. I liked racing against the boats from Spain and Belgium”
And his crew Kali Karaskas, 8: “It was exciting seeing lots of cadet boats on the water racing! I’m proud that I got to be in the Nationals in my first year of racing.”
Next years nationals are at Brixham in Devon but before that nag your parents and get along to the Inlands (Grafham Water 22/23 Sept) or the RYA British Youth Sailing Junior Regional Championships (also Grafham 29/30 Sept) – Details are on www.cadetclass.org.uk – what else could you possibly have planned that’s more fun?
And remember – “You’ll never forget your first Cadet [Nationals]!”