UK Finn Masters – Christchurch Sailing Club
Warm hospitality and glorious sunshine greeted the 25 helms from as far afield as West Kirby, Ipswich and Holland who gathered to compete in the annual UK Masters Championship at Christchurch Sailing Club.
Race officer Andy (Rover) Rushworth postponed Saturday racing by two hours waiting for the forecast breeze to fill in, his patience was further tested by an eager fleet and challenging tidal conditions resulting in 5 general recalls before the first race got underway in around 4 to 6 knots of breeze.
Initially the right hand side of the course looked strongest; however Julian Smith sporting a fresh sail from Giles Scott came from the middle to lead from Neil Robinson at the top mark. John Greenwood gained places on the downwind leg to move into second place in a very patchy breeze, as the race went on gains were made throughout the fleet as the ebb tide increased in strength. However Julian Smith held on to win from John Greenwood, with Neil Robinson placing third.
Race two got under way in a dying breeze that had shifted slightly to the east; again Julian Smith was fast out the blocks closely followed by Neil Robinson, John Greenwood and Simon Percival into the top mark. The downwind leg was tough as the breeze began to die, at one stage the race officer would have been forgiven for abandoning but the fleet got to the leeward gate and worked had to finish on the shortened upwind leg. Neil Robinson took the race win with Julian Smith in second followed by the only competing junior in the fleet jack Arnell who picked up some useful pressure and shifts to place third. The breeze by now had dropped sufficiently for the race officer to abandon the third race and so the fleet were towed back to the club.
Sunday brought once again sunshine and blue skies with the promise of slightly more breeze and so race 3 of the series got underway in 8 – 10 knots. By now it was clear Neil Robinson had some pace on the fleet and was part of a bunch of boats including Allen Burrell, Simon Hawkes and Fred Arkel to the top mark, downwind with slightly more pressure and a steadier wave pattern almost had boats surfing at times. Neil Robinson led until the final metres of the race where Allen Burrell managed to pip him into second to take his first win of the series, Simon Hawkes held onto third.
So to the fourth race, the fleet got away first time, with Will Pattern leading to the top mark, close behind however were Neil Robinson, Simon Hawkes, and Allen Burrell, with an increase in pressure the Oscar flag was raised for the final downwind leg and various downwind techniques were employed by the sailors to work their boats to the finish, Andy Denison in particular made some good gains. Neil Robinson was again victorious with Allen Burrell making up ground to take second place from Will Patten. This second race win along with his others results was enough to earn Neil Robinson the UK Masters title, and with this he sailed home for an early cuppa!
The final race of the weekend saw the race officer set and triangle sausage course for the first time on the basis the breeze was building. The fleet were once again clear away, with Allen Burrell wining the pin end closely followed by John Heyes, these two led to the top mark followed by local helm Ray New. Alan and John remained in the same order for the whole of the race closely followed by John Greenwood in third and Julian Smith finding his speed once again to come in fourth.
Back on dry land Neil Robinson shared the views of the other competitors by commenting that “It was a really challenging sailing, working hard all the time to keep the boat working upwind and even harder maintaining clean air downwind!” Summing up the weekend when collecting the UK Masters trophy he commented that Christchurch was a beautiful place to sail and thanked the race team for all there efforts and in particular the assistance given by “trolley dollies”.
Other trophies were awarded to; First Junior – Jack Arnell, First Master – Will Patten, First Grand Master – Neil Robinson, First Great Grand Master – Ray New, First Legend – Howard Sellars