Any time a boat gets to discard a second place in its winning scoreline, it suggests a walkover, but in the case of the 2018 British Etchells National Championship Lawrie Smith and his crew of Richard Parslow / Will Heritage and Gonçalo Ribeiro only took the championship on the last beat of the last race. In that race they had moved from well back in the fleet to eventual first place, snatching the title from Andy Beadsworth (Marco Pocci / Ben Cornish (sailing under the HKG sail number of Marco)) who for most of the last race had the destiny of the title in his own hands.
These two were head and shoulders above the rest of the 19 boat fleet, Smith finishing with six points, Beadsworth with eight while Peter Rogers / Neil Jaffa Harrison and Ben Cooper finished an extremely creditable third overall but with a rather distant 20 points in total.
Race one was sailed in a very light north westerly breeze with a strong cross tide from the east and the race was won by Tom Abrey/ Bruno van Dyck and Matt Reid. Unusually for the team on Jolly Roger however, this was the only time they saw the front all week and their regatta was challenging from the next race with an OCS leading them scoring a DFL in 19th.
Smith took second, Peter Rogers 3rd and defending National champion David Franks a solid 4th to kick off the defence of his British Championship title.
Race two was away quickly with the Lawrie Smith juggernaut starting to get rolling and taking the bullet. Ante Razmilovic (Brian Hammersley, Andrew Mills) who are always at the front of this fleet took second while Andy Beadsworth (Marco Pocci / Ben Cornish) was 3rd.
After an OCS in race 1 visiting Aussies Iain Murray / Grant Simmer (now resident in the UK as General Manager for the now renamed Ben Ainslie / Ineos Team UK America’s Cup team) and Steve “Mothie” Jarvin took 4th.
At this stage it was anyone’s game but with two more races held on the first day due to light wind forecasts for later in the weekend the complexion of the regatta changed in the following 3 hours. Andy Beadsworth and Lawrie Smith locked up the front row in both races. Beadsworth took both, Smith second in both and they put themselves a few boat lengths ahead of the fleet in the big picture.
Nobody else even got close. Iain Murray had a couple of 4’s, Razmilovic had a three and a black flag disqualification, current J70 world champion Peter Duncan had a 5 and a BFD (his second of the weekend!) while Shaun Fröhlich who has won this title before added two 13ths onto his earlier 5th place to fall out of contention.
Worthy of mention at this stage of the regatta however was the RLYC Youth academy team of Owen Bowerman / Morgan Peach / Charlotte Hooper and Matt Whitfield who had a score line that read consistently well with 9, 6, 9 before they too fell victim to the black flag in race 4.
While Saturdays NW breeze had built all day so that by the end of race 4 it was blowing 16 to 18 knots, Sunday dawned very light and the forecast for Monday was also looking very tricky for racing.
After a long delay the fleet set off for the Bramble Bank in a soft 5 to 7 knot SW for what the Royal London YC PRO Gill Smith hoped might be two races. The dominant factor however was the tide, which was a building flood from the west making for long beats. The first race (under a black flag which had done for Razmilovic who had his second of the regatta) saw a massive split with half the boats clearly wanting the right (and being willing to start late at the committee boat and tack to get there) while the other half started further left and seemed content to search for better breeze, ignoring the theoretically stronger adverse tide to the left. In the end the left won out big time with all the leaders coming from that side. No one seemed to know if there was more wind that side or if perhaps the tide hadn’t perhaps turned on the left quite yet. There may have been a bit of positive ebb tide still on the left. Beadsworth and Smith were amongst this group. The back markers were saved however by the building tide which picked up the spreader mark and swept it off towards Portsmouth to the extent the PRO Smith had to abandon the race.
With the clock running down fast another start was run and the debate was again, go left or go right. Most of the same people made the same decisions and more or less the left won again. But not by as much, and with the windward mark on the move this time rather than the spreader mark carnage broke out at the top mark when it became clear that you couldn’t lay the spreader from the windward mark without another tack!! This really shook up the fleet.
Beadsworth was top 3 but Smith was buried until this point. Your correspondent can’t recall all of the shenanigans but Smith did get up to 5th as a result. Beadsworth was still in the virtual lead overall and held that down the run. With the left having worked every beat so far most boats took the right hand gate (looking downwind) and looked to protect that side. But the tide had only been building across the course so this was starting to be higher risk.
Smith split and went right up the beat along with Murray Chapples (crewed by his 10 year old son Zac !) who had gone right every beat. They rounded 5th and 6th and with every passing moment the boats on the left - now on port and trying to get back to the middle - were bow down and looked in trouble. Beadsworth was first to spot the danger (but apparently didn’t know that Smith was the boat in the far right hand corner) so he tacked over and headed right but the further he came back to the middle the worse the situation looked as it became clear to him that his only competition for the title was the boat now on starboard with a right-hand puff crossing everybody. Having had the championship in his grasp the fleet headed up the last beat with the right looking better and better.
Luckily for the group on the left there weren’t many boats to the right so other than Smith and Chapples who moved up, the order didn’t change too much, although the fleet did compress and Beadsworth saw the title ripped from his grasp.
So ended a very high scoring regatta with only the first two boats able to show any consistency. In fact only three boats in the whole fleet managed to stay in single figures all regatta.
Lawrie Smith is the 2018 British Etchells National Champion, just reward for his hard work over the past couple of years since joining fleet and another title on the CV of one of Britain’s top boat racers while Ante Razmilovic took the Corinthian title. -- Written by Laurence Mead