Solo Midland Area South Staffs Open
I awoke wondering how I was going to feel, as I’d had my covid booster three days before, only because of my desire to compete in the Nations Cup, and head to France in June. Apart from the shoulders feeling like I’d been to the gym for a three-hour session and exhausted, the World was perfect.
So, with the overnight oats and brew consumed, I headed off to South Staffs nice and early, so nothing could go wrong, and help to welcome the travellers as they arrived.
At 8.30, and a nice force 3 breeze wakening the senses, things were looking positive. Kev Hall, last year’s champion, was already there waiting for us to open the gates. And with a quick greeting, I headed off to unpack and assemble the boat, thinking that it was all there. Hmmm …… unfortunately not! No rudder, shrouds or sail, good start eh. They were in the motorhome back in Stoke, so a panicked drive back to Stoke ensued.
On return Ian Ingram helped me put the boat together, (thank you Ian), and a mad dash to the changing room.
Severn local lads (missing our latest top gun Jonny Coats due to some pesky holiday) and twelve visitors headed out to the start line.
The wind was still ok, anything between force one and force three, although as shifty and fickle as Chris Brown.
Today’s race officer Bill Bradburn and his able assistant, 13(ish) year old, Jack Hodgkins set the course and got us off at the first attempt. At the windward mark, Mike (nose bleed) Cossey was the first round followed by Ian Ingram and Neil Wilkinson, our top gun of the day Jonny Woodward in the distance. (Oh my!)
David Badger shouted to me at the leeward mark ‘ YOU CAN’T DO THAT’ for me to remind him, I was on starboard, and he on port. He didn’t make that mistake again and outsailed me for the remaining races.
The only other thing of note was Mike Cossey sailing himself back to fifth place, although still a great result.
So at the finish line, it was Ian Ingram first, Neil Wilkinson second and Jonny Woodward redeeming himself in third place. Then off for an early lunch.
The sun came out for the second race and the wind dropped to a force one gusting two at best, the Race Officer got us off at the first attempt again, and we all set off playing snakes and ladders. First round the windward mark was Jonny Woodward, oh…….. no it wasn’t he went the wrong way! So first around was Ian Ingram, followed by Neil Wilkinson and James Dawes third. Places changed constantly throughout the fleet except for James Dawes who worked his way to the front and pretty much led us all around for that race, and Jonny calamity Woodward squirrelled himself into second, Neil Wilkinson took his worst position of the day in third.
At the finish line Mike Cossey decided to hit the committee boat anchor chain, and then the committee boat as well for good measure, didn’t do his turns and got a DNF for his troubles.
Also of note, Maria E. Franco newish to sailing, and in her first season in the Solo Midland Series took twelfth position, so this was the first time she wasn’t in last place, proving that when it’s not blowing old boots, she’s got talent and one to watch in the coming seasons.
The wind was now anything from force 1-3.
I knew it was too good to be true! The third race started with a general recall. Bill taking no-nonsense and ready for home, hoisted the dreaded black flag to assert his intentions.
So at the second attempt, only our Commodore Richard Farmer and Lee Nankervis got BFD showing there is no favouritism from our RO.
On the start line I got a roasting from Kev Hall for a light coming together (see Solo Association website for footage lol) so off I went to do my turns, also getting in the way of Maria E. Franco, more turns, Oh my I’m last!
Angry Kev Hall rounded the windward mark first, with consistent Ian Ingram second and, no one has any recollection of who went around third, and so I can only assume it was the other consistent sailor of the day Neil Wilkinson.
Me and Maria, obviously both miffed, managed to work our way up the fleet, I ended up 10th and beating Tony Hodgkiss haha! Maria, now with a new vigour for not coming last ended fourteenth. Very well done!
In still shifty and difficult conditions, Kev lost out to Ian and Neil and the race ended, Ian Ingram first, Neil Wilkinson second, and Kev Hall third.
This year we have a new cup, dedicated to the memory of Robin Harper, a gentle and unassuming man who was a member of South Staffs SC since the 1990s. He helped the club and members in numerous ways with his marine engineer background, encouragement and friendship. Robin was also 50% of the team that coached Kamila and her sister Aga on the powerboats for the RYA challenge. Kamila becoming twice Champion and also Champion of Champions. And Aga Champion of her age group. All three of our powerboats were won by the girls, and it just shows the depth of commitment, knowledge, and general brilliance that Robin gave us all. I’m personally gutted he’s no longer with us, and always think he’s sailing with me wherever I am.
Ian gave a touching speech, to Robin’s family who were there for the unveiling of the Trophy, about how he had just lost his dad and that he thought maybe his dad and Robin were with him, helping him along.
Very well done Ian, the first winner of the Robin Harper Trophy.
So overall it ended:
1st Ian Ingram
2nd Neil Wilkinson
3rd Jonny ‘Calamity’ Woodward
Spot prizes were given to Alan Williams, the first traveller to enter all five events, and Mike Cossey who would have had a better result if it weren’t for his dance with the committee boat.
RO Bill Bradburn requested I give Jack Hodgkin’s a mention, as he was extremely impressed with his assistant. Well done fella.
Thank you to Mel Sharpe, Steve Baker, Mat Dooner, and Oli Goodhead for safety boat cover and pictures, James Ashworth and Kimmi Dooner for galley, and everyone else that helped out.
I’d like to thank all the competitors for a fantastic days sailing, and I hope to see you all next year.
By Paul Bottomley