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Cherub Nationals at Babbacombe Corinthian SC Cherub Nationals at Babbacombe Corinthian SC

Last week saw the UK Cherub class head down to Babbacombe Corinthian Sailing Club in sunny Devon. Racing was scheduled from Wednesday 12th to Saturday 15th but a large proportion of the fleet decided to head down early and test the water before the championships began. Monday and Tuesday were sunny and winds were light which allowed for plenty of bimbling, tanning and ice cream eating for the early arrivers. The technical committee were kept busy measuring shiny new sails and boats which were new this season.

The official social calendar for the week kicked off in style up at the BBSC club house in town with a plentiful hot and cold buffet spread which was washed down with excellently priced beers and local ciders. Wednesday morning saw some late arrivals who had made the most of the late scheduled start time and there was a buzz of excitement in the dinghy park. The sun was shining, the breeze was making the water glisten in the distance and the stage was set for an excellent day of racing. The wind was offshore and around 7-12knots so the Race Officer for the week, Dave Homer, set the windward mark inshore and the leeward mark around a mile further away. Racing on day one was tight throughout the fleet and there were great battles from first down through to the back. It was business as usual for Pete and Roz who dominated the fleet making the most of every puff, hot on their heels were Will and Lucy and rounding out the top 3 were newcomers to the fleet Andy and Jill Peters in their brand new E5 Cherub. Atom Bom and Subtle Knife were proving that they’re still a force to be reckoned with mixing it amongst the latest generation of very skinny and pointy E5’s and Banshee’s with Riot Van rounding out the top 5 after day 1. Photos were being taken by Tom Gruitt (Fotoboat) and also very kindly by club members who all seemed to have mighty telescopic lenses. After racing BBSC had kindly organised a BBQ on the beach and then was up to the club house to look at the photos of the days action.

Day 2 had always been forecast to be the light wind day, but with 4 races scheduled the Race Team were keen to get us off the beach and get racing underway. There was a postponement of an hour to wait for the breeze to fill in and as predicted we were able to get off the beach and underway in between 5-10 knots of breeze. Light winds meant that a good start was critical and so people were pushing up on the line to get that tactical advantage. This resulted in a general recall and another race where a good proportion of the front runners had to go round the end and re start! Thursday resulted in a mixed bag of results with the light weight team in Usagi Yojimbo getting the better of Antidote taking second place in 2 of the 4 races, whilst an out of sorts Will and Lucy got pushed down as far as 5th in race 7. Team Bridle in Riot Van had the perfect mix of youth and experience (Graham has experience sailing all sorts of classes from Cherubs to 18’s, and Eddie was the events youngest competitor at just 11!) and they found form to pick up a couple of solid 4ths. Subtle Knife had some gear failure so ended up having to sit out the final races of the day as the breeze continued to drop. John and Digby who were ably piloting Cheese Before Bedtime for their first event made the most of the light wind and posted some excellent top 10 results, with a 5th in race 5. Definitely ones to watch for the future! Stu and Ross were getting to grips with ‘Dan’s Boat’ and having mastered not capsizing, they were now finding excellent speed round the course. The final race of the day was the lightest wind race of the event, with wind speed dangerously close to the 5knot minimum, but the wind was even across the race course with no patches or holes so racing was even and fair. A single lap meant that getting out the blocks cleanly was essential and by the windward mark the fleet was tight. Ronin were hampered by Usagi early on but managed to hold on for the win, Dean and Simon in Loco made the most of their National 12 derived hull to keep the boat driving in the lighter airs and posted a series best 3rd place to put them back in the hunt. Behind them the fleet was changing places on every tack and gybe with 6 boats crossing the finish line with an overlap. This days racing really was a testament to the all round ability of these boats since moving to bigger sails in 2005, where previously a days sailing would have been canned due to light wind and miserable sailors this day was filled with tight racing and smiles! The evenings entertainment was the Class AGM to be followed by a Chilli of Biblical proportions excellently created by class members Roland and Hayley Trim. Luckily, with hunger on our minds, the AGM was dispatched in a record breaking 43 minutes with all the necessary points discussed and elections completed. Thanks to the club for letting us use their facilities and providing more excellent photos for us to look at whilst eating and drinking. Another big thanks goes out to Team Subtle Knife who did the washing up!

Day 3 dawned with some rain and moody skies. The forecast was for 12knots… gusting 23! (a slight bit of covering their backs by the forecasters we think!) In reality the wind was more like day one, probably around the 12 knot mark (unfortunately no big gusts for the heavy weights!) Race 8 was sailed in the freshest breeze of the day with Usagi and Badgers (who had to do turns on the line after a slight sat in irons on the line incident involving Loco!) heading inshore to make the most of the lift from the cliffs, with the rest of the fleet heading out right to make the most of the greater breeze. The inshore method worked out well putting them right in the mix with the front runners. Ronin, Usagi, Antidote and Badgers rounded up front and headed off down the course kites a’blazing. Antidote got past Usagi and Badgers dropped back to 6th for the gun which was a series best. Having been used for 30mins since the 2008 nationals the Badger and crew weren’t exactly ‘match fit’ but were enjoying every minute with some excellent close racing. Atom were making the most of the increased wind and after a slow start to the day rounded out with 3 3rds to put them right back into the medal hunt. The Trims made good in the second race of the day with their newly finished mast (after the first one was subject to an unseen beach incident and failed on day one, resulting in a late night trip back to London to collect the unfinished spare which is for their new E5!) and posted a series best 7th. Tom Gruitt was on hand again with his telephoto lens to capture every hoist, drop and twin wire kite run to take some more magnificent shots of the Cherubs doing what they do best. Gear failure was kept to a minimum all week, but unfortunately Suicide Blonde suffered from some pretty terminal crew failure. With some acrobatics and a foot trapped between the rack and hull Nick suffered some pretty severe bruising and so put an end to his weeks sailing after some advice from the lovely people at Torquay A&E! It was great to see Lawrence and Robert join us for racing in their Ł1000 ebay special. The evenings entertainment was found round the cove at The Cary Arms Hotel (apparently Babbacombes only 5 star Hotel) where they served up BBQ’d kebabs with salad and naan’s. After a long day on the water the option of quantity rather than quality may have been more greatly appreciated but a great evening was had by all and not even the drizzle put a dampner on the experience.

Come Saturday, the heavy wind specialists were praying for some decent breeze to blow the cobwebs away yet the forecast was mixed. In the briefing ‘similar to the rest of the week’ was mentioned and Team Wales decided to cut their week short and have a leisurely day packing up the boat planning bigger sails for next year. This turned out to be a mistake as when reaching the race course the competitors were greeted with a perfect 15-20knots with steady seas. In race one it was ultra tight for the lead, Antidote and Ronin fought hard for the win with positions changing frequently. The performance of the E5 was supreme and enabled Will and Lucy to sneak the race win from Pete and Roz on the line. The Slugs and Daemons came alive and were battling for the runners up spots with Atom and Subtle sharing 3rd and 4th places throughout the day. Dean and Simon managed to hold on for a respectable 5th in 2 of the 3 races which went to show that even in the heavy winds, the lighter teams can still be competitive. Andy and Jill were tested in these conditions but managed to hold on and get round the course to complete the series. Badgers Nadgers came alive in these conditions showing consistent speed in a straight line up and downwind, but lack of time in the boat also highlighted some boat handling issues which had not come to light earlier in the week! Even so, whilst writing this, I still have a smile on my face thinking about the wild downwind runs and the marginal code brown incident taking the pin end mark to the torso at 20 knots! It was great to see the legend of Flat Stanley on the water with another new owner making the most of the big winds. No wonder this boat was seen as a revolution 30 years ago, as it still looks quick now!

This completed the 14 race series and was simply the closest and hardest fought series throughout the fleet (even if the first and second places seemed set it stone).

Thanks again to all the competitors for travelling down to Devon to make this event so memorable and to all the families who have made plans around the week to let this happen. Thanks to David Homer and his race team who managed to do a full series of superbly run races, and the rescue crews who helped us back inside the bay through the swirling shifting winds. Thanks to the ladies in the beach club who cooked the bacon sarnies and kept us topped up with tea before racing, and the bar staff at the club who ensured we were fully watered after sailing! Thanks to Allen Brothers who kindly sponsored the event who gave us some goodie bags and t-shirts which were distributed amongst the competitors and finally, thanks to Tom Gruitt and Fotoboat who was able to capture some excellent shots of the event which will be available to all competitors shortly.

We’ve still got Lymington, Corus and Plymouth on the calendar for this years events, and then looking ahead to next years nationals at Largo Bay 2010 looks like its going to be another fantastic year.

Prizes:

Best Lady – Roz Allen
Best Newcomers – Andy and Jill Peters – Usagi Yojimbo (4th)
Youngest Competitor – Eddie Bridle (5th)
Most Improved – Ewan Harris (6th)
Top pre 2005 rules boat – Robert Main and Simon Turnbull

Prix d’elegance (for the most beautiful boat) – Dan’s Boat (collected on behalf of Dan Kemble by Stu and Ross)
Phoenix (for the best restoration) – Paul Croote – Atum Bom
Ashes (best piece of boat destruction) – Roland and Hayley Trim
Davey (best capsize, or in this case, most frequent!) – Stu Tinner and Ross Burkin

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