Graduate Dinghy Association

This year's Graduate Nationals were hosted by Stewartby Water Sports Club. With 17 Graduates entered this was one of the best attended Nationals in recent years.

The variety of sailors who race Graduates is always impressive with three teenage helms, a good number over the age of 65, half the entrants were married couples, four boats were parent/child combinations and 12 of the 34 sailors were women. Interestingly, at the end of the event, the first six positions were male/female combinations. This provided a balanced friendly mix on and off the water. However, this was serious racing with about half the fleet sporting new sails. There were a number of conversations about the fullness of main sails and at what height in the sail the fullness should be.

Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Bill Strange
Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Bill Strange

Day one arrived with a very gusty, cold wind from the north. It continued to build with each passing cloud rapidly doubling/tripling the wind speed and then raining before the wind easing ready for the next cloud. With white foam being blown down the track from the breaking waves during the gusts, it was clear the wind speed was above the agreed maximum wind strength. Accordingly, the Race Office made the correct decision and abandoned racing. To make-up for our disappointment, the Stewartby members made us very welcome and provided some excellent home catering.

The Graduate Dinghy Association (GDA) AGM was also held. With three women joining the committee making it 50/50 male/female. We look forward to their input and guidance.

Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Bill Strange
Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Bill Strange

Day two was about the shifts and gusts with the wind speed ranging from nothing to force three.

Race one had a port biased start line. Reigning champions John Clementson and Melanie Titmus punched out of the line, followed by Richard Abendstern and Izzy Waterfall, and Andy and Sue Flitcroft. For the remainder of the race there were not many position changes.

Race two, was again led by John and Melanie followed by Richard and Izzy. However, this was the race where fifteen-year-old Hannah Whitham with crew Bryn Abendstern let everyone know that she meant business by chasing Richard and Izzy. The biggest climber of the race were Chris and Chloe Parker who worked their way from the back of the fleet to fourth. John and Melanie again took line honours.

Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Bill Strange
Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Bill Strange

Race three was the best of the day. A couple of minutes before the start, the wind shifted to the left and most of the fleet gathered near the pin end; however, the pressure was at the starboard end. The thirteen-year-old twins, Patrick and Jonathan Hill spotted this pressure, shot out on port, at speed, before tacking on to starboard and sailing across the fleet in the oldest boat of the competition, much to the bemusement of the older and supposedly wiser sailors and to the delight of their mother Joanne watching on the shore. With a hard-fought first beat, John and Melanie worked their way to the front followed by Adam and Josh Froggatt and Chris and Chloe Parker. This was a race where, apart from first place, positions were constantly changing which made it exciting. Again, John and Melanie got the bullet.

Race four, started in lighter airs with Bob and Maggie Murrell taking the lead before John and Melanie, and Andy and Sue Flitcroft got past them. Then in the final lap the wind died, and fleet drifted for about 45 minutes. Some gave up. Eventually, the wind filled in for the final run with the pack catching the leaders. John and Melanie, and Andy and Sue had enough of a lead to keep clear. However, John and Melanie touched the last mark which allowed Andy and Sue to win the final race of the day.

Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Bill Strange
Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Bill Strange

Day three, was another northerly wind of about force three/four in strength. This one was in a relatively steady direction; however, those boats which were able to find pressure first made the most gains.

Race five, Richard and Izzy took the early lead for this race closely followed by John and Melanie and Bob and Maggie. After two laps John and Melanie were first just ahead of Bob and Maggie. However, both crews were caught out by a sudden header right at the final windward mark. This allowed Richard and Izzy to gain the lead closely followed by Chris and Chloe. John and Melanie fought back down the last run to take line honours with Richard and Izzy close on their heels and then Chris and Chloe Parker. This was another exciting race with no position guaranteed until crossing the finish line and it confirmed John and Melanie as overall winners.

John Clementson & Melanie Titmus win the Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Richard Thorpe
John Clementson & Melanie Titmus win the Graduate Nationals at Stewartby Water - photo © Richard Thorpe

Race six, had three boats competing for second place. Andy and Sue took the early lead with John and Melanie working their way up the fleet after a cautious start. Richard and Izzy were close on the leading boat's heels. During the race, John and Melanie exchanged first place with Andy and Sue frequently. This reflected most of the fleet where positions changed with each gust. Finally, John and Melanie won the race followed by Andy and Sue, and Chris and Chloe Parker. This was enough for the Flitcrofts to gain second position overall but equal points to Richard and Izzy who lost out on count back.

Most people came off the water with a close racing story and how they had been near the top and dropped or vice versa which demonstrated how exciting Grad racing is.

Overall Results:

Pos Sail No Helm Crew Club R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 Pts
1 2979 John Clementson Melanie Titmus Chipstead 1 1 1 2 1 1 5
2 3001 Andy Flitcroft Sue Flitcroft Bolton 3 5 4 1 5 2 15
3 3013 Richard Abendstern Izzy Waterfall Toddbrook 2 2 6 5 2 4 15
4 2839 Chris Parker Chloe Parker Southport 4 4 2 Rtd 3 3 16
5 3004 Hannah Whitham Bryn Abendstern Toddbrook 5 3 8 3 6 5 22
6 3020 Bob Murrell Maggie Murrell Chipstead 6 7 5 4 4 7 26
7 3008 Ric Lewis John Higham Chipstead 10 6 12 6 8 8 38
8 3010 David Wilson Sandra Wilson Broadwater 7 11 10 8 12 6 42
9 2962 Roger Cherrill Sandra Jordan Chipstead 9 10 7 Rtd 7 12 45
10 2901 Hamilton Roaf Alistair Roaf Chipstead 12 8 9 7 10 11 45
11 3016 Rob Riddelsdell Sally Riddelsdell Chipstead 8 9 14 11 9 10 47
12 3015 James Webber Helen Recardo Chipstead 15 12 11 9 11 9 52
13 3014 David Lockwood Kadriye Lockwood Chipstead 11 13 13 12 13 13 62
14 2909 Richard Thorpe Jane Thorpe Toddbrook 14 14 15 10 14 14 66
15 2531 Patrick Hill Jonathan Hill Swarkestone 16 15 16 13 15 15 74
16 2955 Adam Froggatt Josh/Jack/Rhys Chase OCS Rtd 3 DNS DNS DNS 75
17 2950 John Froggatt Josh/Jack/Rhys Chase 13 Rtd DNS DNS DNS DNS 85