TEAM GILL WIN CONDOR FERRIES UK NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
From the UK Class - The Condor Ferries International Melges 24 UK National Championship, held in Jersey, over 15 – 18 June experienced tremendously varied weather throughout the four day event. Twenty two boats from the UK and France took part and after a titanic battle it was Quentin Strauss's Team Gill, helmed by Stuart Rix, that took the title from John Pollard with France's Geraume Vaudelet in third.
Day 1 dawned miserably wet with strong winds blowing from the south, leading to a two-hour postponement whilst the wind veered westerly and abated. The day saw the most boisterous and gruelling racing of the Championship as boats raced over a three-quarter mile Olympic course laid in St Aubin’s Bay in winds gusting to more than twenty knots, albeit in bright sunshine. Hard work for the competitors but great for spectators! John Pollard’s Xcellent won the day, winning two of the three races, just one point ahead of Stuart Rix’ Gill, Vincent Biarnes Côtes d’Armor and Jamie Lea’s Team Barbarians. Jersey’s Allen Brown skippering The Dogs ……..! finished second in the second race whilst Guernsey’s Michael Henning’s March Hare took a third in the first.
Day 2 saw a marked variation in the weather with the wind backing to the south and going much lighter with sea conditions sufficiently sloppy as not to make the committee boat or mark layer RIBs enviable berths. Much to the relief of most crews, Race Officer Bob Milner, chose to set a 1.2 mile course, across the tide, a few miles to the south of the Island although this was shortened as the day wore on as the wind eased and fitfully veered to the Southwest. The day went to Geraume Vaudelet’s O’Tomate, the second of seven French entries, who clocked up seven points against Xcellent and Gill’s nine, each boat having won one race that day. This put Xcellent well ahead, after six races, with Gill in second place from Côtes d’Armor. O’Tomate did not feature, at this stage, due to a disqualification arising from a protest in the first race that attracted a penalty of twenty-three points.
Day 3, Friday, dawned foggy and windless, resulting in a two-hour postponement, followed by another and then another, a six-hour postponement in all following which racing was postponed to the next day. The race committee had spent much time searching for breeze but that which they found was blowing from the southeast and northwest simultaneously in different parts of St Aubin’s Bay. The enforced lay-day did not seem to cause any heartache within the competitors’ ranks, not even when the race officer promised them that he would run the races on the morrow in addition to those scheduled for that day.
True to the forecast, the final day dawned with a cloudless sky and the wind blowing from the east-northeast at up to ten knots, where it generally stayed throughout the day. A course of just over a mile was laid to the south of the Island, this time effectively in line with the tidal stream, a factor that was to call for great skill and understanding on the part of skippers to avoid being swept over the start line once the tide really started to run at its full two to three knots.
Starting early at ten o’clock, the first race of the day, a double rounding of the course, saw last year’s winners, Jamie Lea’s Team Barbarians, first win in the Championship with O’Tomate second and March Hare third. The second race went to Antoine Albaret’s Côtes d’Armor Perros-Guirec from Biarnes’ Côtes d’Armor with Team Barbarians third. There can be little doubt that the French contingent had come with the intention of making an impact! The third race proved to be the highlight of the Championship for one sponsor, with Joe Woods’ WKD Red beating Gill to the finish line whilst O’Tomate chalked up a third. By this time the tide was in full flood and helms were evidently heeding the race officer’s advice about standing back off the line to make due allowance for drift. However, the wind had died somewhat and the course was shortened to just one rounding for the fourth race. This race resulted in a win for Jersey’s Final Fling, helmed by Rhys Perkins, with Côtes d’Armor second and March Hare third. The course for the eleventh and final race reverted to two rounds as the breeze picked up and it was Vaudelet’s O’Tomate that led the fleet home with March Hare second and Côtes d’Armor third.
In the final reckoning, Stuart Rix’ Gill’s consistently good performance throughout the final five races put her ahead of John Pollard’s Xcellent by a narrow margin of five points to make her a worthy champion for 2005. Xcellent had the distinction of not just coming a very close second but also clocked up the most firsts throughout the Championship. Jamie Lea’s Team Barbarians also put in a very strong performance to come a close third in the Championship. Guernsey’s Michael Henning’s March Hare had the distinction of being the first Corinthian overall whilst Geraume Vaudelet’s O’Tomate won the First Overseas Boat prize. The John Merricks award , based on the results of the three postponed Friday’s races went to Gill, on countback.
Prizes were awarded at a Gala Dinner held at the Grand Hotel on Saturday evening in the presence of representatives of the Championship sponsors, Condor Ferries, BNP Paribas, Link Insurance and WKD Beverage Brands, Jersey Tourism and Education Sport & Culture to whom the organisers, the St Helier and Royal Channel Islands Yacht Clubs, extend their sincere thanks for their encouragement and unstinting support for what was an excellent Melges Championship.