If unbroken sunshine and a warm breeze is what you wanted for a weekend’s sailing then Bolton SC was the place to be, however if you were also looking for a steady wind and long true beats in preparation for the forthcoming GP14 World Championships then this event wasn’t going to be it!

Bolton SC put on this year’s GP14 Northern Area Championships over the weekend of the 30th/1st July and the eleven visitors and six club boats were treated to an intense two days of seriously testing boat handling and close round the cans racing with boat on boat action throughout the entire fleet from the first gun right up to the finish line in every race. The burning moorland of Winter Hill providing a dramatic back drop and you could be forgiven for thinking the heat was from those fires however all six races provided sizzling competition and a true test of inland water sailing.

Andy Flitcroft and his race team got race one away cleanly and by the first mark most boats had put in more tacks that than they would probably expect to do in an entire race at Mounts Bay. First to show were Neal Gibson and Geoff Phillips however luck was not to be with this pairing and they pulled a genoa cleat off and duly had to retire. This left a battle for the top three between Mark/Sam Platt, Andy Smith/Phil Hodgkins and Sam Watson/Ben Swainson a pattern that would set the tone for the weekend. Andy and Phil made the best of the variable conditions and were rewarded with the first bullet of the weekend ahead of the Platts however it was just behind that a valuable lesson was being learnt as Sam and Ben sailed around the outside of the finishing line allowing Gary Deighan and Dale Knowles to cross in third before they could correct their error.

The start of Race 2 was dominated by Gary and Dale who got off to a flier and quickly crossed the fleet on port leaving them in good shape at mark 1 however, as in the previous race things were very intense and places changed quickly with boat on boat battles raging across the reservoir. Much shouting could be heard with regular use of the dreaded ‘protest’ word however, unfortunately for Sam and Ben this wasn’t backed up with the required red flag following a port and starboard incident and the resulting protest didn’t even get off the ground. Andy and Phil once again secured a hard-fought victory with a very close finish giving Mark and Sam the edge over Sam and Ben who were now all too aware of the finishing line location.

By race 3 there were interesting battles developing in the silver and bronze fleets and having secured a fifth and eighth in the first two races it was Julie and Chris Waddington who held a slender lead in the silver fleet and Steve Parry and Jens Kuhn in the bronze. The conditions started to take their toll both physically and mentally on most teams however, in the words of his crew, Justin Smith’s perception of distance and course reading seemed to be most affected resulting in several spins and them sailing to the wrong mark twice in the one race. Despite this Justin and Michelle were posting consistent results and although slightly dizzy took another creditable fifth in the final race of the day which was won by Sam and Ben breaking Andy and Phil’s hold on race victories.

The evening’s entertainment was combined with Bolton Sailing Clubs Summer Bash and a fantastic buffet was laid on by Liz and Andrew Craig before a band entertained all for the rest of the evening. With the sun having now set the raging fires above the club were even more evident and there was more than an element of concern shown by those planning on sleeping under canvas at the club that night!

Sunday brought a similar set of conditions from those of the previous day however, as the boats took to the water for a much earlier start, it was evident that the gusts weren’t quite as strong but with back-to-back races planned it was still going to be a testing day. More so for some as James Hockley and Alan Thompson launched minus a bung and literally saw their hopes of a silver fleet win sink. Andy and Phil continued their strong performance in race four until confusion over the next mark and an ill judged lay line let the two local boats of Mark and Sam and Gary and Dale get away to an unassailable lead with their own battle being won by Mark and Sam thus giving then their first bullet of the event.

The penultimate race of the day followed shortly after the last boat finished race four and once again shifty gusty conditions made the first beat a tricky one which Justin and Michelle handled expertly to lead round the first mark. Unlike previous races the lead wasn’t to change and they held on for a well-deserved race win. Mark and Sam recovered well from some early troubles in the race and with a second-place finish they ensured that the Championship would not be decided until the last race was complete.

With four different race winners and a very tight points situation the last race was always going to be a tense affair however, having seen his mate Justin take the previous race Adam McGovern and Eleanor Davies weren’t going to be outdone and showed first at the windward mark a position they also didn’t relinquish throughout leaving the battle for the remaining places going on behind. Mark and Sam work hard to try and challenge for the win they needed but as they were neither able to unseat Adam and Eleanor from the top spot nor shake off the chasing Andy and Phil it was not to be for them and Andy and Phil’s superior firsts count handed them the Northern Champs with Mark and Sam second. Sam and Ben secured third overall and the race win for Adam and Eleanor propelled them in to fourth.

Julie and Chris Waddington continued their fine weekend and took the silver prize with Julie also securing leading Lady helm having saved their best for last finishing fourth in the final race. An equally impressive final day saw Zena Martin and Leanne Pilkington jump into top spot in the Bronze fleet a great achievement and a good confidence boost just before they head into their first ever GP14 World Championships later this month.

All that remained was for the prizes to be given out and for Andy Smith to eloquently thank all involved at Bolton SC for putting on a great Northern Area Championships.

Report: Gary Deighan

Photos: Peter Mackin

Overall Results:

Pos Sail No Club Helm Crew Fleet R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 Pts
1st 14206 Bassenthwaite SC Andy Smith Phil Hodgkins Gold 1 1 2 3 ‑5 3 10
2nd 14217 Bolton Mark Platt Sam Platt Gold 2 2 3 1 ‑4 2 10
3rd 14055 Nantwich Sam Watson Ben Swanson Gold 4 3 1 ‑9 2 7 17
4th 14145 Hollingworth Res SC Adam McGovern Eleanor Davies Gold ‑7 6 4 6 3 1 20
5th 14091 Bolton Gary Deighan Dale Knowles Gold 3 4 ‑8 2 7 5 21
6th 13838 Tynemouth/Chase SC Justin Smith Michelle Evans Gold 6 5 5 ‑8 1 6 23
7th 14187 Bolton Julie Waddington Chris Waddington Silver 5 8 9 10 ‑12 4 36
8th 8162 Bolton Chris Aubrey Josh Aubrey Silver 9 ‑10 7 4 8 10 38
9th 14090 Redoubt SC Neal Gibson Geoff Phillips Gold (DNF) 9 6 7 6 11 39
10th 14201 Budworth Hugh Devereux Malcolm Bird Silver 11 11 11 5 9 ‑12 47
11th 14110 LFYC James Hockley Alan Thompson Silver 8 7 10 13 15 (DNC) 53
12th 14010 Bolton Graham Courtney Julie Courtney Silver (DNC) 12 13 12 11 8 56
13th 14190 Aldridge/Bolton John Salomonson Sue Flitcroft Silver 10 13 12 14 10 (DNC) 59
14th 13933 Bolton Zena Martin Leanne Pilkington Bronze 13 ‑15 15 11 13 9 61
15th 4615 York Ri SC Steve Parry Jens Kuhn Bronze 12 14 14 ‑16 14 13 67
16th 13709 Derwent Res/Bolton Ann Penny Jeff Robinson Bronze (DNC) 16 16 15 16 14 77
17th 14230 Blackpool & Fleetwood SC Ralph Halburton‑Chaplin Adam Chaplin Bronze 14 17 (DNC) 17 17 15 80