Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The 21st annual Champagne Challenge got under way last Saturday in unpromising conditions with the Exmouth lifeboat as committee boat, writes Mike Rice.
Race officer Les Arscott very sensibly did not delay and the 23 boats of the ‘comfort class’ moved off slowly towards Teignmouth. Thirty minutes later the ‘racy class’ started in a tight pack and in the stronger breeze, caught many of the slower fleet off Teignmouth pier.
From there the tactics began to test the skippers. The wind was shifting and changing all the time and Topsham SC commodore, Colin Leach, led the break to stay inshore which for a long time paid off. Places changed continually with Jammin, Steve Best slowly working his way to the front.
Meanwhile many off the slower boats were left wallowing off Teignmouth where the wind went very light and the expected tussle with the four catamarans failed to materialise. At the front Michael Griffin in Seraph was first comfort class boat into Torbay and chose to go well in, picking up a steady breeze further across.
Most of the fast fleet chose to stay out, going towards Berry Head, but in an ever shifting breeze which allowed Hedley Saunders in Matthew Flinders, to find a path through them and into the breakwater well ahead of many. Steve Best took a flyer going into the middle of the bay and consolidated his lead, reaching the finish well ahead of Martin Minter in Maybe, and ahead of the close pack of Jeremy Moore (Excalibur), Rex Frost (Electra), Jeff Craven (Tai Chi) and Ali Sword (Blue Velvet) – all Lympstone SC.
Graham Atwell in Catriona (TSC) sailed cleverly to be well up the slow fleet having chosen a sensible track across the bay, but the rest of the fleet was well spread out, with some like solo sailor Steve Threlfall, only finishing at 4.40pm and others failing to finish within the time limit.
The end of season celebration atmosphere grew rapidly once alongside and with the yachts all rafted up in Brixham Marina there was much banter and fun as results were handed in and crews relaxed.
In the evening 110 participants and guests gathered in Brixham Yacht Club for a champagne reception and prize giving, followed by a buffet dinner.
The sponsors, Graham Sykes and Martin Lilley, presented prizes to Steve Best and Michael Griffin. Prizes were also given to the Fellowes family who raced with their two young children and Roger Henderson who failed to identify any of the yachts around him, in his race declaration!
Thanks to the Cox’n and crew of the Exmouth Lifeboat and to our sponsors Graham Sykes Insurance and Aqualine Bathrooms and Kitchens, as well as to BYC for the facilities of their club.
The results can be seen at www.champagnechallenge.co.uk