Wayfarer International and UKWA National Championship 2019 at Greystones Sailing Club

Wayfarer International Championship 2019 © Alan Jones

The Wayfarer International Championship takes place every three years and in 2019 was hosted by Greystones SC, Co Wicklow, a few miles south of Dublin. The event was sponsored by Craftinsure, Hartley Boats, Allen Brothers, Irish Ferries and The Beach House, Greystones; and included the UKWA National Championship and the Irish Championship.

The 2016 iteration of the International Championship was held at Heeg in the Netherlands. In that event former Danish Olympic Star representative Mogens Just, crewed by Anders Friis, had prevailed over multiple Wayfarer International and UK National Champions, Michael McNamara and Simon Townsend by just a single point after the two teams had dominated a predominantly light air series. Two years later at the European Championships in Assens, Denmark, McNamara and Townsend retained the European title they had won in 2014 at Weymouth. Once again the competition with Just and Friis had taken the two pairs away from the rest of the fleet and the result might have been closer had Mogens Just been fully fit. ...read less

Wayfarer International Championship 2019 © Alan Jones

The 2019 International Championship was promising a resumption of this intense racing at the head of the fleet but it was possible there would be stronger competition this year from the rest, led by Andrew and Tom Wilson and Bill Whitney and John Shelton from the UK if the wind was strong and any number of good Danish teams who had been improving during the past few years. Good and experienced Wayfarer sailors from Ireland (North and South) and from Canada and the USA would add to the mix.

Monday 22nd July – After a weekend of measuring and registration racing got under way on with a practice race and Race 1. The forecast was for winds from the south averaging windspeeds (measured in knots) in the teens and topping out in the low 20’s. Numbers were depleted a little in the practice race and there were a number of capsizes and retirements as winds topping out at 24 knots coupled with a confused chop over a swell took their toll.

Wayfarer International Championship 2019 © Alan Jones

The practice race and the Idlers Bucket was won by Andrew and Tom Wilson who were laying down an early marker of their form and were followed home by the Danish team of Niels Alslev and Anders Pjetursson, who revel in strong winds, and Bill Whitney and John Shelton.

In their defence, neither McNamara nor Just troubled with the practice race but they both took the stage for Race 1 which was sailed in similar conditions. Just led from the start with McNamara close behind and they finished in that order. Game on. The Wilsons maintained their good form from earlier in the day by completing the podium and sending a message to the leaders not to expect it all their own way.

With the conditions showing no sign of easing the PRO, Tom Rusbridge, made the sensible decision not to run a second points race and sent the fleet home.

On Monday evening there was a welcome social with Irish music and dancing including a guest performer in the band of Danish concert violinist (and W sailor) Meike Fomsgaard.

Tuesday 23rd July – Tuesday dawned still windy and with a difficult sea state which the PRO thought might deter the less experienced or confident racers from racing and a decision was taken to postpone for a couple of hours and see if the wind would moderate which it was forecast to do. Race 2 eventually started at about 1400hrs with a full fleet in attendance and a triangle/sausage course of three rounds was completed in a moderate but slowly softening breeze. The winners of this race by a comfortable margin were Mike McNamara and Simon Townsend followed by Just and Friis. The Wilsons finished third. Race 3 got under way under a black flag in a hiking breeze but by the time the second beat started all but the lightest teams were now underpowered. Bill Whitney and John Shelton had led from the start but as the fleet sailed down the run the wind shut off completely leaving the PRO no option but to abandon that race and racing for the day.

Two days had passed therefore and just two series races had been completed.

Wednesday 24th July – This was designated catch-up Wednesday with up to 4 races planned in a forecast 13-18 knots.

Race 3 was re-sailed under the previous day’s black flag with a few boats prohibited from taking part under the black flag rule. The main protagonists were at the front again but this time joined by Bill Whitney and John Shelton who seemed not to have been too badly affected by the frustration of leading the abandoned race. The conditions for this race were perfect at the start with most of the fleet enjoying fantastic three sail reaches. The wind built as the race progressed, however, making the reaches on the final lap more challenging. Just and Friis stumbled a little in their challenge at this point because the race was won by McNamara and Townsend followed by the Wilsons. Whitney and Shelton completed the podium with Just and Friis only in fourth place.

Wayfarer International Championship 2019 – photo © Alan Jones

Race 4 was sailed in about 20 knots of breeze and the confused sea state had properly returned. This race was led from start to finish by the Wilsons who demonstrated some blistering speed upwind and down. They were followed home by Whitney and Shelton and by Just and Friis. This time it was the turn of McNamara and Townsend to falter somewhat as they finished fourth. A few of the Bronze fleet boats went home in this race and there were a few capsizes and retirements for other favoured teams.

By the time Race 5 started the wind was gusting at over 20 knots and the sea state was deteriorating once more (more difficult in both Mike Mac’s and Mogens Just’s views than Monday’s conditions). This time it was Just and Friis who got away at the start and went on to win followed by McNamara and Townsend. The Wilsons finished in third to complete a successful day for them. There were more casualties in this race with several boats capsizing on the final run to the finish. Fortunately the support boats were well manned and all teams and their boats were successfully recovered.

With the conditions as they were the PRO chose not to start Race 6 at this time and the fleet was sent home.

Wayfarer International Championship 2019 – photo © Alan Jones

Overnight with five races completed and one discard, McNamara and Townsend led the event with 6 points, followed closely by Just and Friis with 7 points and the Wilsons with 9 points. It was looking like the winner would come from one of these, although Whitney and Shelton were lurking not far behind as an outside prospect.

Thursday 25th July – The forecast for Thursday looked marginal at best with 25-30 knots of breeze forecast. The PRO chose to call a lay day leaving battered sailors the chance to recover and/or go sightseeing. Trips to Dublin, to visit the gardens at nearby Powerscourt House or to follow the cliff walk to Bray seemed to be the order of the day.

Friday 26th July – This was the last day of the championship. Another windy day was forecast and with the points so close the top competitors were wanting at least one more chance to seal victory.

The forecast, as briefed, was for winds of 15-20 knots to decrease during the day to 9-11 knots. The PRO indicated an intention to sail three races, possibly the maximum of four, to conclude the event.

As it happened the forecast gentle Irish breeze turned out to be a fruity 15-24 knots with the rough and confused seas we had to deal with all week and only two races were completed before the PRO called it a day. Once again there were several capsizes and retirements.

As with Wednesday, races started under a black flag. McNamara and Townsend won Race 6 from the Danes, Bjarne Lindquist and Jan St Nielsen. Just and Friis came third. A broken spinnaker pole and capsize for Whitney and Shelton put paid to their slim chances of victory. The advantage was now with McNamara and Townsend. However, Just and Friis won Race 7 from the Wilsons with McNamara and Townsend completing the podium. With no more races sailed but the second discard kicking in after Race 7 the overall result would be close once again.

When the scores were calculated Michael McNamara and Simon Townsend had done enough to secure the championship from Mogens Just and Anders Friis by just the single point. Andrew and Tom Wilson finished in third place overall after an excellent and consistent set of results. These three teams were a comfortable distance ahead Bill Whitney and John Shelton who held on for fourth place overall pipping Niels Alslev and Anders Pjetursson who had enjoyed an excellent week with a string of fourth and fifth places.

Wayfarer International Championship 2019 podium teams (l-r) Andrew Wilson, Tom Wilson, Simon Townsend, Michael McNamara, Mogens Just and Anders Friis – photo © Merrin Froggett