British Police at the National Solo Inland Championship, 2013
The Police Sport UK National Laser Sailing Championship held at Rutland Sailing Club in 2012 was won by Paul Heath representing Greater Manchester Police.
As a result and with the support of the PSUK Sailing Section, Paul was offered the opportunity to represent the British Police in a national dinghy event during 2013.
His selected event was the Solo Inland Nationals also held at Rutland Sailing Club on 7th & 8th September, 2013.
This is Paul's own story of his preparation and performance in the two day event.
Picture with thanks to www.fotoboat.com
Solo Inland Nationals, 2013
Having been lucky enough to win the 2012 PSUK Laser national championships at
Rutland SC, I was pleased to be informed of the
committees decision to provide financial assistance for me to represent British
Police Sailing at a national event sailing under the burgee of Police Sport UK.
At the end of January 2013, at the tender age of 49, I retired from the police and decided that I would try my hand at what I thought would be a rather less demanding dinghy but one that was rising in popularity with a very high level of competition and good turn-outs at Open events. So it was that I sold the Laser and bought a Solo. The idea was to do as much sailing as I could to get up to speed with the technical side of the boat and improve my fitness to match the differing demands and technique of the Solo. During the course of the next 7 months I attended numerous Open meetings, got to meet and sail against a lot of new faces and slowly began to realise that racing a Solo is no less demanding than sailing a Laser.
Due to family commitments I was unable to attend the Solo nationals in mid-July so I entered my first major Solo event, the Inland Championships which were hosted by Rutland Water Sailing Club over the weekend of the 7th-8th September 2013 and attracted a fleet of 96 boats. The event was to be decided over 6 races with 5 to count. The format was 3 races back-to-back on Saturday and the same Sunday
The forecast for Saturday was sunshine with an westerly force 3 -5 breeze and this proved to be accurate and meant the start area was at the east end of the reservoir by the dam wall. On the run down to the start area the wind began to pick up and judging by the angle sailed, and the gybes put in by some of the fleet, the wind direction was fluctuating across the race area.
Race 1 – With a few minutes to the start the committee boat end was favoured but heavily congested. The wind was still shifting around and making it hard to get up to the line on starboard so I decided to make to the other end of the line to benefit from a clear air, undisturbed start and take advantage of a more permanent wind shift should it come. As I started on the pin end the wind immediately knocked left so I sailed on until it was time to tack and found myself on the lay-line of a very long port beat to the windward mark. After a long slog, and contrary to the Yachts & Yachting report, I was the first boat at the windward mark. I rounded first and led for the first two laps with the fleet breathing down my neck. As I started the final beat the breeze had picked up and was gusting a Force 5. The second boat split tacks and headed off to the left side of the course while I had two other boats close behind. I tried to keep myself between the two behind and make gains on the boat that went left but at the top of the course I was passed by that boat and I was now down to second which, after the long downwind legs, was where I finished overall in the race.
Race 2 – This time the pin end was the favoured end and the majority of the fleet were there. Again I managed to secure a good clear-air start and thought I was on for a repeat of race 1 but was disappointed to see a rescue boat cross the fleet flying the 'general recall' flag. The race started at the second attempt and again it was heavily biased and busy at the pin end. Those who managed to tack off early onto port were in the bunch that arrived at the windward mark first. I managed to tack a bit later than the leaders and rounded in the mid to late twenties but pulled up to finish 17th.
Race 3 – The wind, having swung around all day, had now settled but had begun to drop off for the start of the last race of the day. The race team altered the course marks and start line to make it a now even line. Again I decided on pin end start and the wind again shifted left and continued to do so. As I tacked onto port the majority of the fleet were under me and reaching for the windward mark and I had over stood it so found myself mid-fleet as I rounded the windward mark. As the race went on the wind was patchy across the race area. Up the beats I was fortunate to pick up numerous places as the wind filled in from the side I was on and eventually I finished 20th.
After a very social evening and a good night's sleep we awoke to sunshine and very little wind - coming from the same direction as Saturday.
Race 4 - There was a 1 hour delay for the wind to settle to a Force 3 and we got away first time. Again, I was at the favoured pin end but with about 2 minutes to go the wind shifted right so I tried to get back towards, or as close as possible to, the favoured committee boat end which, with 50+ boats between me and it, was hard to do. I managed a clear air start but due to lack of preparation I was boxed in and found myself dictated to by other boats as to where and when I tacked. I rounded the windward mark in the early 30's but managed to pull up to 23rd.
Race 5 – This proved to be my worst result of the weekend. The wind had picked up and again the pin end was favoured. As we started, the wind swung more to the left and when I tacked it continued to swing left so I ended up reaching into the mark and as I rounded, I counted about a dozen boats behind me. The wind strength across the course throughout the race, fluctuated and allowed big gains and losses to be made until on the final beat the wind completely died off. I managed to pick my way through the fleet up to 33rd, which I discarded.
Race 6 – The Race Officer had the fleet waiting for nearly 2 hours as he postponed for the wind to fill in and steady, but this took us to the 2.25pm cut off time limit, so racing was abandoned and the fleet returned to shore for the prize-giving
At the end of the day I finished 13th overall out of 96 boats. I received a cut-glass trophy for finishing 13th overall and another for being 3rd veteran (over 50)
As I have said above, this was my first major competition in the Solo having only been sailing it for 7 months. I came into the event with no preconceived idea as to where I would finish due to the great strength in depth of the fleet so was extremely happy to see how close I was to some great names and have other great names behind me. Many people showed an interest and spoke to me about my signing on as 'Police Sailing UK' and it was mentioned at the prize-giving so we are now known on the national Solo feet radar as it already is on the Laser, Phantom (Simon Hawkes) and National 12/Merlin Rocket (Francis Gifford) fleets radar.
It leaves me to say a big 'Thank You' to PSUK for the support which enabled me to attend the event, yet again put the PSUK which I am sure shows all of us who sail within the Police Service in a good light.
Full results and official report can be found on the Solo Association website .