British Police at the Phantom Nationals, 2010
The Police Sport UK National Dinghy Sailing Championship held at Netley Sailing Club in 2009 was won by Simon Hawkes representing Avon & Somerset Constabulary.

As a result and with the support of the PSUK Sailing Section, Simon was offered the opportunity to represent the British Police in a national dinghy event during 2010.

His selected event was the Phantom Dinghy Nationals to be held at Stone Sailing Club on 28th-30 July, 2010.

This is Simon's own story of his preparation and performance in the three day event.

Phantom Nationals, 2010

Having been lucky enough to win the Police Nationals at Netley I was informed that there would be some financial assistance at the Phantom Nationals this year which was very welcome indeed.

With that in mind I set about planning to compete at the Phantom Nationals, 2010 which were to be held at Stone Sailing Club on the Blackwater. Preparations began in December when I started looking things up and found that it was a little isolated and there was not a lot of accommodation although you were allowed to camp on site.

Knowing the British summer I looked around and was able to rent what seemed to be the only property near the Club to share with some friends.

I drove up on the Thursday arriving just after lunch, unpacked the boat and had to go through the measurement and weighing process. The hull was weighed and I then assembled the boat in preparation for it being signed off as eligible to race.

Then it was off to find the accommodation which turned out to be fantastic. The ground floor was the sleeping area with a full length lounge upstairs with a clear view down the Blackwater estuary from the lounge and then the patio which was at first floor level across the rear of the house. There was even a telescope and binoculars supplied as well as a welcoming bottle of wine from the owners. Things were looking good already!

Back across to the Club and have a look around at charts and all the things to give information about the venue that I have not been able to get from the Internet. The estuary runs east to west with fairly straightforward tides that were just past neaps and building over the three days with the high being around noon on the first day. The only downside so far is that the winds are looking incredibly light for the second year in a row. Already knowing that the top helms are weighing in at around 85kg this is not the sort of forecast you hope for when you are 105kg! Still the Commodore weighed in on the Thursday evening and was racing at a 125kg. Now don’t make the mistake that he is all lard. This is one big Commodore and I for one would have called him 'Sir' if it became necessary.

As the afternoon progresses the wind drops and the good intention of doing the club race on the Thursday evening dissolves along with my willpower as more friends arrive and we have a couple of beers.

This is my second Nationals and I am assured by everyone that it is customary to have a curry on the first night. We find a recommended takeaway that delivers, and settle onto the balcony with a few friends, wine and warm evening sunshine to watch the evening race which takes place in a force two up and down, in front of us.

Does it get any better than this? Probably not. I can’t help thinking of Fran whose blog I have been following avidly and the most recent ones of being storm bound much further up the East Coast. How brave is she and what a difficult act to follow just trying to write up an event?

Anyhow the evening moves us back towards the Club and I head for bed at around 2130 with a barracking from the club balcony for being a southern softie. (It was a long drive..)

Friday 23rd July.
Day One of racing. 83 boats. A record! Not going to be easy getting a good start. Little bit of wind that builds slowly. Registration and then boat preparation doing all the things I meant to do in the last few weeks but did not get round to. Fit out new boom and change some sail numbers. Check rig tension and make amendments to the top batten in the sail. Have decided my sail is very full at the top in comparison to the other makes and having discussed it with Hyde’s, decide with Charles support to stick two battens together to flatten the top off a bit. Not really the sort of thing to do before a big event but checked the sail up on the mast and it looked good so I decided to go with it. Loaded the items into the boat so that if it was a disaster then I could drop the sail and remove one of them.

Briefing takes place. No great surprises as all the details have been passed out in the Notice of Race. First race due at about noon, so I prepare early and get to the beach as one of the first. The sailing area is a long way down towards the power station so with the incoming tide, I allow a lot of extra time.

Putting the sail up another sailor starts preparing next to me, most of us in our own little worlds doing our own preparations. But he does not notice his boom as it hits my beautiful new JJ rudder and takes a chip out of it. I hold back and don’t say anything but not even an apology!

Deep breath !!!!!!!!!! 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10………………………………………! OK.. Back under control now and focused again.

Run down to the start line and start doing some checks. Wind oscillating between about 15 degrees but comes back every time about every 4½ minutes. The trick will be to get off the line on the favoured tack at the time or at least to put myself in the position where I can tack away if I need to. Check the line and can’t really decide where I want to be so decide just to look for a safe area with clear wind. I have already decided on a conservative beginning to the series for two reasons. The wind could well drop over the three days that would mean that we might not get all the races in. There is only one discard that comes in after Race Five which means you could realistically have a series where all your results are needed to count. Hence the caution, but a real balancing act not to end up too far down the pan in any race.

Line up for the first and there are loads of boats over. No great surprise and the second start is the same so the black flag is flown. Even more caution required. We get away third time. Not a great start from the pin end and have to bear away under two boats to get away in clear air.

Shifty up the beat and arrive pleased in about 8th. The course is beat spreader mark, sausage, beat spreader mark, triangle.

Race around with Lawrence Crispin happy with things and settling in getting up to 6th by the second windward mark. Miss the spreader and have to go back but Lawrence was kind enough to tell me. Lose a few places and finish around 13th. Not too bad considering and nothing too serious if that is my discard. Fleet really spread out due to the tide being strong.

Next race gets away and I leave from the middle of the line; again close to Lawrence. We tack on the same shifts coming in from the left side on port. Some of the guys have got a flyer in from the right but things are looking good.

Can’t believe it - first to the windward mark!!!!! Oh goodness what now. Real pressure and don’t want to give away places to the light guys down the run. Jim Hunt the winner of the first race pulls through to second behind me at the leeward mark. Up the next beat and I manage to stay in front pulling away by about 30 more yards.
Over excited now and brush the windward mark taking a turn between it and the spreader mark. Set off on the reach and Jim goes planing over the top of me which I cannot prevent as he is a few stone lighter than me. I stay low and allow for tide, staying in second to the finish at the end of the triangle. Shortened course and I am second. Well pleased now. Did not hear the hooter. Panic!!!!!!!!!! Close to the rescue boat next to the committee boat and they confirm I had a sound signal. Phew!

Important things are the confidence in knowing the boat is as quick as anyone's, if not quicker. The rest of the series is just down to me not making too many mistakes.

Head back to the club. Set the pattern for the remaining days. Back to the house. Couple of incredibly satisfying beers on the balcony with the other residents. Early evening snooze, shower and across to the Club for tea.

Tonight though, it’s the Commodore's Reception; all very pleasant. AGM nothing too crucial and then BBQ. Announce your buddy which for me is Denver Dave. This is pairing of front runners to back markers to help them if possible and generally make new friends. Dave and his wife are really nice and I resolve to assist if I can. Not too hopeful as the first thing Dave points out is his last outing where things went wrong and he tipped in after colliding with three boats. He just got his boat back after a £1300 bill! Uh, oh!

Look at the boat the following morning and decide it is pretty OK. Will have to catch up with him on the course. Couple more requests to set rigs in the morning.


Saturday arrives with a little bit of wind and three races scheduled. Won’t do all the ins and outs but important to stay steady.

Same routine - a couple of beers, snooze, dinner and a few more beers and then bed.

Next day in a solid fifth place with a chance of taking fourth. Also a chance of losing 5 places and coming 10th so a lot of pressure.

Sunday dawns with not much wind again, racing in a two to three.

Really hot and a slow pack up.

Prize giving and then off to sunny Somerset.

I have not done many Nationals this being the third 'outside work' competitions and the spirit was the same with great organisation and a really nice feeling about the whole event. I had said I wanted to be in the top five and I was being optimistic, but it happened. Extremely pleased and realising what hard work has been put in is moving things forward with the boat now fully sorted.

Funnily enough it has identified lots of areas to improve which will come this winter and more hard work.

Everyone says the fleet is really competitive and I think that is true but for my time at the Nationals it was the banter and good fellowship that stood out. Can’t wait for the next event and have to say 'thank you' to the PSUK for the support which made the event easier to attend and hopefully represents all of us who sail within the Police Service in a good light.

Simon ‘Coastbuster 1359’

Final Result: 5th out of 83. Race Results: 13 - 2 - 6 - 15 - 9 - 3 - OCS

Acknowledgements to Stone Sailing Club for the majority of the original images. Their website also carries the full results of the regatta.