Team Harken win the Gul B14 Nationals


Team Harken, Nick Craig and Toby(tastic) Lewis, have won the B14 UK Nationals, retaining their 2016 crown.

Nick and Toby put in a predictably strong performance in Whitstable to claim Nick's third consecutive B14 title (2016 with Toby Lewis, 2015 with Tom Pygall). Apart from a retirement in Race 6 the duo were never out of the top 5, with an impressive scoreline including 3 bullets in 8 races.

A massive thanks to Mark Barnes from the B14 Class for the following event report and Nick Champion for the images

Day One - Racing Abandoned

Day Two
With day one being a day of sightseeing and sampling the delights of Whitstable as the wind screamed down the beach it was with great anticipation that the fleet woke for day 2. Some a little hazy after the first night Leaky and Wattsy attempt to mix competitive cards with interesting cocktails!

With local fleet Oracle Barnsie confidently announcing it would be a lovely force 4 it was a slightly reluctant fleet that launched into the Whitstable washing machine and a healthy 20-25 knots. PRO Handy Howard gave the fleet an early hurry up with the first aborted start sequence. Many of the favourites need to buy him a beer for being given a second chance to make the start!

Race 1 got away with the fleet charging off to the left led by 791 "P&B" (Jasper Barnham & Oli Wells) and the supposedly rusty 796 "Harken" (Nick Craig & Tobytastic Lewis) and the new partnership in 772 "Team Trunky" (Kathy Sherratt/Josh Wilce) proving lightweights/girls can be fast in third.

Down the first run and the fleet got a bit carried away enjoying the fast and furious rodeo through the Whitstable chop to overstand the gybe point. First to capitalize were 797 "Griptec" (Mark Watts/Chris Bishop) bringing them back from the dead after finding one of the soon to be common Whitstable Sea Snakes on the first beat.

The next beat saw a close group of 6 boats charging upwind trading places. "P&B" kept their nose clean to lead from Harken who were rapidly remembering how to sail a B14. 785 "Demelza" (Peter Knight/James Wilkinson) showed great pace in the breeze to hang on to third. The final beat was to change things up. "Griptec" pulled back into third and closed right up to the lead pair that went around the top mark in close formation. The final run was all about the layline back in to the finish with the 2 leaders slightly overcooking it leading to a close 3 way blast to the line. In the end they crossed line astern with P&B taking a well- deserved win from Harken and Griptec.

Race 2 and with the breeze building slightly it was Griptec that stormed out of the Pin and led to the top mark. Harken chasing in hard in what was to be a 2 horse race. P&B were the best of the rest as the fleet strung out in the bouncy upwind conditions. Griptec held off the brains trust of Harken until the end of the third beat but a bad call at the windward mark saw Harken steal the lead and hold that through to another close finish. P&B sailed well for a solid third.

Race 3 and with the wind undecided as to whether it wanted to build or fade it was a breezy start into a course littered with snakes. P&B and Seavolution (Mark Barnes/Char Jones) decided to have their own little pin end party ending in both missing the line. Harken led out to the left from the fleet with Griptec rolling the dice out right and coming back to a surprising lead. Once again it was these 2 that led the fleet round for the first 2 laps in a nip tuck battle, Harken taking the lead on lap 2. Lap 3 and with a big hole at the bottom of the course Seavolution came back into the mix to threaten in third. Half way up the last beat Griptec broke left hooked into a shift to close right back to Harken at the top mark. Down the last run they split again with Griptec/English Braids hooking into breeze and applying the pressure. At the finish Harken held on to a well-deserved win and took the day out in style. Griptec 2nd overall for the day and Seavolution starting to find their form in 3rd.

With the fleet looking pretty broken the PRO made the call to not try for a 4th race and to send the fleet back for much earned beer. Now enough about the leaders... what other fun and games happened on the race course...

  • Oli "I do this for a living" Wells for his precision kite halyard sheave installation!
  • Spectacular synchronized capsizing from Simon & Steve and their partners Leaky & Gerry pre start to keep the race team amused!
  • Scrapheap challenge, nearly returning to the scrap heap with multiple breakages proving that 2 lanky giants are too much for aging B14 wings! Topped off with Iain showing his incredible strength to snap the rudder stock in two.. Impressive!
  • Crispy and Guy sailing Das Boot who were enjoying the seaside immensely and often seen having a little swim around the boat.
  • Alicia and Luke for their tenacity.. second time out in the boat and finished all 3 races. Top effort!

The fleet retire now to the BBQ, beer and boat fettling ready for a less breezy but I expect more mentally taxing day 3 as the fleet do their best to outsmart the boys in Harken.


Day Three
During the 6 hr wait for the breeze to settle, the B14 'athletes' spent the day limbering up with ice creams, bacon rolls and practicing how to rig with the finest athletes taking time out for several power snoozes...

The sails were up and down like a prom dress as the squalls blew through and the rain/hail/sun/wind came in teasing bursts.

Eventually a window of opportunity appeared and we launched into a 6kn westerly and the setting Southend sun.

Crispin and Guy (P&B / Asbo) nailed the pin and were first to tack out of the left hand corner to emerge with a healthy lead followed by the ever present Barnsie and Char (Gul) and (Harken) Nick & Toby. Mark & Chris (P&B / Griptech) and Kathy & Josh were also well placed, as were the visiting French team of Sebastian and Sophie who were going like a human cannonball. P&B were buried after a severe brain failure at the start.

Asbo continued to stretch away until they decided to trawl the spreader mark second time round allowing Harken to close and squeeze ahead by the bottom of the second run.

As storm clouds gathered over Sheppey the PRO in his wisdom decided to send the fleet around another time. The subsequent right hand shift allowed those behind to cash in the lucky chips and lay the windward mark in one, leaving those on the left stranded in the freshening breeze.

Gul/North sails were first into this and lead to the finish followed by Asbo. With the P&B team of Jasper and Oli breezing through into third with Griptech fighting for fourth and internal boasting rights with Kathy and Josh.

All this change was too much for team Harken who decided the only course of action was to head straight for the finish line whilst everyone else headed for the spreader mark before a tight three sail fetch to the line.

Harken subsequently retired and with team Gul / North taking with bullet and P&B sails teams of Jasper and Oli and Mark and Chris in 3rd and 4th its all to play for on the final day with only 3 points separating the first 4 teams.

4 races are possible the breeze will be light and the sun will be out.


Day four
Day four of the Gul B14 nationals, only 4 of 10 races had been sailed, With a maximum of only 4 races on the day, the championships effectively started again with only one discard available. Looking at the form guide and odds, would it be a good day to place a bet.

Conditions were for a force 2-3 swinging between West and North North West. Harken and P&B had used their discards, with the next 3, English Braid / Griptec, Gul / North Sails and Dimelza still looking good.

In the Classic Fleet it was a race between Team Horlock (Alex Horlock/Iain Horlock) and Team Willis/Keightley-Hanson (Iiam Willis/Abby Keightley-Hanson).

Race 9 was to prove one of snakes and ladders, but the front group gradually broke way with the lead changing several times. At the finish it was Gul / North Sails from Dimelza and P&B, putting more heat on Harken.

Race 10 and Dimelza had a blinder. Having been over the line they worked the right hand side of the beat and clawed their way to the front whilst Gul / North Sails, Harken and the other main protagonists worked the left to middle ground. Dimelza got off to trot and led home, chased by Gul / North Sails and a recovering Harken coming down the middle in pressure passing three B14s in the last 200 metres who were coming from the right.

It seems that Dimelza had woken up and roared to a second straight win in race 1, with Gul / North Sails working through to 2nd, riding shot gun with English Braids/Griptec 3rd and Harken 4th. So going into the last race Gul / North Sails had a 2 point lead and Dimelza was close to closing out the podium from English Braids/Griptec.

With 10 minutes until the cut off, Race 2 got away to a left hand shift just before the start, leaving Harken, Dimelza and Gul / North Sails at the committee boat end. As these 3 tracked left, they hit out right to hold a lane to the right side of the beat but the further right, the further you sailed as the wind bent left. Ullman Sails (Kathy Sherratt (Watts)/Josh Wilce) had won the pin and led round the windward mark followed by ASBO (Jack Sparrow/Gi) and a recovering Harken. With Gul / North Sails and Dimelza buried, it was looking sweat for Harken. Over the race Harken turned it on and won from Ullman Sails and ASBO with Gul / North Sails and Dimelza clawing heir way back, but with a lack of lanes to make ground, proved a step to far to recover before the finish.

Harken closed out the Gul B14 Nationals by 2 points from Gul / North Sails with Dimelza doing just enough to close out the podium from English Braids / Griptec. In the Classic fleet Willis & Keightley-Hanson had a great day mixing it with the front pack whilst the Horlocks were close but always behind. As the numbers came in Team Horlock squeaked it from Willis/Keightley-Hanson by 2 points.

A well-organized event run by Race Officer Howard Patterson and his team of volunteers, who had 4 days of testing conditions for all, and support ashore with food from Wizz/Keith and their teams. Thanks go out to Gul for all the tokens and spot prizes.

The early bird prize, and carbon transom Go-Pro mount donated by Seavolution was won by ASBO, so allowing Jack Sparrow to start filming of his next short film shaking down some manoeuvres. 

With the next big event being the Worlds at Beauty Point, Bell Bay in Tasmania at Christmas, it will be a case of who can step up to get the Ashes back off of the Aussies.


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