The 2017 Class Championships, as has been the tradition for the past 12 years, had been scheduled to be held in the water south of the Lamma Channel and to the west of Lamma Island, the same venue that was used for the 2013 World Championships. Competitors had been looking at the long range weather forecast with some concern given the potentially very light winds that were predicted for racing on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October. These would be held alongside the Hong Kong Class Championships for the Etchells and J80 fleets.
For the second year in a row the Championships were going to involve overseas sailors with Masayuki Ogura from Japan, Joe Nelson from the United States, who were both helming, and Adam Kingston, who had crewed the winning boat in 2016 with Ashley Smith, returning to crew again.
On Saturday morning competitors arriving at the Club were relieved to see a breeze of 10 - 12 knots in Deep Water Bay, and there was a high level of confidence as boats started departing the Club and heading out to the race track that we would get the three scheduled races completed that day. The Race Management Team had set the start line far to the south, but close to Lamma Island with the breeze a steady 10 knots from the North East.
The Flying Fifteens, the third (and largest - with 12 boats competing for the Championships) fleet to start, were set course G1, which was a windward leeward, with a first beat of 0.8 nautical miles, followed by a beat, a reach to the wing mark and final reach down to the finish. After a messy start the early pace setter was David Chow and Michael Wong in 3701 (Puff 'n' Stuff) with Pete Britten and Oliver Merz in 3722 (Noisy Forefather). At the top mark, these were the first two to round, with David stretching out his lead on the run down to the gate. On the beat back up to the top mark, Howard Williams and Ruta Furuhashi on 3981 (Tchaikovsky) and Carlyon Knight-Evans and Adam Kingston on 3979 (Kefruffle), who had both had poor starts, were starting to make in-rounds, as were Masayuki Ogura and Fukushima Kunihiro on 3828 (Ffirecracker).
As the lead boats rounded the top mark, there was a significant wind shift to the west and what had been expected to be a reach to the wing mark, became a reach / beat. The wind had also moderated significantly and had become very patchy. Carlyon and Adam, now up to third, were making rapid inroads on David and Michael and Pete and Oliver. Pete and Oliver were first round and headed down to the finish under spinnaker. Howard and Yuta picked up a strong gust which took them past the mark and caterpaulted them from 6th up to 2nd.
On the run down to the finish, David and Michael, who had been leading for the majority of the race, had dropped down to 4th. Howard and Yuta took 2nd, with Carlyon and Adam holding onto 3rd.
The race which had been targeted to last one hour had taken more than 90 minutes and as the Fifteens were finishing the AP was being displayed by the Start Boat to the Etchells and J80s as the wind had dropped to less than 6 knots and was swinging significantly between westerly and north easterly. After consulting with the various support boats around the course coupled with a forecast of no likely change for the rest of the afternoon, racing was abandoned for the day and the Fifteens returned to Middle Island.
With the objective of trying to get as many races completed on Sunday as possible, and at least get enough for there to be a Championship winner, the first warning signal was moved up to 10am. The breeze was above 10 knots as boats headed out to the course, but by the time that they arrived at the start line, the wind had moderated to around 8 knots. The Race Management Team had positioned themselves further to the east and given the light winds had set course L2 with a first beat of 0.5 nautical miles.
The first race of the day got away on time and at the top mark, Carlyon and Adam on Kerfuffle were first round followed by Pete and Oliver on Noisy Forefather, Howard and Yuta on Tchaikovsky and Masayuki and Fukushima on Ffirecracker. Kerfuffle stayed ahead of Noisy Forefather on the run to the gate and was also first up to the top mark ahead of the run to the finish. Kerfuffle headed out into breeze on the west side of the course while the other leading boats went out to the less favoured east side. While they were considering whether to gybe across to cover the following boats, the wind died, but not on the east side. What had been a commanding lead was now looking disastrous with the back markers now following the leading boats on the east side of the course. Ffirecracker took the gun, followed by Tchaikovsky in 2nd and Noisy Forefather in 3rd.
After a pause for the wind to fill in, the fleet was quickly into the second race of the day and the third in the series. The same L2 course was set (which would be used for all future races). The early pace was set by Kerfuffle and Puff 'n' Stuff with Tchaikovsky and Ffirecracker also in the mix. The wind, while continually shifting by up to 20 degrees, remained between 8 and 10 knots and the wild lead swings that had been seen in Saturday's race and the first on Sunday did not take place, but boats that had banged the correct corner were still able to pick up two or three places on the beats. At the finish Puff 'n' Stuff took the gun with Kerfuffle in 2nd and Ffirecracker 3rd. Sam Chan and Nick Atkinson on 4038 (Full Power), who had missed the start of the first race of the day, had a solid race to come through in 4th, Noisy Forefather were 5th and Joe Nelson, racing with Lucy Sutro on 3882, took 6th place.
The third race of the day was almost a carbon copy of the previous race, with Puff 'n' Stuff taking the gun again ahead of Kerfuffle. Howard and Yuta on Tchaikovsky had a much better race to take 3rd ahead of Ffirecracker in 4th. Sam and Nick took 5th with Pete and Oliver back in 6th place.
With the three scheduled races for the day completed, the Race Management Team consulted the fleet whether they wanted to race the remaining two in the series and the fleet quickly decided to try and get all six scheduled races completed.
The fourth race of the day was similar to the previous two races, with Kerfuffle making the early pace, closely followed this time by Ffirecracker, Tchaikovsky and Noisy Forefather. The beats were continuing to offer opportunities to make up places, but also presenting the risk that valuable places could easily be lost. Howard and Yuta were a casualty slipping back to end up 6th after a promising first beat. Ffirecracker took the gun marginally ahead of Kerfuffle in 2nd with Noisy Forefather a minute back in 3rd. Full Power took 4th place with Puff 'n' Stuff in 5th.
With one race remaining now that the discard had kicked in, it was very tight for the Championships. Ffirecracker was on 9 points, as was Kerfuffle, but with two bullets Ffirecracker led the regatta. Puff 'n' Stuff was sitting in 3rd on 11 points, with Noisy Forefather 4th on 12 points and Tchaikovsky 5th on 13 points. It would all come down to the last race!
The final race of the day did not start well for Carlyon and Adam, who failed to accelerate quickly from the line, but tacked off and looked for clear breeze. By the time the fleet approached the top mark, Noisy Forefather led marginally from Ffirecracker, Full Power and Tchaikovsky. However, Pete and Oliver on Noisy Forefather were coming in on port and hit the top mark. After a lot of shouting, they did their turn, which slipped them back to 4th. By the time the fleet was back up to the top mark for the last time, Noisy Forefather had recovered and Kerfuffle had continued a steady move through the fleet, so Noisy Forefather were first round followed by Kerfuffle, Puff 'n' Stuff and Full Power. Kerfuffle looked to soak down on Noisy Forefather and tracked them over to the east side of the course, hoping to get inside them at the finish before they gybed for the line. However, it was not enough with Noisy Forefather crossing a few seconds ahead of Kerfuffle. Puff 'n' Stuff took 3rd, Full Power were 4th, Tchaikovsky 5th and Ffirecracker back in 6th.
Calculators were needed to recalculate positions with five of the six completed races to count. Over the six races, three boats each picked up two wins (Ffirecracker, Puff 'n' Stuff and Noisy Forefather), but it was the consistency of Kerfuffle, which took 2nd place in each of the last four races, which combined with its 3rd on Saturday won out. Carlyon becoming the Class Championships winning helm for the first time and Adam the winning crew for the 2nd year in a row. Ffirecracker, which had led the Regatta after Race 5 had dropped down to 4th. Noisy Forefather, by winning the last race was elevated to 2nd and Puff 'n' Stuff with a 3rd in the last race picked up the last podium position.
A big thank you was due to the Race Management Team, who had made a timely decision to finish racing early on Saturday and came through on the Sunday to ensure that all six races were completed, with conditions which initially had been as equally challenging as the day before.