OK Northerns at Sunderland
A small but select band of OK sailors from as far afield as Kent and Scotland turned up at a gloriously sunny Sunderland Yacht club on the weekend of 2/3 September to take part in the OK Northern Championships. With a warm sun on their backs and a gentle F2 blowing the fleet made their way out of the harbour to sail off Roker north of the YC. Race 1 was led by Ian Hopwood and Tony Woods all the way round with the chasing fleet bunched closely together and everybody experiencing good close racing. Andrew Martin crossed third over the line closely chased by Alan Robinson and Dave Bourne, but cunningly he had been behind the line at the start and took the winning gun while Ian and Tony in their keenness to get racing had been listed as being OCS. Race 2 saw Karen Robertson leading at the first mark and while she was passed at the gybe mark re-took the lead by the bottom mark and stretched her lead out until the finish with Ian Hopwood chasing hard. Well she thought it was the finish as the ‘S’ flag had gone up as she approached the line but apparently it was for the Handicap class that were also sailing and by the time she realised what a fool she’s been in stopping at the start/finish line Ian Hopwood, Tony Woods and Dave Bourne calmly sailed past leaving her to salvage a fourth and the rest of her pride. The third race saw a change in course to a windward/leeward and the first mark saw virtually the whole fleet arrive at the top mark at the same time. Keith Byres rounded first and swiftly gybed onto port which caused a startled incoming boat on starboard to apparently exclaim ‘don’t touch me!’ in an excited tone. Byres led down the run but was overtaken by Karen Robertson who led for the remainder of the race (and carefully checking for flags on the committee boat this time) followed by Keith and the ever consistent Dave Bourne who scored his third, third of the day.
With the first day’s racing out of the way the fleet retired to the hospitality of Sunderland YC to tell tales of the days racing and laugh with (or was it at) those who had messed up, had ‘moments’ or generally caused amusement for the fleet. One visiting RS600 sailor made the mistake of joining the OK fleet for a few refreshments after sailing and very nearly ended up sailing at the upcoming OK nationals only escaping with some lame excuse about ‘work’ or something. Don’t worry though Micky, the offers still open and we’ll get you in an OK next year
The fleet awoke surprisingly bright and fresh on the Sunday to exactly the same sort of weather in the bay. As the fleet headed out however it became apparent that the view from the clubhouse was misleading and a sizeable sea was running in against the tide and a fresh F4 blowing. Some decided early on it was not for them and headed back while the others headed off downwind to get to the start line. The first race of the day started at a nice early 10:30 for a three lap triangle-sausage course. Ian Hopwood got out of the blocks early as the fleet headed offshore to get into the tide. At the top mark the first 5 boats arrived together in as many boat lengths and headed off for the first broad reach. Hopwood was clearly going for it with at least one near death roll on the first reach as the fleet screamed towards the gybe mark still closely packed together. The second reach was fantastically fast being on a tighter angle and more directly in the direction of the waves. On the second beat the hiking power of Dave Bourne saw him taking a lead he did not relinquish for the remainder of the race although closely followed by the chasing pack. On the run Ian Hopwood rolled in to windward in spectacular fashion near where the committee boat was stationed showing off his new hi-viz orange centreboard and rudder which made him easy to avoid as the fleet surfed down the waves. This let Keith Byres through to third with Bourne and Woods ahead. The second race of the day, saw fewer starters as the breeze and big seas took their toll on competitors and followed a similar pattern to the first race of the day with Bourne leading the way around, followed by Tony Woods, Ian Hopwood roiling in again at almost the same spot on the run to let Karen Robertson through to third this time with Keith Byres chasing hard. Thankfully for the final race of the day the committee set a windward/leeward course but the pattern of the day had been set. Bourne powered off and led from start to finish despite a near-death experience on the run followed by Woods and the remainder of the fleet. Ian Hopwood wisely decided to keep his foils in the water for the whole of this race.
Once a very tired and wet fleet returned to the Yacht Club they were greeted by those that had gone in earlier and helped with their boats up the slip – a gesture that was extremely appreciated by those that had made all three races. After packing up the final results were calculated with Dave Bourne, despite being a confirmed southerner, taking the Northern Championships with Tony Woods from Glossop second but there was a tie break for third between Keith Byres from Morecambe and Karen Robertson from Loch Earn. Karen got the short straw and took third and with it the duty to write the report up.
Many thanks go to Sunderland Yacht Club for hosting a fabulous event and being so hospitable to all the visitors. As a venue and hosts they were hard to fault and the OKs look forward returning in the future
Report – Karen Robertson; Photos – Karen Robertson