Neil Connelly Triumphs at Hurricane Nationals 11 Aug 2016
Day 1 of the 2016 Hurricane Nationals and they were off ! Twenty one boats launched into the Thames Estuary from Thorpe Bay Yacht Club. Conditions were sunny with a light South Westerly.
The fleet made a clean start bunched at the committee boat end, those who risked being shut out and who got away with it made good up the first beat.
After a count back victory at the last TT event, the gloves were off as two boats played nip and tuck with the lead changing every lap. Hanmore pulled through to take the gun, Ready was second. Connelly was fighting it out mid-section but no podium finish for the first race – Hanmore being his former crew meant a determination started to rise!
Race two was sailed in less breeze, the tidal change proving to be a critical factor. The first three boats of race one were the last three off the line, all scrambling to find clear air. Hanmore managed to pick his way through and pull clear, hotly pursued by last years' runner up Tindale, Gower from Island Yacht Club had a fantastic race to take a well-deserved third. Still no podium finishes for Connelly though, could he pull it back?
Day 2 – What a difference a day makes (weather wise!), mainly sunshine again and a freshening south westerly breeze, how would yesterday's light wind flyers fare today?
At the start the breeze was gusting 20 knots, the opposing tide direction kicked up some interesting waves, the R/O added a shade of port bias for the eagle eyed and it was returning former National and European Class Champion Neil Connelly and Crew who zoned in taking the pin, to say they were ".. Only supposed to blow the bloody doors off…!" Would be about right, as they powered off to win the race by over half a leg (even more amazing after the amount of lager they both consumed the previous night). A big cat scrap ensued for the next two spots, but overnight leader Hanmore took second and local pairing Nick/Teddy Elmore sailed a consistent race holding third by a safe distance for the duration.
Race four started with slightly softer wind, which tended to fluctuate under the cloud formations with a few shifts to be had. Connelly again went for the pin and was pipped by defending champion Jack Tindale. The two slogged it out with the lead changing regularly; Tindale had the legs downwind though Connelly was pushing it hard and nearly stacked it in a couple of times. By lap three Connelly took control upwind and built a safer margin to hold off Tindale to take a second bullet of the day.
Halfway through the event, a tipping point maybe? And Connelly was on full steam ahead. There was a fresh breeze out on the course first thing of day 3, reports of it moderating were circulating around the boat park.
At the start the fresh north westerly was again touching 20 knots in the gusts as per the previous day, the sea state was much flatter . At the gun the adrenalin was flowing and two boats were OCS. Connelly had acquired some more dynamite overnight and did his "doors off" trick again from start to finish.
The breeze had moderated for the second race of the day (race 6), in the dying seconds before the start the wind backed favouring the pin, John Ready had spotted the shift and took the pin end and the windward mark. Connelly overcame a damp fuse and went into overdrive taking second spot and started hunting Ready down. Having closed the gap Ready stayed cool and the two slogged it out for the next three laps almost tied together with a fixed length of rope, Ready taking the win.
Day four should see the double discard kick and a reshuffle of the order, one thing is for sure, there is going to be an interesting slog out for the Championships between Connelly and his former crew Hanmore!
Day 4 and once again the sun was shining for all, a later 14.30 hrs start time allowed for plenty of R&R. Any one of three teams could pull it off but Ready had to withdraw from the event, leaving Hanmore and Connelly to slog it out.
More breeze than forecast from the West was holding steady on the course, a moderate 12-15 knots at times. A clean start by all on a pretty square line set the scene, the majority hit the port lay line hunting more pressure and favourable tide, Hanmore tacked off to starboard to clear his air, a switch back of the breeze left him stranded in a hole to watch the fleet cross leaving him floundering in their wake. Connelly played a steady game, at times looking as though he might get drawn into the pack with the wind fluctuations and bends, eventually he broke through to take the gun.
Just before the start a fresh breeze built from the North West flowing steadily across the course. A slight pin end biased line help spread the fleet down the line, some frantic line dipping in the dying seconds showed the fleet were pushing it. Within minutes of the start the breeze eased again, many chose to tack over to the right or take the middle of the course, all hunting for pressure and a decent heading. At the top mark the established order was in array, Connelly mid fleet and Hanmore again down at the back end. At times boats were seen on the same heading but on different tacks only metres apart, then a fresh line of breeze would blow through with the crews having to change gears again as the pressure pumped up. The Race Officer wisely chose to shorten the course after three laps and it was last years’ champion Tindale who took 1st. Connelly stayed in touch with a solid fourth and took the overall championship win.
Congratulations to the comeback Kid, Neil has had a break from the class scene and having teamed up with Trevor Bawden, who usually takes the helm, displayed a fantastic ability to get stuck in and deliver in all weathers, and continue to knock back the pints apres sail!