Event Report - Allen GP3 at WPNSA

9 December 2020

More than 60 teams signed up for round 3 of the UK 29er Allen Grand Prix series and all roads led to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy last weekend. It was another great turnout for the class, and another fantastic effort by the Class Association, WPNSA, race management teams and everyone attending to put it all together.

The weather had the last laugh on Saturday - with an increasing forecast an early decision to fly AP over A cancelled racing for the day so everyone could leave site and regroup for Sunday while 38 knots of breeze filled the harbour.

Sunday dawned with the promise of wind and sunshine. With a forecast of 12 to 15 knots everyone went afloat full of hope but the racing would prove tricky with the wind taking most of the day to fill in to a stable breeze. Race one got under way in a very patchy breeze full of holes. Sometimes 8 knots, sometimes significantly less and with some big shifts it was a job to know where to put yourself. When boats on opposite gybes only 100m apart are both pointing straight down the course you know there is potential to win and lose places… Some teams found the snakes, others found the ladders and at the end of race one although a number of teams were grateful to have one in the bag, others clung onto the forecast and hoped for more wind and a chance to shine. Ben Mueller and Freddie Lonsdale (2900) found winning ways in Yellow flight while Leo Wilkinson and Sam Jones (2966) sailed a cracker to win and pick up where they left off GP2 which they’d won overall.

It was also good to see some newer faces in and around the top ten too – Tom Williamson & Cameron Sword (2694) popped in an 11th in race one just behind Maggie Rickman & Thomas White (2230) in 10th, joined by junior team of Ed Coady & Seb Shilling (2742) also 10th in the other flight. Iolo & Ioan Davies (2414) put themselves in single digits for the first of their two top-tens of the day, with Ben Tuttle and Will Balch (1159) taking a 9th in race one too. Kate Robertson & Molly Hinsliff-Smith (1504) also got out of the blocks well with their 8th place.

29er sailing at 2020-21 GP3

Race two looked similar with the wind shifting around a lot and patches of pressure giving the rewards. Ollie Evans & Ben Hutton-Penman (2811) took their win, with Santi-Sesto Cosby & Ollie Hawkins (2816) bossing the pin end shoot-out to lead off the pin and take their first win. Very little separated the first ten boats with two more races to come and again we had some welcome new faces in the top-10 showing that there were plenty of opportunities to be taken: Marten Mikk & Ewan Plowden-Wardlaw (3085) banked their first of two top-10s for the weekend, Olivia Bracey-Davies & William Hellewell (2225) were in 9th and Rob Mawdsley & Ollie Mears (2478) in 6th place also helped to shake up the order with some great racing.

At the end of race 3, we’d seen six different race winners. This time Simon & Amelie Hiscocks (2507) took the Yellow flight win with Tom Storey & Ben Willett (2982) winning Blue. Elsewhere, 3007 Emma Hutchings & Amelie Curtis had just put their second top-10 in the bank with a 5th place, 2327 Charlie Gran & Toby Bloomfield in 6th were just getting stronger through the day, and juniors Nick Evans & Sam Webb (2139) put in a brilliant 3rd place to keep things wide open.

It left just one more race to go and a discard due to kick in so it was all to play for. Many teams had highs and lows and several teams could still win. Leo & Sam had barely put a foot wrong all day and were sat on just 6 points after three races, yet at least four other teams were capable of taking the championship: Tom & Ben (2982), Aled Llewellyn-Jones & Ben Bradley (2898), Santi & Ollie (2816) and Simon & Amelie (2507) were all within reach and with many other teams shining it showed just how strong the class is right now. It would come down to the last race… Yellow flight had got away early where Ben & Freddie took their second race win while Monique Vennis-Ozanne & Jess Jobson (2661) became the seventh different team to score a win in the championship. Freddie Westwell & Jesse Kibble (2903) enjoyed their first podium finish of the weekend in 3rd, while George Vincent & Tommy Willett (3080) had been getting faster all day taking their third top-10 finish and first podium in 3rd also. Nick Evans & Sam Webb (2139) put in a 6th to complete four races in single digits, while Ollie Vines & Ollie Baddeley (403) put in a brilliant 2nd place in race four for a dramatically improving score-line over the weekend. James Clarke & Noah Fitzgerald (1356), Karrie Clarke & Lia Fletcher (2924), Julia Barnes & Tiegan Pearce (2337) all put in top-10s to finish on a high.

It could be close… but it seemed that the front runners had saved their discards for race four. Aled & Ben came home in 10th, along with Tom and Ben in the other flight also 10th. Santi and Ollie banked 8th, Simon and Amelie 9th. Elodie Edwards & Ewan Wilson (2905) who’d been 4th three times finished in 7th, while Sophie Dennis & Emma Wells (2340) who’d been right up there all day finished with an 11th place. Leo & Sam had done enough: Their fourth place in race four wasn’t needed and would become their discard too, finishing on 6 points overall and taking their second Grand Prix win of the series. Second overall was 3066 Aled Llewellyn-Jones/Ben Bradley with 2982 Tom Storey/Ben Willett in third. First Girls were 2234 Emily Mueller/Florence Brellisford with second girls 2661 Monique Vennis-Ozanne/Jess Jobson and third girls 2753 Sian Talbot/Maddie Bristow.

It was yet another great event. The sailing is fun and exhilarating even when it’s light and shifty, and when you’re dropping into those busy gate roundings flat out on the plane you need to think fast, have great boat-handling and knowledge of the rules. It won’t always go to plan but hard work pays off and as we saw at the weekend the class is strong and thriving. It was a pity not to have the traditional class Christmas party on Saturday night. The class committee would serve up Christmas dinner to sailors and parents, followed by a proper disco and a lot of partying. We all look forward to those days returning but for brilliant, close racing that is competitive and fun look no further. We pick up the Allen UK 29er Grand Prix series again in 2021, and in the meantime have a merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Ben Willett (2982)

Photo credit Digital Sailing