Set within a serene corner of The Royal Victoria Country Park near Southampton, Netley Sailing Club (NSC) was the perfect venue for the 37th Dart 18 National Championships.
The 18ft catamaran continues its renaissance attracting new and old sailors back to the fleet for some high quality one design racing and the world famous Dart apres sail. The event proved no exception with seventy three boats including some from Europe attending.
With many competitors choosing to camp in the club grounds, visitors started arriving as early as Sunday for the Thursday start, though by Wednesday afternoon the club was pretty full, the newly constructed 6 metre bar was open and the party had begun.
“The Dart 18 is a very social class and we think that our army of volunteers have coped very well with an influx of 146 sailors, support crews and families” * NSC REP*
The open waters of The Solent at the Hill Head Racing Area were the ideal setting for one of the most hotly contested trophies of the catamaran racing circuit.
Organisation on the water was superb even the main committee boat breaking down did not delay the start before race 1 was underway. In breezy conditions a few boats fell foul to gear failure with dismastings a couple of boats deciding they preferred to use their hulls as battering rams with the expected results. Newly crowned World Champion Dan Norman took the first race with David Lloyd closely following. The second race had a switch of fortunes with Lloyd taking victory.
The evening Commodores reception witnessed significant quantity of Pimms consumed by all except for the shoreside support crew provided by Windsport International who were busy replacing spars, carrying out gel coat repairs, fixing other broken parts and generally working late in to the night.
“We were replacing parts, offering technical advice and even some impromptu coaching even as the boats left the beach in the morning” said Brian Phipps of Windsport International.
“This brilliant arrangement ensured that many who would have been unable to rectify an issue did not miss out on the excellent four days of racing” Geoff Lloyd, Chairman of UK Dart
A fresher breeze and some challenging conditions for day 2, Dave Roberts grabbed the bullet with Lloyd and Norman playing cat and mouse behind. The back to back races were relentless with Norman taking 1st while Lloyd could only manage a 9th position.
More live entertainment including local band The Morphic Fields accompanied by a fabulous meat feast BBQ.
With now 25 knots of wind blowing on day three, race 1 saw Chris Goymer come forward and take his first nationals win. Race 2, Norman took another bullet with Lloyd second.
Then Bollywood came to Netley with an evening of curry and beer, NSC even managed to summon up an evening monsoon, giving an impressive even more authentic feel to the themed night.
The final day with it all to play for just one point separated the leaders and just one race scheduled to determine the out come. Lloyd and Norman matched tack for tack, gybe for gybe around the busy course making for some spectacular racing.
David Lloyd of Stokes Bay and crew, Anne Chaumet-Legrange aboard dinghyinsurance.com managed to hold the lead to the finish line and with it take the 2013 title.
An over joyed Lloyd stated “I love the Dart class, it’s one design principals, we had seven close races, four race winners, a fantastic social scene” adding “I love sailing at Netley and only wish the world championships would come here”