I had a whopping good time at the Nationals in Brixham last week. It was the ultimate D-Zero heavy weather event, with winds clocked as gusting over 40 knots on the second day.
The Owners planned to do some racing against eachother, but we boats knew that it was really the 2022 International D-Zero Freestyle Championships, with special awards for the fastest capsize, deepest nosedive, highest jump and wettest spraychute. We had even hired photographer Georgie Altham as our judge and she produced some excellent photos of our athletic efforts.
The first day saw the race team put on two races on a huge quadrilateral course. Most of us boats played nicely at first, although the wind was already over 20 knots in the first race. Big Niel Ritchie took an early swim on the downwind leg, chasing leader Nick Craig. His capsize scored too low in points, so he sped past us whilst we were in 5th place, to try some other tricks.
Poster Boy Tom Southwell had his boat too tightly under control to do any dump moves, which gave him a second place in the Owner’s Race, but null points on the whacky freestyle scoreboard.
My Owner failed to release my kicker on the final reach, so I put in a boom- end-wave-drag, which, with a nice Owner archback, can score quite highly, especially if the Owner can then be ejected into the water on the cockpit side, allowing plenty of time for a decent turtle. I did this full trick, opting for some extra points by retracting my daggerboard for a streamline look. Her Ownership spoilt the finish by hauling out over my transom like a drunken seal and kneeling over my near-empty dagger slot, shouting “hello” down it. Null points.
The day’s capsize category was won by Billy McCarlie, who scored a 15th and 9th in the Human Race and a gold medal in the aforementioned archback capsize, with extra points awarded for the long drawn out sequence and terrific facial expressions plus token extra weight hand overboard to assist possible recovery.
The overnight leader, Nick Craig, scored two straight wins and did not allow his boat to compete in the freestyle event.
Overnight runner-up was Jon Bassett from Largs, whose boat practiced hard in the Submarine category; qualifying for the finals in this popular underwater event which would be hotly contested the next day. Billy McCarlie’s boat also performed well in this category.
The following day, the wind had freshened. It was a long squally run to the start area and a much reduced fleet gathered at the start boat.
With less than a minute to go, Owner ground on my downhaul, only to see my mainsail slide a foot down the track. After several failed frantic attempts at re-hoisting and locking it off, she tied the halyard tail off on my mast track and set off in pursuit of the departed fleet with my peculiar reef in place.
My boom was low, we were last boat on the course and faced a perilous run in big seas with no kicker. Owner was gibbering a lot of rubbish about not gybing in case her head came off, so I withdrew from the freestyle head splattering category, which was won by Gordon Stewart with a meaty forehead cut and black eye on the sail home.
Elsewhere, Jon’s Bassett’s boat was still trying to win the Submarine category and in a wonderfully opportune moment, its tiller extension departed company downwind. Jon’s boat performed a magnificent pitchpole, in which it dislodged all of its mast chocks (extra points) before capsizing.
The daring boat won double gold for highest jump and best free-dive and was captured on film by Georgie. Remarkably, cool Jon recovered his chocks, righted the boat, sorted out the mess and went on to finish 5th in that race.
At the other end of the fleet and after 3 laps of low-sail mode cruising in a gale, the RIB kindly whisky-flagged me, meaning I could count my last place and relax to watch the leading boats of Nick, Tom, Niel and Darren Williams come in to the finish line.
Meanwhile, Owner was trying to balance on my tiny foredeck in her own personal freestyle competition. She attempted to jury rig my sail by strapping the useless halyard onto the boom. This was quite challenging in the large seas and fierce winds, wedging the tiller over with a foot and working over a raised daggerboard. The end result was a sail raised to 4” below the masthead, with half kicker but no downhaul available. Thus we raced for the rest of the day.
The following two races were dominated by Nick, Tom and Niel. David Valentine refused to let his boat heel, so he came third in the spray category, second in the submarine group and finished 5th overall in the Owner’s Race, with a consistent set of results and very wet and rusty tin sailing gear.
In 6th at his first DZero Nationals was Willie Todd from Largs, finishing with an impressive 4th place in the final race.
Another worthy mention must go to Martin Walker of Shoreham SC, who won the Lanterne Rouge, showing great endeavour in completing all the races. His boat also performed well in the archback capsize category.
So ended our feisty Nationals. No boats broken and everyone got out alive. Owner and I managed our best Nationals result in tenth place, so I’ll keep her for another year.
Congratulations Nick Craig, for a well-deserved win and well done to everyone who went out and to those that didn’t. You all made it a great Nationals. Also thank you to our sponsors, Barracuda Bay.
Lastly, thank you Brixham Yacht Club – you were superb!
Zippy Zero 333