May 29th will see the B14 fleet descend on Stokes Bay SC for one of the most competitive National Championships in recent years. A quick review of entries suggests that there is a strong top group with a few others within the fleet capable of upsetting the order. Friday and Sunday look likely to produce big breeze. Schedule is for 9 50 minute races over 3 days with a maximum of 4 per day. So it could be a game of attrition.
Here are a selection of the "Runners and Riders":
757 – Ben McGrane & Olivier Wells (P&B South)
Current National Champion (Ben with Oliver Vidal) and back after performing well in the I14 and recently at Halying in the Merlin Rocket ST, it would be a brave person to bet against this team - though maybe the other favourites Bees and Craig might take that bet?
Odds: 7/4 (Fav)
761 – Nick Craig & Tom Pygall (Whitstable Marine)
Both ex. National Champions, and Tom having won the pre-Worlds in Australia and to European in the event with Chris Lewns, should if the team work transfers from their recent Merlin Rocket sailing, possibly edge top spot. The key here will be how they will gel in the big breeze. Definitely ones to watch.
Odds: 7/4 (Fav)
771 – Mike Bees & Ferrett (Blue Badge)
2013 National Champion. Back to form, this team know how to grind out a result and with a couple of upgrades, may well improve on their 2014 3rd overall. Would be a huge surprise if they were not on the podium.
Odds: 7/4 (Fav)
788 – Mark Barnes & Ruth Oliver (Seavolution)
Builder/supplier of the B14 and 2007 Nationals winner and 3rd in the pre-Worlds in Australia, sailing with young 18 year old Ruth Oliver, have hit a sweet spot in the lighter conditions and with a lighter Saturday, should be in the mix as they won the TT at Stokes Bay in April. It would be a gutsy call to bet against a podium place.
791 – Mark Watts & Chris Bishop (Ullman Sails)
Will be looking to do something special after their performance in Australia at the Worlds, especially if there is big breeze. 2nd in 2013 and 4th in 2014's breezy Nationals, they are a good 'each way' bet for a podium, but can struggle for consistency in lighter conditions.
785 – Peter Knight & Jane Reeves (Demelza)
Fast and tactically astute and 6th last time out in 2014, this team should go well in the potentially light conditions on Saturday. What will be a key player here will be how the big breeze plays out on the opening and closing days.
786 – Gerry Fermor Brown & Leaky (Torq)
Consistent and hugely competitive in light to moderate conditions. Very capable of multi
787 – Alan Davis & Kathy Sherratt (Watts) (Troublegum)
This team have plenty of experience and Kathy has been on the podium before at the Europeans. They were knocking on the door at the Stokes Bay TT in April. A consistent series should put them comfortably inside the top 10.
With 10-15 other teams also expected, including many new faces, the mid-fleet results are difficult to place odds, but we can be sure there will be some real snakes and ladders as the series evolves.
The key prizes that the middle order teams will be keen to get their hands on where they can qualify, will be first newcomer and tin rig. Another prize worth its weight is the Endeavour Trophy for the last boat to complete all races.
Wherever in the results the teams end up, they will be subjected to the usual friendly welcome of the B14 fleet and Stokes Bay SC. With a good mix of socials included in the entry fee the off-water activity promises to be as good as the sailing.
Entries are still coming in. The forecast looks great. We'll see you there!