Royal Harwich Yacht Club National 12 Banger Trophy 2020
The ‘Banger Trophy’ was donated to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club by Henry Baker and John Selby, perhaps for the first RHYC boat at Burton Week but more recently was sailed for at the club as a standalone event to encourage club sailing in National 12s. We think the trophy was last raced for in 2002 but need to check in the club archives to confirm this.
After reviving the Mid-Winter Championships in February, and with an increased N12 turn out for club racing at RHYC in the absence of open meetings for all classes over recent weeks, a group of N12 sailors decided to revive the Banger Trophy for 2020. With almost all of the N12s at RHYC being sailed together by family members and this trophy only being open to club members, it made sense to simply pick a weekend with late afternoon club racing and race within the club’s handicap fleet as N12s had been doing over the past few weeks. With little extra organisation required, the trophy would be raced for with two club races, no discards on 26th July 2020, first start 15.05.
Numbers were set to reach dangerously close to double figures, however surprisingly the lure of rugby and oppie training (separately) took a few entrants away. As the forecast settled for the week and the champagne sailing which may have been promised didn’t look all that likely, Sam Sutton-Reid decided it probably wasn’t the best occasion for his debut sail with son Dylan at the front, in a borrowed N12, so they were a last minute drop out. Max Shiel was also planning to attend, although boat maintenance stopped play (what did he do in lockdown?).
Nevertheless, 5 RHYC National 12s launched just as the afternoon sun decided to disappear and a threatening black sky came into view. The club side of the club’s starting ‘Line A’ was the side to be on, with Tom Stewart (crewed by Isobel Stewart, N3544), Chris Mayhew (crewed by Nicole Mayhew, N3437) and Steve Le Grys (crewed by Sabrina, N3432) all starting on port and getting away cleanly within the handicap fleet. As the fleet were approaching the first mark, the black sky showed its true colours with an incredible squall with the wind speed touching the wrong side of 30kts. Those who got round the mark were away, onto a screaming reach with spray everywhere. A few of the non-N12s in the handicap fleet capsized near the mark, so there was lots to deal with at the mark, stay clear was probably the best plan!
James Gifford (crewed by Jo Gifford, N3529) and George Finch (crewed by Lucy Finch, N3551) did just that and then held on for an awesome reach, before getting ready for the gybe at the next mark. With a few capsized boats already there, both decided tacking round was the safest option. James and Jo still managed to unfortunately go for a swim, the biggest casualty being the burgee which James’ dad Antony had apparently had for over 10 years (is there any truth in that? Who knows!). This gave George and Lucy the perfect opportunity to find out how fast their new N12 goes on yet another nail-biting reach to another gybe mark!
At the front of the fleet, Tom and Isobel and Chris and Nicole were leading the whole handicap fleet on a slight goose chase by heading to and rounding a mark which wasn’t actually in the course, but everyone enjoyed the extra reaching (no-one realised and everyone accepted the 3 wild gybes). The wind was starting to calm down but it was still hard work on the beat back up through the line to the top mark. George and Lucy Finch worked hard to make up lost ground, tacking off into clear air with a bit less tide, but it paid off as they came across Steve and Sabrina who were on port. With the unstable wind, in terms of gusts and direction, it was hard work to get to the mark, not helped by a rouge Finn which had capsized at the mark. Steve and Sabrina snuck round although George and Lucy then overtook them on the reach, both gybing although Steve and Sabrina caught a gust and closed the gap, so a reaching battle began.
The wind suddenly stopped at the next mark and the sun appeared. The change was so sudden, it was like waking up from a dream! With the tide running against the N12s, the fleet compacted slightly so now the first four were on the same leg, although Tom and Isobel and Chris and Nicole soon rounded the bottom mark to begin a difficult beat, with a light and unsettled breeze.
The final lap was much calmer than the first two, although with a tricky wind which built up again towards the end. Tom and Isobel won after gaining a fair lead on Chris and Nicole. George and Lucy were 3rd, Steve and Sabrina 4th and James and Jo in 5th.
For Race 2, it was all to play for with lighter airs and the same course (although perhaps this time, we’d sail the set course). Tom and Isobel were alone in starting at the far end of the start line, with the N12 and handicap fleet all starting on the club side, making use of a sudden wind shift to fetch to the first mark. However, the wind shifted slightly, and Tom and Isobel popped out in front, on starboard, but with a starboard rounding having to tack to round the mark.
This created a ‘N12 sized gap’ at the mark which George and Lucy slid into, with Chris and Nicole sailing above Tom and Isobel. Tom was surprised the gap he left was big enough and after muttering some unrepeatable words questioned if George and Lucy’s new N12 was actually built to maximum width! The wind then picked up and the whole N12 and handicap fleet enjoyed a reach to the next mark, but the water was very turbulent with so many boats close by. Tom and Isobel gybed round first with George and Lucy opting to tack and stay clear of the potential chaos.
As it turned out, there was no chaos and the other N12s gybed round, leaving George and Lucy in last place, so they sailed low and caught up with the fleet, until they and others noticed Tom and Isobel and Chris and Nicole had forgotten the passing mark. Unlike in Race 1, the boats behind noticed and sailed the proper course, with Tom and Isobel and Chris and Nicole having to turn around and leave the passing mark to port.
This created much excitement in the N12 fleet – would they both catch up to the front by the end of 3 laps? James and Jo Gifford were now leading the N12s with George and Lucy in 2nd. James and Jo rounded the bottom mark with a good lead and began sailing extremely fast and flat. The wind was slowly building and shifting, but James and Jo kept their lead rounding the top mark at the same distance ahead of George and Lucy that they had at the bottom mark! This remained the same until the bottom mark again, which James and Jo touched on rounding and duly did a 360o turn. Tom and Isobel had battled their way through the handicap fleet and were now had their sights set on George and Lucy, whilst Chris and Nicole managed to overtake Steve and Sabrina on the 2nd beat.
Touching the mark and the subsequent turn reduced James and Jo’s lead on the race, but they continued to sail flat and fast. The wind started to increase again so at the first gybe mark on the last lap James and Jo sensibly decided to tack around. George and Lucy gybed and landed fine and the gap had closed slightly. Making use of the gusts, Tom and Isobel looked to be flying along and chasing down the front two N12s. The same gust then hit George and Lucy who moved back in the boat super quickly and started to really speed towards James and Jo, just managing to surf on their stern wave.
However, James and Jo kept cool and kept in front, rounding the final mark, and sailing low but fast as the wind continued to build. George and Lucy sailed high, as did Tom and Isobel. There was now an equal gap between all 3 N12s and it was all to play for! After a hard final beat, James and Jo crossed the line first, followed 10 seconds later by George and Lucy and then 10 seconds later, Tom and Isobel – and that was it, the Banger Trophy and N12 sailing at Royal Harwich revived!