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UK Blind Nationals 2016

Friday the 7th to the 9th October saw 12 visual impaired sailors (VI's) and 9 sighted sailors take part in this years Blind Nations jointly organised with Cowes Corinthian Yatch Club.

This event is held each year to celebrate the charity's success and to start the next phase of training and for all VI's and sighted that is the build up to selection for the 2017 Blind Fleet Racing Championships as they look to build a stronger team to defend current World Champions title.

With registration complete all six boats took to the water in a light 7-8 knots of breeze, with thanks to the Island Sailing Club the sailors sail in two fleets of Sonars. B1 fleet were the helm has no vision or slight light perception with a main sheet or gib sheet trimmer that can be a B1 or B2 those that can count figures and see hand movements, and sail with two sighted sailors one doing tactics touching nothing and the other crew taking up the alternate role to the VI crew. With the B2 fleet for this event only comprising of a VI helm B2 to B3 those with more vision often tunnel or bleared and a B2/3 crew and a sighted tactician.

Friday was a day to get a feel for the conditions and the boat selected for each fleet as well as getting to know each other in the team that had been selected. The wind gradually dropped but with practice races it was clear to see it was going to be a weekend of close racing.

Friday evening saw CCYC host the Charity's years awards, a chance to thank the sighted sailors who this year have helped the charity with Blind Match Race Trainiing seeing the GBR take Gold and Silver in the Open Italian Match Racing a championships and also Gold in the World Blind Match Racing Championships.

This training could not have been the success it was with out the support of the Hall family and it was great to see Jonny Cormack hand over the Ian Cormack Cup to Steven Hall, who with his dad made and kept running all the sound buoy equipment. It was also great to receive kind donation from Claire and her boat Party, which helped along with Mofo helped fund this weekend.

After a great dinner the racing got under way with first warning signal at 10.25 all teams were ready to go with four to five races planned for the day. Breeze was light 6-8 knots from the North East but it was due to build. The course for all racing was a windward leeward, with Big Blue and the Race team headed up by Mike Dixon and David Ross all set to go. The B1 fleet got under way and it was clear to see this weekend was going to be close. In this fleet it was great to see Eddie Kitchen back on the water and at the helm, Eddie is one of Blind Sailing's deaf blind sailors, Lucy said " this should show all nothing should stop you in life Eddie has a great feel for the breeze and the boat and with strong communication Eddie is able to sail the same as a sighted sailor". The fleet set off to the windward mark changing places as they went it was down to getting a feel for the tide and the decreasing wind over the course, this feel to a visually impaired helm is key as the tide will give a different feeling on each tack as it pushes on the bow. The racing was close but first race of the day went to helm Sharon Grennan. In the B2 fleet it was clear from the 5 minuet gun it was going to be close with all three boats flighting for a spot on the line, each team had great speed matching each other's tacks but the down wind leg was to be the race win decider seeing Helm Lucy Hodges take the first win of the day. The race saw the breeze drop lighter and then a short AP, but this was only a short postponement as the breeze got back up to 8-10 knots. Both fleets raced a further four races seeing in the B1 fleet each team take a win but with Mark Austin, Jonny Stevenson, Dennis Manning and Catherine Hunt end the day in the lead but only just with a point separating each team.

The B2 fleet saw Laura Cammidge, Justin Smith and Charlie Griffiths our youngest VI sailor out on the water end the day ahead of the fleet.

With Saturday meal thanks to UKSA also another great charity that supports Blind Sailing. It was great to hear each sailor mixing and share stories, getting set for a further days racing.

Saturday saw the breeze move more into the North but increase to 12-15 knots and a lumper sea. All boats went out on cut down mains but already to battle.

With the wind increased the RO set a slightly longer course. It was clear to see no boats were going to give up with each sailor looking for forward at selection in the coming months it was again another tight days racing. The B1 fleet was very close but again each race saw boats swooping overall placing and great to see how far all sailors have come and the trust of the sighted crews, each mark rounding boats were long side each other pushing racing to the true limits.

In the B2 fleet it was the same, each start saw a battle for the spot on the line, it was great to see boats being held out or pushed over line proving that all teams were trying hard. Liam Cattermole and team had got their down wind speed sorted and were back into the points fighting Lucy Hodges to the line.

Dave Ross who is a supporter and sighted volunteer said " although I am part of the RO team this weekend it is great to watch from the outside and see the progress we the charity and sailors have made, I am pleased as Vice Commodore of CCYC along with all the members to welcome Blind Sailing into the club they are at the top of the World in their sport and we are proud to support them".

With the racing over, all headed in to CCYC with a buzz and great to hear all sharing great story's.

It is also big thanks to Enterprise Rental Car who provided the transport for our sighted volunteers who make this weekend happen.

The prize giving took place in the sun and with a smile from the race officer the results were close.

The B1 fleet finished seeing the two boats tie for 2nd.

B1 Fleet

1st Sharon Grennan, Sally Rodrigues, Ian Shirra and David Hawkins.

2nd Mark Austin, Dennis Manning, Jonny Stevenson and Catherine Hunt.

3rd on count back Eddie Kitchen, Toby Davey, Jonny Cormack and James Wheeldon.

B2 Fleet

1st Lucy Hodges, Chris Albert and Matt Grier

2nd Laura Cammidge, Justin Smith and Charlie Griffiths

3rd Liam Cattermole, Colin Midgley and Martin Philips.

Lucy Hodges MBE would like to say a huge thank you to all for making one of the best Blind Nationals.

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