🏆 Owen Cox - 2016 Unicorn National Champion
The 2016 Unicorn Nationals were held between the 1st and 5th August at Stone Sailing Club on the Blackwater. The forecast was for initial light winds increasing through the week which with the strong tidal streams would lead to some very lumpy water. Gary Piper had given up sailing Unicorns after last year but could not kick the habit and has bought back one of his former boats (1098). Owen Cox had also given up sailing Unicorns but likewise has bought a former championship winning boat (1100) and Will Dawson after an absence of some 10 years had bought back his old boat (1091) which has been fully restored. Last year’s champion Steve Pooley, local former champion Peter Toft and last year’s runner up Julius Mach made up the favourites from which the winner was likely to come. A recent newcomer Dave Boosey had some different ideas and intended to break into the top six.
The morning race on Monday in was held in light conditions with wind against tide increasing the apparent wind. Mach was an early leader but dropped back to 6th on overstanding the first windward mark whilst Peter Toft using local knowledge took the lead at the mark. There followed a short fetch to the second mark with no place changing and then a run to the next three marks during which Mach retook the lead. Toft tried an alternative route to the fifth mark and lost out. Mach was passed by Cox on the beat but Cox then steered towards the wrong windward mark allowing Mach to regain the lead again which he held until nearly reaching the leeward mark when he was passed by Toft who had again taken an alternative route but this time with considerable success. Mach was then passed by Piper and Cox as he found weed and lost time clearing his rudders. Toft held off the challenge from Piper up the beat to the finish. Toft 1st, Piper 2nd, Cox 3rd.
For the afternoon race on Monday the tide had turned so the apparent wind was lighter. From the start Cox took to the north shore followed by Brooks whilst Dawson made an excellent start along the south shore. Cox and Dawson developed a considerable advantage over the rest of the fleet who were tacking up the south shore with Cox eventually gaining an advantage of some 300 yards. Piper, Toft and Mach formed a chasing group with Mach breaking away from the other two and closing down Dawson. On the second beat Cox again went for the north shore allowing Dawson and Mach to try short tacking up the southern shore in a successful effort to close him down. Dawson rounded the windward mark first followed by Mach and Cox. Mach closed up completely on Dawson on the final run and edged in front just as the shorten course was signalled and managed to hold the lead to the finish. Mach 1st, Dawson 2nd, Cox 3rd. At the other end of the fleet Boosey managed to get in front of Pooley and Arthur Brooks gained an advantage over David Taylor. Overall scores at the end of day 1 were Mach 5pts, Toft, Piper and Cox 6pts, Dawson 7pts.
Tuesday’s wind started off light and westerly but increased throughout the day and eventually became south westerly. The first of Tuesday’s races on a rising tide with wind against tide saw much place changing throughout the fleet. A small mistake could see a boat slip from first to sixth and then climb up to the front before again slipping back. Cox moved from 4th to 1st on the final run and held off Piper to win the race. Cox 1st, Piper 2nd, Mach 3rd.
The afternoon race on Tuesday was on the same course as the morning race but the tide had reversed and the wind swung completely to south west meaning both the last and penultimate legs were biased beats. This sorted out the boats that pointed high from lower pointing boats. The first beat established the order for the rest of the race with the exception of Pooley who on the first beat of the second lap found the go button on his boat passing Mach and Toft and then going on to pass Cox at the end of the first beat of the third lap. Brooks had an issue with his mainsheet, capsized and ultimately failed to finish. Piper 1st, Pooley 2nd, Cox 3rd. After four races there had now been four race winners meaning this was the most competitive Nationals for at least 10 years. Overall scores at the end of day 2 were Piper 9pts, Cox 10pts, Mach 12pts.
Wednesday was a rest day. A race round Radio Caroline and another round Osea Island were offered but declined by the Unicorns. The force 5 against the tide with wind whistling in the rigging may have had something to do with the decisions. At this point it is probably time to mention that the gold anti-vandal paint that Iain Rogers had unwittingly used to paint his spars and parts of his hull had been lacquered over and was safe to touch although it still came off when any PVC tape that had been in contact with it was removed. It was said that traces of gold are still being found round the former Bradwell Power Station.
Thursday came with winds no less than Wednesday and after an initial consideration of postponement until the tide had turned it was decided to proceed as scheduled. Six boats prepared to go out but Rogers was still attempting to launch long after everyone else had finished. Cox took an early lead with Piper close behind followed by Pooley. Mach was fourth but retired to conserve energy and boat allowing Brooks to move up to fourth. These positions remained unchanged to the end. Cox 1st, Piper 2nd, Pooley 3rd.
Thursday’s second race was held in similar conditions to the first with the wind against tide kicking up a considerable chop. Cox led from Piper with Mach, Brooks and Rogers contesting the next three places. Mach slipped from third to fifth after a poor beat and slow run before recovering back to third on the final beat with Brooks only three seconds behind. Cox 1st, Piper 2nd, Mach 3rd. Overall scores at the end of the day were Cox 9pts, Piper 9pts, Mach 15pts.
Friday’s racing was held in lighter mainly force 3 winds. In the first race Cox went into an early lead followed by Piper. There was then a gap before Toft, Brooks, Mach and Rogers formed a chasing pack with Taylor and Boosey not far behind. Mach got the better of the chasing pack but then at the end of lap 2 tried to sail both sides of mark A and got pinned there with no apparent way to escape its clutches. Toft and everyone else took advantage as Mach had to be towed off the mark and the race officer could again see the finish line. Cox 1st, Piper 2nd, Toft 3rd. The win gave Cox the championship.
The final race saw Piper lead from Cox at the first mark with Mach in pursuit. Mach got ahead of Cox who then hit the third mark with his tiller in trying to close the gap. This was only partial compensation for when Mach had done the same thing at the same mark on the first day and lost five places in taking a penalty. Cox did not lose any places as the chasing pack were some way behind. However it was enough to ensure he could not catch Mach. Piper 1st, Mach 2nd, Cox 3rd. Overall scores were Cox 10pts, Piper 10 pts, Mach 17pts.
Iain Rogers became the winner of the capsize trophy as launching for race 5 after everyone else had already finished he managed a double capsize and a soaking of his cigarettes before he had even tacked or gybed. Arthur Brooks was the only other contender. Mach got a parking ticket for his actions in race 7. Pooley and Dawson were unable to compete in the final races due to boat and personal injuries and hence dropped down the overall placings.
1st 1100 Owen Cox, Bala SC, 10pts
2nd 1098 Gary Piper, Stokes Bay SC, 10pts
3rd 1095 Julius Mach, Netley SC, 17pts
4th 1074 Peter Toft, Stone SC, 24pts
5th 1084 Arthur Brooks, Stone SC, 34pts
6th 1085 Steve Pooley, Queensmead SC, 35pts
7th 1086 Dave Boosey, Stone SC, 44pts
8th 1067 David Taylor, Stone SC, 45pts
9th 1091 William Dawson, Lilliput SC, 51 pts
10th 1092 Iain Rogers, Weston SC. 53pts