Smith and Needham take title by a squeak

Like a cat playing with a mouse, the wind in Weymouth Bay knocked the fleet from side to side before showing a bit of tooth and claw in a fascinating day of racing in the UK 505 Nationals.
With three races scheduled, the slightly earlier start time of 11am seemed to surprise a few competitors and many would have missed the start of the first race of the day and the third in the series had it not been for a short postponement due to a wind shift in the original starting sequence.  However, the fleet finally dragged themselves over the start behind the pathfinder Mike Martin and Adam Lowry (USA) conditions not dissimilar to the previous day, with a breeze of about 12 knots from the west.  The Race Officer had decided to shorten the normal course after two brisk windward - leeward laps in order to make sure the three races could be sailed.  Martin and Lowry had found that being pathfinder had been no handicap, crossing in line in front of Ian Pinnell and Alex Davies (GBR) and Howie Hamlin and Andy Zinn (USA).
By now the threatened rain shower had arrived and with it a major shift in the wind, swinging about 40 degrees to the south.  After some rapid resetting of the course the fourth race got underway with the German pair of Thure Gnadeberg and Aron Tellen acting as pathfinder.  However, towards the top of the first windward leg the wind started to clock back to the right again.  The race team responded by swinging the third leg, and as the wind continued its journey they had to make a further tweak to the final downwind leg.  Martin and Lowry remained unfazed and finished with a commanding lead over compatriots Hamlin and Zinn, with Holt and Smit completing a USA lockout of the podium positions.
The wind was building all the time and as it blew away the rain to introduce some sparkle to the proceedings it was sending some gusts of over 20kts down the race track, causing some of the 90 plus boats that had started the day some interesting moments.  German heavy weather experts Stefan Bohm and Gerald Roos crossed the whole fleet as pathfinder, but it was Martin and Lowry who showed that they were in the groove, rounding the top mark first and powering downwind on the waves.  However, Andy Smith and Tim Needham (GBR) were close on their heels at the leeward gate and opted to take the right-hand side of the next beat against the American team’s choice of heading left.  With the next flick of the wind to the right they were able to break through Martin and Lowry and held were able to gradually extend their lead.  Mike Holt and Carl Smit also came back hard at the end, just pipping Martin and Lowry to the finish line.
The outcome of the championship could not have been closer. Smith and Needham were tied on 10 points with Martin and Lowry, with Holt and Smit just one further back.  However, based on the results of the last race, Andy Smith and Tin Needham took the UK Championship title for 2016.  With the World Championships starting on Saturday, Smith says that while he is delighted with this win, he is taking nothing for granted, and that he and crewman Tim are determined to keep their focus ahead of the main event.
Andy Smith (right) and Tim Needham with UK trophy © Christophe Favreau
Smith and Needham at full throttle © Christophe Favreau