Interview with the 2017 UK National Champions

The 2017 National Championships in Looe were tense. Going into the final day of racing and Mike Senior/Chris White and Ian Dobson/Andy Tunnicliffe were within a point of each other and both gunning for the win. 

Q. How close was the competition between yourselves and Mike and Chris?

Andy: You could tell from the first race that Mike and Chris were sailing well and if Mike hadn’t dropped to third in the last race we would have both been counting firsts and seconds and count back would have gone to last race sailed, so yes it was very tight.

Ian: I must admit that, although many would few us as clear favourites for the Nationals, I did not. Perhaps it was a result of a knock in confidence but mainly because Andy and I hadn’t sailed a GP together since Barbados. We have spent the last two years getting too distracted with life; renovating houses, having a baby; setting up a business. I firmly believed that Mike and Chris were very likely to beat us; they were well practiced and we were distinctly lacking sailing fitness.

I suppose that gave us a freedom that we have not enjoyed for some time. We sailed in a relaxed manner, which meant that we could be patient with our decision making and wait for the right shift, right wave, right time.

Andy had been regularly working until the small hours in the week leading up to the event, partly to make the final tweaks to the mainsail that we had agreed upon the previous weekend. It was perhaps fortunate, although not a surprise, that we found ourselves to be very fast through the water, in particular, in any wind strength over 12 knots.

Mike and Chris sailed a great regatta, and only needed to finish it off with a single top 2 score on the final day. I had looked at the data from the previous races and decided that I could not simply let them sail away with the title and that we should take the game to them and put them under pressure before the start. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Mike and Chris appeared on our tail just before the 5 minute gun. I am fortunate to have gained many years of team racing experience and combining that with our very relaxed mindset, we were very unlikely to become flustered. With Mike and Chris completing a 720 turn immediately before the start gun, we had certainly gained the upper hand in the penultimate race.

In the final race we simply[!] needed to win. After a little more tom-foolery pre-start with Mike, we got away from the start cleanly. We had taken a slight gamble in the morning of that day by changing our settings. Fortunately, this was an educated guess and we found the extra little bit of speed in the lighter wind range (in principle a little less mast rake in case you were wondering). We extended to take the race win and Championship, which was somewhat unlikely at the beginning of that day.

Q. After coming 2nd in last year’s Worlds, how good does it feel to be back on top?

Ian: It felt great returning to win the 2017 Nationals. I am not afraid to say that, having held the World Championship title continuously since 2006, losing the Worlds in 2016 was really painful and I was absolutely gutted. At the same time, I was fully aware that our reign would always come to an end at some stage and that all it would take was a pairing willing to put the time in and commit to taking it from us. I was also happy that I was able to give it up to Shane and Taxi, who fully deserved it.

Strangely enough, in Barbados we were the quickest through the water than we had ever been, far quicker than for any of the titles we had won! I also felt bad for Andy as, having recently set up Impact Marine, we didn’t do his sails the justice they deserved.

Q. What was your favourite part of the event this year?

Ian: I love the atmosphere down in Looe. I have great memories from the Worlds in 2012, and also from the Fireball Nationals in 2013. The club members and volunteers are such great fun and are so welcoming. The fact that everyone is staying so close to the event makes for such a sociable [boozy] event. For me it was also great to be back in a GP. Having sailed lots of different classes over recent years, the truth is that I really enjoy sailing the boat!

Andy: It’s hard not to enjoy a week in Looe but it’s always going to be the windy reaches and big swell that win as the favourite part.

Q. You must be happy with the sail performance over the week, what are the key features of the Impact sails and how did you feel they went in the conditions?

Andy: Yes, very happy with the performance. Although I haven’t been that present on the circuit in the last year I have been working hard behind the scenes tweaking a couple of things here and there and feel we have now got a great suit of sails, they performed well in all the conditions that were thrown at us that week. Also, Andy Smith and Phil Hodgkins have been going well in their new boat using our sails winning the Super 6 series last year and Nick Devereux and Geoff Edwards were second in the series. I think they won all the area championships between the 2 of them, so in all very happy with how they are performing in all conditions….great price as well!!


Q. Can you sum up how competitive the GP14 fleet is for those from other classes thinking about doing next year’s Worlds?

Andy: It’s extremely competitive throughout the fleet whether you are bronze, sliver or gold and it will be nip and tuck racing all week. The Worlds always had a big draw as well and I would imagine it will probably be one of the biggest events in the county next year, already nearly 60 boats entered and I can imagine that will double.

Ian: Every year the GP fleet gets younger and younger (or is it that….?!) We all have a great time on and off the water. It’s great to see Peter Gray and Rich Pepperdine over from the Scorpion class. I asked them what attracted them and they replied ‘well, it’s just great racing’. You only have to look at the entry list for next year to realise that the message is already out there.

Q. What are you looking forward to about the Worlds next year?

Ian: I hope that the Worlds is bigger and better than the 2012 Worlds in Looe, and perhaps even bigger than the 2003 Abersoch Worlds (my first ever GP Worlds). All the signs are that is could well be, and certainly will be the event of 2018. I am looking forward to putting together a strong and considered campaign that does ourselves, the class and the event the justice it deserves. Spread the word.


Find out more about the 2018 Gul World Championships.