Duo's 'victory' flagged up

First published in Afloat

Drama during the first and last races of the Osprey Nationals saw defeat snatched from the jaws of victory for Poole Yacht Club’s Andy Barker and Mike Atkinson.

As a result, the cup was handed to Blithfield Sailing Club’s Gareth Caldwell and John Gibbons at the Parkstone-hosted event.

The Poole pair got off to the worst possible start after falling foul of the Black Flag rule in race one and suffering a similar fate in the final race.

Between the two ill-fated contests, Barker and Atkinson had topped the leader board after each of the following four races.

In the opening race, the fleet approached the line in light winds, the one-minute gun sounded and Barker and Atkinson in Barking Mad took off a minute early and were ruled out.

The Black Flag is brought into play after a general restart fails. Anyone course-side at the second attempt is then disqualified.

Caldwell and Gibbons, meanwhile, started correctly, arrived at the windward mark first and weren’t troubled by anyone else for the rest of the race.

The second race was much the same from a wind perspective and the start was just as important. This time, Barker and Atkinson arrived at the correct time and sailed well to take first with Caldwell and Gibbons second.

Races three, four and five saw Barker and Atkinson on top of the leader board, four points ahead of Caldwell and Gibbons, having posted a one-two-three.

On the final day, there was everything to play for.

Two false starts led to a general recall in the opening race, before the fleet escaped the threat of the Black Flag on the restart.

The Blithfield pairing got to the top mark in third with Barker and Atkinson in ninth. Both crews maintained their positions, leaving Caldwell and Gibbons ahead overall with one race to go.

The fleet came up to the line and, as before, pushed too hard, leading to another general recall, reset and once again under a Black Flag.

Unfortunately for Barker and Atkinson, too many boats jumped the gun once again, forcing the organisers to abandon the race and hand the overall victory to Caldwell and Gibbons.

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