Cliff is champ again!

Report from Sam Knight and Chris Hawley:


Another year and another fantastic 100+ entry for the Supernova nationals, held this year at Paignton sailing club in south Devon.  The fleet assembled “on the green” for the 2019 championships on the evening before kick-off for an in-depth speed and tactics talk from the Cotswold Sailing Club duo of multiple national champion Cliff Milliner and Class technical rep Gavin Young.  Then it was time to retire to our accommodation to allow the talks to soak in, ready to put all we had learned into practice the next morning!

Except unfortunately it wasn’t to be.  Several days of strong easterly winds had whipped up an almighty swell resulting breaking waves that were impossible to pass.  PRO Ian Bullock and RO James Ripley postponed for several hours in the hope that the conditions would abate, but to no avail.  The video they took from a Rib was frightening to say the least!  Therefore, there was little more for the fleet to do other than enjoy the customary Paignton crazy golf (joint winners of Alex Horlock and Class Chairman Chris Hawley), a spot of surfing on the aforementioned breakers (from Team Bolton), or quench their thirst in the local beer gardens.  The day was rounded off with an excellent meal back at the clubhouse and the drawing of the raffle for not one, but two brand new sails!  Well done to the lucky winners!  Socializing continued late into the night, with some of the fleet now having some trouble negotiating their way back to their accommodation.  Maybe we should have had the GPS trackers from SailRacer on each participant so we could keep an eye on them? 

Day 1 video -

Saturday dawned bright and (slightly) breezy with Torbay looking much calmer.  After a quick briefing in the boat park and some last minute tips from the Buddy Group members, the fleet was able to launch and make their way to the racecourse, covered by a gentle 5-7 knots.  For the first time in many nationals, the Supernovas were to return to line starts so race one was the first chance for many to experience a start line longer than most of the lakes that make up the traveller’s circuit!  Clean air was at a premium for most, the exception being Mr Cliff Milliner, who showed the fleet a clean pair of heels in three of the four races, a penalty in the third race proving the only blemish in an otherwise impressive day.  Behind Cliff however, the racing was tight with former national champion Alex Horlock from Exe Sailing Club the best of the rest, claiming the only other bullet of the day and counting all top three results.  Overall the points among the top 20 were relatively low overnight, showing just how close the racing had been.  Special thanks must be given to the shore team who were charged with lifting almost 100 dinghy’s out of the surf on the fleets return; 2-3 ft of swell may seem small, but breaking onto the sea wall there was ample opportunity for broken boats and sailors were it not for the excellent organisation and effort of the club members.

Day 2 video -

On Sunday, competitors arose to the sound of clinking halyards and violently flapping flags for the final day of the championship.  With the wind now blowing hard offshore, it was a rapid but thankfully flat ride out to the race course out in the centre of the bay.  With the windward buoy just an orange pinprick under the cliffs of Paignton, the racing got underway at the first time of asking (incredibly there was only one recall the entire weekend!) and the fleet had the chance to stretch their legs and rake their rigs.  The change in conditions brought new faces to the front and leading round the first few legs was class newcomer Chris Bownes from Bartley Sailing Club, attending his first nationals in the supernova and the first as a helm!  He was soon hauled in and overtaken by the chasing pack, but clearly his foray amongst the front-runners had inspired him, as he took a 2nd and the final bullet of the event.  Also taking a race win was returning runner-up from the 2018 championships and Class RYA Coach, Alistair Godwin from Haversham Sailing Club, who was a constant in the reckoning all day.  Ultimately, taking the first bullet counting more podium places throughout the day was enough for Cliff, who took the Championships with a race to spare.  A win in race six wasn’t enough for Alex, who showed outstanding speed in the heavier air but was hampered a kicker failure leading to a bad start in race seven.

Day 3 video -

Cliff and Alex had been in a private battle for the honours all weekend, and took a deserved first and second overall.  Behind them Alistair had wrapped up third with 2018 champion in fourth.  The top 4 were covered by a total of 9 points, with 15 points back to Gavin Young and Alex Collins who ended the event tied on points.   

The win makes Cliff the first person to ever win the trophy 4 times and officially our greatest ever champion.

It is worth saying that the commentary above relates to the sharp end of the fleet, but there were fantastic battles throughout the fleet.  Sunday’s racing was just brilliant champagne conditions – all of the competitors had a massive smile on their faces and we hope that everyone one will return next year.

In the Silver fleet Jeremy Higson from Bartley Sailing Club took a well-deserved win, finishing in an impressive 18th overall, second place was Tom Chadfield from Blithfield and third Jonny Everett from Llangorse.

This was the formal launch of the new Bronze fleet and the inaugural winner was Paul Schofield from Hunts Sailing Club in 76th place, second was Kevin Band from Bolton and third was Gordon Tweedle from Haversham.

The coveted team trophy was returned to defending champions Bartley Sailing Club, who took this year’s prize counting 7 of the top 20 place’s, a fantastic achievement for the home club of the Class Chairman, Chris Hawley.

In the age related categories it was the Critchley brothers from Bolton who dominated – Tony winning the Veterans (over 60s) and Mike winning the Masters (over 50s).

Ellen Clancy (Cotswold sailing club) retained the ladies trophy, beating her mum Lesley Jeanes into second, followed by Serena Stewardson in third and Alison Lynall in fourth. 

Michael Adams won the Mark 1 prize, with an impressive 24th overall and some results just outside the top 10.

A massive thank you to all 103 competitors who signed up for the nationals this year.  The event was just epic and we are so pleased that those who took part seemed to enjoy it so much.   The event is a perfect mix between competitive sailing and socials, a testament to the welcoming and friendly nature of the sailors in the supernova class.

Remember you can re-watch the action on SailRacer and recall all of the cases where things went well or not so well.  Fantastic photos of the event are available from Peter Mackin via his website

Also, a huge final thanks to Paignton Sailing Club who once again hosted a fantastic event with a phenomenal race team who were professional through and through, as well as all the help with launching and recovery in some tricky conditions.


Overall Results:

1st  - Cliff Milliner

2nd – Alex Horlock

3rd – Alistair Goodwin

4th – Sam Knight

5th – Gavin Young

6th – Alex Collins

7th – Chris Bownes

8th – Mike Critchley (and first Master)

9th – Matt Biggs

10th – Anthony Critchley (and first Veteran)


1st Lady – Ellen Clancy

1st Silver Fleet – Jeremy Higson

1st Bronze Fleet – Paul Schofield

1st Mark 1 – Michael Adams

Team Prize – Bartley Sailing Club

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