This weekend, Sophie and I were sailing for Team Itchenor at the Wilson Trophy at West Kirby SC. This event is the top UK team racing event and had teams from America and Ireland also taking part. It was pretty breezy all weekend and this made for some pretty intense racing at high speeds.
(Rob & Ellie and Soph & I lead out along the top reach)
We started the weekend well enough on Friday only loosing to the West Kirby Hawks who are current world champions and this left us 3-1, well within quarter final places in the round robin. The format used at the Wilson is known as a Swiss League, which means that you race teams that are on the same number of wins as you. The idea is to give people even racing throughout the event, with any tie breaks being settled on the quality of opposition you have lost to.
Saturday started bright and early with an 8 o'clock start, and we raced current UK national champions, Spinnaker Auspicious. It was a close race up the first beat with Spinnaker maybe just ahead, however a few close tacks with ourselves and 2 of the spinnaker boats had them doing penalty turns and allowed our team to sail into a comfortable 2,3,4 combination which we held till the end of the race. This was followed by a frustrating loss to the Royal Forth Hoosiers and Royal St George Knights and convincing wins over the Rhode Island Pistols and the Royals Thames and the BUSA Champions, Bristol. The Hawks came and gave us another lesson on how to start, and Grafham also got the better of us as we finished our day in 5th looking good for qualification on 9-5.
(We are in yellow boats Andy & Pippa are 16, Rob & Ellie 17, Soph & I 18, starting against RI Pistols)
Sunday started with a race against Spinnaker, which was a close run affair all the way down the run, till I dropped the tiller and this allowed them to sail into a 2,3,5 combination which would give them the win. After a close last beat spinnaker came out ahead and finished with a 1,2,6. We then went on to beat the New York YC and the Hoosiers who had been tumbling down the leader board since their lead on day 1. Then a disappointing loss to West Kirby SC, West Kirbys 2nd team, meant that we thought we could be in trouble to qualify as some of the other teams had been winning a few more. This meant to ensure qualification we had to win our last match of the round. The list had us against the West Kirby Hawks for a 3rd time. It was a tough race with the Hawks quickly converting to a 2,3,4 at mark 1 with Andy & Pippa in 1st. Rob and I did a good job converting down the run and when it looked like we maybe about to convert to a 1,4,5 a gap opened up at mark 3 and Rob & Ellie drove through it, while Andy & Pippa fended off the leading Hawks boats and we were through to a 1,2,6. Up the last beat Rob & Ellie covered the left while Andy & Pippa the right, but a right wind shift meant that one of the Hawks boats were able to catch Rob on starboard. Carnage at the finish occured as Rob did a big tack and dial down to miss the starboard tacker, the other Hawk boat tried to slam dunk a tack on top of him however he hadn't noticed Andy lining him up and as he went for the tack he crashed into Andy and got a penalty! This allowed Rob & Andy through to take the win, and our place in the quarters.
In the quarter finals Team Itchenor faced RI Pistols, Spinnaker v Wessex Exempt, Grafham v RF Hoosiers and WK Hawks v Royal Thames. In our quarters we didn't start well and Soph & I got penalties in both races which unfortunately left the team too much to do as we crashed out. So RI Pistols took on Wessex and Grafham took on the Hawks. After the best of 3 semis which saw some top racing between the Hawks and Grafham, it was a Wessex vs Grafham final.
Wessex started well showing some strong team racing, however Grafham had the edge when it came to boat speed. Race one saw a win to Grafham following a penalty on the finish line, but Wessex came back with a stronger start to finish in a 1,3 winning combination in race two. The third race was closely contested, with boats from both teams taking penalty turns on the second leg, but Wessex gained the advantage on the run and held it to the finish. In race 4 at 2-1 down Wessex gave them some space at the start and Grafham sailed into a 1-2 from the start to take a comfortable win and level the match at 2-2. The final race was all full on at the start, until at the start one of the Grafham boats was late and another over the line effectively handing the match to Wessex who sailed into a 1,2,3 at the top mark and took the deciding race.
It was a great event as it always is and fully recommended to anyone who is keen. We were a little disappointed to lose out in the quarters to a team we had beaten twice already, however the team has come along way this year and we reached our goal for the year so should be positive. This year the 470 duo of Luke Patience & Stu Bithell were racing as British sailing team and gave a speech at the dinner which was very complimentary of not only the organisating committee but also the sailors who showed that it takes much more than just boat speed to compete in this sector of the sport, as they finished 27/34.