Unstoppable force

We talk to top UK RS200 and Merlin Rocket sailor, Roger Gilbert
The UK dinghy scene has produced many top sailors over the years, some of whom go onto race professionally while others seem content with simply performing impressively in their chosen class or classes. Roger Gilbert is once such top sailor, who has resisted the draw of professional sailing, but has, over the years, proved himself to be an exceptional sportsmen. Recently at the RS200 National Championships, Gilbert and his crew Jane Willan, took victory counting straight firsts. This is a particularly impressive set of results, especially in a 136 boat fleet. For Gilbert this represents the third time in a row he has won the 200 Nationals, having taken first place easily in 2007 – again with Willan – and also in 2006 with his sister Katrina. In spite of his impressive series this time round, Gilbert thought the competition was actually closer than the results table shows. “In some ways this year was the best competition we have had. Obviously there were more boats than we have had before, but there was also more strength in the top 20,” he explains. “There was a huge depth of talent and a load of youngsters are now coming in, showing the older hands how it is done.” Despite modestly claiming this year he was pushed all the way to take the title, Gilbert clearly has RS200 sailing down to a fine art. So what is the secret to his success in the small doublehander? “I think the big thing is downwind pace, particularly in marginal planning where we are very fast and there are lots of gains to be made,” he confides. “If you can get the boat planning that makes all the difference. I sail massive angles as well, so I will make 30 degree angle changes on waves, using