West Kirby Hawks successfully defend
West Kirby Hawks remain RYA National Team Racing Champions after they successfully defended their title in an extremely exciting showdown at West Kirby SC last weekend.
The Hawks sextet of Dom Johnson, Debs Steele, Andy Cornah, Hamish Walker, Ben Field and Tom Foster, went into the Championships determined to hold on to their crown for another year having finally claimed the title in 2009 following a frustrating runners-up finish in 2008.
Seeing off the challenge of 17 of the country’s best team racing outfits, all racing in two-person Firefly dinghies, the Hawks romped through Saturdays races and employed some masterful team racing tactics on Sunday to squeeze their way through to the finals and land the Prince Philip Trophy retaining their National Champions title.
Conditions on Saturday were near on perfect with a solid 15-20 knot wind enabling the days full schedule of races to take place. After some fast pace action on the water for day one, Sunday bought with it opposing conditions throwing up light and shifty winds which made for some rather more challenging conditions for the eventual winners who didn’t quite have everything their own way.
The full house of 18 teams, equalling some 108 sailors, were split into two leagues of nine, with the top five teams in each league progressing into the Gold League and the remaining teams heading into the Silver.
In League A, the Hawks posted a clean sweep beating all eight teams they faced, cruising through to the second phase Gold league in top spot. The Hawks team went into Sundays race schedule un-beaten however, new young kids on the block, the Eagles, a boisterous young team from Exeter University, laid down the gauntlet to the defending champions pulling off an impressive performance and notching up the only win against the Hawks in the round robin stage and smashing their un-beaten record.
Ruffled by their defeat, the Hawks made no mistake in taking their remaining Gold league races, finishing the round in top spot again to secure their semi final place.
Qualifying for the semis along with the Hawks were two West Kirby rivals, the clubs Youth team, the Hilbre Highlanders in third place and rival seniors West Kirby in second. Joining them after a points tie break for fourth place in the Gold league were Royal Thames who having beaten the Eagles in their head-to-head, which ranked them higher, made it through to the finals by the skin of their teeth.
With a semi-final pairings between first and fourth and second and third placed teams, the Hawks team seemed sure to beat Royal Thames, but a fascinating battle of tactics ensued. Having won one race each, Royal Thames led the deciding race right up until the last leg and looked to have subdued the Hawks. But courtesy of skilled team racing up the final beat by Andy Cornah, who represented Team GBR at the ISAF World Team Racing championships in 2009, the Hawks crossed the finish line level with Royal Thames but with protest flags flying. Much to the dismay of Royal Thames, the umpires decided their boat had not kept clear and the resultant penalty allowed Hawks to scrape into the final.
The second semi-final race off wasn’t quite so exciting with West Kirby beating the young Highlanders hands down in their two races to secure their finals place.
With all to play for in the final showdown the Hawks employed an almost faultless performance in front of the home crowd beating their West Kirby rivals two races to nil to claim the victory and retain their title.
The next big Team Racing event on the RYA calendar is the Eric Twiname RYA Junior and Youth Team Racing Championships on 16-17 October. Last year’s event attracted no fewer than 300 youngsters to Farmoor, Oxford where West Kirby Youth (Youth) and the Suffolk/Hertfordshire Union team Anglian Express (Junior) sailed out victors.
2010 RYA National Team Racing Championships final results (top six):
1) West Kirby Hawks
2) West Kirby
3) Hilbre Highlanders
4) Royal Thames
5) Exeter Eagles
6) Edinburgh University