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RS Games preview: RS800s and 200s

Big guns out in for the Weymouth RS fest

Tuesday August 9th 2011, Author: Emma Macguire, Location: United Kingdom


Fast and furious action is promised from the RS800 class, who will be competing for the 2010 National Championships as part of the RS Games. With a ten race series kicking off on the 15-19t August, the RS800s will be one of the first of the nine classes involved to sample racing out on the Olympic waters at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
With 54 entries to date, competition in the RS800s looks wide open this year, with the return of past National Champions in the class, Olympic medallists, potential future Olympic sailors, and a raft of current RS800 sailors on top form. Calling a clear favourite is impossible!
Past winners returning for another stab at the title include 2006 RS800 National Champion, Ian Martin, crewed by top skiff sailor Johnny Clegg. Also back and in contention is 2007 RS800 National Champion and 2008 Garda RS Eurocup winner, Peter Barton, now crewed by Paul Davis. Although Pete has claimed he is not taking it seriously, this is hard to believe for anyone who knows Pete! RS800 National Champions from 2009, Laurie Fitzjohn Sykes/Daniel Allin, will also be wanting to add a second National Champion title to their first.
However, standing in their way will be plenty of other RS800 sailors who have already shown great form so far this year. Justin Deal/Ollie Page have won three of this year’s GUL Grand Prix Events, and showed podium potential finishing third at the 3009 Nationals. Nick Charles/Chris Martin have won two of this year’s GUL Grand Prix events and will be looking to improve on their 5th at the 2010 National Championships.
Already proving their potential by winning this year’s Zhik Eurocup, Andy Jeffries/Alison Oddywill undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, the teams of Tom Halhead/Stu Jagger, James Date/Toby Wincher and Rob Watson/John Clifton also have plenty of pace and good results to back up a claim for the title.
Wild cards in the pack could be double Olympic medallist from the 49er class, Simon Hiscocks, who will be crewed by Development Squad sailor Mary Rook. Current RS200 National Champion David Hivey crewed by top RS200 helm James Stewart have elected to try out their trapezing skills and could well stand a chance.
With the boat for the women’s twin wire skiff for 2016 Olympic Games still to be selected, a number of all lady teams have thrown their hat in the ring early and are now campaigning RS800s to get in as much practise as possible. This means some of the UK’s top female sailors will be fighting the boys for the top places: Frances Peters, 470 RYA Transitional squad member and 2008 ISAF Youth World Champion, has teamed up with top RS sailor Nicola Groves; Ally Martin and Claire Cumming, both with plenty of 470 experience and success in various RS classes, are sailing together; Katie Nurton has Amy Cartwright onboard; whilst Sarah Hickman has linked up with 2009 RS200/RS400 Endeavour Champion and 2011 SB3 World Champion, Emma Clarke. There’s no doubting the competition in this fleet will be fierce, with plenty of place changing anticipated throughout the week.


With a record-breaking 140 entries now registered, this gigantic fleet will see the biggest dinghy National Championship attendance of recent years, Toppers and Optimists aside. Eager for a slice of the action, this bumper entry has attracted some of the hottest names in dinghy sailing, from Olympic hopefuls to class champions and the depth of talent is unparalleled... which makes it something of a tricky task to predict the runners and riders! To finish in the top-30 in this fleet will be a huge achievement, and one which will be made extra special by the fact that the championships is forming part of the RS Games – a unique multi-championship event taking place at Weymouth and Portland Nationals Sailing Academy.

Competition for the Trident RS200 National Championships will take place from 22-26th August, with a series of 10 races being held at the 2012 Olympic venue. The series will be interspersed with three coaching sessions and a ‘new sailors briefing’, giving extra tips and advice to ensure all sailors get the most from the championship, whatever their ability level. As part of the RS Games spectacular, there’s no doubt that the Trident RS200 National Championships will be an exciting event for spectators and competitors alike...

The question of who will take the top spot in the championship this year lies wide open. Despite notable absences from helms Dave Hivey, Geoff Carveth and Roger Gilbert, who between them have hogged the title of RS200 National Champion for the past five years, another two former RS200 National Champions are returning to the fold - Lee Sydenham who won in 2004, and David Giles who won in 2003. With 2007/2008 National Champion crew Jane Gilbert, and current National Champion crew Jane Hivey taking up respective crewing positions, these two teams will be amongst the strongest contenders, having already demonstrated good speed this year.

Other highly experienced front-of-fleet pairings with a wealth of RS talent includes Nick Charles, who has two top-four overall finishes at previous RS200 Nationals, this time crewed by current RS800 National Champion crew Roz Allen. Ian Martin, who jumped into the RS200 after winning the 2007 RS800 Championships, is teaming up with brother, Chris, and has high hopes for topping his third place at the 2009 RS200 Nationals.

The combination of a highly competitive fleet, awesome social side, and the chance to sail at the 2012 Olympic venue, exactly one year ahead of the Games, has been way too much temptation for a number of RYA Olympic squad sailors, who have taken time away from their intense training to participate in the RS Games.

The 49er all-stars posing a threat include RYA Performance Squad member John Pink, crewed by Sarah Hickman; RYA Transitional Squad member and 2008 ISAF Youth World Champion Boys James Peters, crewed by Alan Roberts; and RYA Development Squad member Dave Evans, crewed by current Women’s Match Racing World Champion, Lucy Macgregor.

Stiff competition comes from the 470 squads, with some top name contenders including Christian Birrell RYA Development squad member who comes fresh from a win at the Enterprise Nationals, and fellow RYA Development squad members Ben Saxton and crew Sophie Ainsworth.

RYA Performance Squad member, current Merlin National Champion and Endeavour Champion, Stuart Bithell, has strong potential to lead the attack, crewed by Kate Macgregor, fellow Women’s Match Racing World Champion and sister to Lucy Macgregor. With the two girls usually sailing on the same side, it will be game on between these two boats to see comes out on top. Stuart Bithell’s usual partner in the 470 and Merlin, Luke Patience, has teamed up with Mary Rook from the RYA women’s match racing Development Squad to form another strong team of rivals.

Not happy with just one championship attempt, Mary is also planning to take part in the RS800 Championship too, which is also being held as part of the RS Games. Another top female sailor trying her chances at both the RS800 and RS200 Championships is Frances Peters, current 470 Development Squad member and past ISAF Youth World Champion, one of several participants with their sights already set on the 2016 Olympic Women’s Skiff entry spot! With Nick Redding, 49er Transitional Squad, in the front of the boat, Frances is sure to give the RS200 women’s title a good shot.

Competition will come from experienced RS200 sailor Charlotte Savage, and from RS200 first-timer and runner up at the 2010 RYA youth National Championships, Joanna Freeman.

The Masters title will be quite a battle between David Giles, Mike Saul, Dave Derby (many-times Firefly National Champion), Pete Vincent and Caroline Martin whose vast years of experience at the front of many fleets will also doubtlessly see them give the youngsters a real run for their money.

A number of leading performers on the 2011 Gul Grand Prix circuit could push well into the top rankings, including Tom Morris/Emma Porteous; Chris Catt/Ally Martin; Johnny McGovern/Sarah Williams; Ben Ainsworth/Rachel Williamson - all of who have the speed to do well. Hamish Walker crewed by 2009 RS200 National Champion and Endeavour Champion, Emma Clarke, could be in with a real chance of bettering their fourth-placed finish in the 2010 championship. Former top 470 sailor, 2008 Fireball World Champion and previous GP14 National Champion, Matt Mee, is currently a regular RS200 racer, sailing with Emma Norris, another duo in with a shout.

With so many talented sailors vying for victory, this is without a doubt going to be one of the toughest championships ever fought, and there will be no safe bets until the final gun of the final race. However, insider sources do indicate that past form at RS200 National Championships is likely to carry the front runners ahead of the rest. This puts James Peters with regular RS200 crew Alan Roberts (2nd in 2009) and Ben Saxton (2nd in 2008, 3rd in 2010) in very good positions, whilst the Scottish pocket rocket-ship of Robbie Burns and Vicki Simpson (3rd in 2009, 2nd in 2010) cannot be ruled out regardless of the distinct lack of sailing they have recently managed!

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