Wessex Exempt and Royal Thames Red ahead
After Friday was canned due to too much wind, the weather gods have been forgiven since Saturday’s racing at the West Kirby Sailing Club’s British Open Team Racing Championship for the Wilson Trophy, was held in brilliant sunshine.
On West Kirby’s Marine Lake, with the River Dee and the rolling hills of Wales as a backdrop, the wind started out as a biting 16 knot northwesterly when racing got underway at 0800 this morning, before gradually shifting left and dropping through what became a summery afternoon.
With the ultra-short, stadium-style team racing held in the event’s uniquely colour-coded Fireflys, so 11 rounds were completed or in total 165 races.
At the end of the day the two stand-out teams are Wessex Exempt and Royal Thames Red, both claiming nine victories out of 11 races.
They are followed on eight wins apiece by Wilson Trophy favourites West Kirby Hawks, Southampton Male Voice Choir and Tabby Cats.
“I couldn’t have wished for better weather,” said PRO Adam Whittle. “It is quite interesting looking at the results: There is no one on 100% wins as there has been in the past, so it is all open.”
In Royal Thames Red are Tim Saxton, Suzy Russell, Claire Lasko, Jodie Green, John Platts Mills and Becky Cross, with all three helms part of the winning British University Sailing Association Tour team last year. Their two losses today came at the hands of New Forest Pirates and Wessex Exempt, so in theory this puts Wessex Exempt top of the pile going into tomorrow’s final day.
London and Southampton-based Wessex Exempt comprises Tom Heywood, Cat Friend, Jonathon Pinner, Maria Stanley, Ben Ainsworth and Rachel Williamson, who have previous form having finished fourth at the ISAF Team Racing World Championship last year. They lost today to The Woonsocket Rockets and West Kirby Hawks.
“I think we just really enjoyed it. We had a really fun day and we didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves and everything worked out alright,” said Ben Ainsworth, frequently confused with a well known Olympic sailor.
Fellow helm Tim Heywood adds: “We went to the Worlds last year, so we raced against a lot of the top teams in the past before, so we just carried on sailing, we didn’t have any pressure. But a lot of the races were really close - much more so than the scoreline suggests.”
Particularly pleasing moments today were beating their friends - rivalry is particularly strong between the Wessex team and Southampton Male Voice Choir and the Royal Forth Hoosiers.
Southampton Male Voice Choir, whose party piece is a particularly rousing rendition of Jerusalem, lost their first race, but otherwise had a good start and end to the day with only two losses in between to the two overall leaders. “Maybe we had a jar or so too many last night,” admitted Ian Dobson, one of their helms. “And we had a little dip after lunch when the blood went to our stomac,h but then we ended on a high beating West Kirby Hawks, which was great because we’ve lost to them many times.”
The American sailors within The Woonsocket Rockets are also in the mix on seven wins. For Washington-based Californian Justin Law, this is his fifth Wilson Trophy, although on each occasion the Rockets have made the trip across with different personnel. Today they lost to West Kirby Hawks, West Kirby Sailing Club, Spinnaker Jedi and Royal Thames Red.
“We have got a third and a fourth place in years past and we are hopeful to do better or match that this year,” said Law. “We had a few ups and downs today, but we ended the day strong. We are hanging tough so we have to finish strong tomorrow. Right now we are on the edge of the quarters.”
For Law a memorable moment of the day came in the race against the Hawks when he was called OCS then hit the pin right afterwards.
Of what attracts US teams to come all the way to West Kirby to compete in the Wilson Trophy, he says: “I have been sailing for a long time and it really is one of my favourite events of all time. The organisation, the people, the sailing, how many races you get to do, the atmosphere – I have sailed all over the place, there is nothing as well organised as this event. That’s the truth.”
Tonight there is the famous Wilson Trophy dinner and for many this will see race strategy continued off the water. According to Wessex Exempt: “There will be certain teams who might be trying to buy us drinks...and we will accept all of them!”
The rounds on the water continue tomorrow before going into the knock-out series culminating in the finals, but the time at which the rounds will conclude remains up for debate as the forecast has the wind building into the high 20s in mid-afternoon.
“The forecast is a bit tricky tomorrow, so it is going to be quite a stressful about when we make the call to go to quarterfinals,” warns the PRO.
Racing tomorrow starts prompt at 0800.