Hawks out in front
With 230 races now completed at the 2013 British Open Team Racing Championship for the Wilson Trophy, it’s been a day of high drama as brisk winds have kept competitors on their toes for the second day of racing at West Kirby Sailing Club.
Home team and current defending Trophy champions, West Kirby Hawks are holding on to the top spot, together with RF Hoosiers (winners of 2010 British Universities Championship as Edinburgh University), with both teams having won 11 of their 13 races at the end of the last completed round. A tense showdown between the two teams saw RF Hoosiers finish the day by taking a 2,3,4 victory on the finish line, but the home team favourites remain quietly confident ahead of tomorrow’s quarter-final cut.
Rhode Island Pistols, one of two teams who have travelled from America to take part, was the only other team to defeat the Hawks, treating the crowds on shore to a dramatic exposé of team racing tactics as they stole victory in the final few tacks to the line. At close of play, Rhode Island Pistols counted 9 of 13 wins at the end of the last completed round, leaving them joint-second on the leaderboard, tied with Grafham Goblins and Wessex Exempt.
With the sun shining and the winds strong enough to cause a few capsizes at times, the action came thick and fast as organisers ran 9 hours of continuous racing for the 34 competing teams.
MP for Wirral, Esther McVey, was a special guest today at the event today. Commenting on the spectacle, Esther said: “West Kirby is truly a focal point for world class sailing. I never cease to be amazed at the calibre of sports people that are involved with this event; not only do we have Olympic medallists here this year with the British Sailing Team, but also home-grown world champions.
“It’s fantastic to see so many girls and boys of all ages competing on an equal footing. The Wilson Trophy is a true family event; it’s a real positive and brings people together. The event has been going for 64 years; Wirral people love this event and it’s great that people want to come to the Wirral for this event.”
Ireland’s Royal St George Yacht Club is one of those clubs which boasts a strong tradition of fielding teams for the Wilson Trophy. Speaking about today’s racing, team-member Nick Smyth said: “With lighter winds than yesterday there has been so much more team racing going on, less survival sailing. All our matches have been close today, the Swiss League effect is really kicking in.”
Thanks to the Swiss League format, close racing has been enjoyed throughout the fleet, with a number of teams vying to ‘time the bounce’ up the leaderboard at the crucial time to make tomorrow’s quarter-final cut.
One such team is Cambridge University; team-member Fiona Hampshire says: “This is my first Wilson Trophy and I’m really enjoying it. The racing has been really tight; you really have to sail your best, there’s no room for error. The organisation has been brilliant – we think the event should be run twice a year!”
Also competing at the Wilson Trophy for the first time is the British Sailing Team, which includes 2012 Olympic silver medallists, Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. With 7 out of 13 wins so far, the duo admit it’s been a “steep learning curve” but are not discounting the possibility of making the quarter-final cut tomorrow.
The home club’s two other teams also ended the day with 7 of 13 wins; Hilbre Highlanders and West Kirby Sailing Club team both feature old hands and new faces, as the more experienced team racers have teamed up with some of the club’s junior members, part of West Kirby Sailing Club’s commitment to training and development.
West Kirby Sailing Club team member, Leo Dixon, is a past winner of the Wilson Trophy. He says: “We’re learning lots as a team, especially as we had three particularly tough races in a row this afternoon, but overall we’re having a great time and really enjoying the sailing.”
Racing continues tomorrow at 8am, with the quarter-finals expected to begin at approximately 2pm.
In the meantime, competitors, officials, umpires and volunteers from West Kirby Sailing Club are looking forward to tonight’s legendary Wilson Trophy dinner.