Wessex Exempt crowned
A full house of 24 teams were selected to compete in the UK Team Racing National Championship this weekend, arriving to a blustery (but - crucially - sunny!) breeze that allowed the deeply experienced race–team at Spinnaker to set the first warning signal on time. The over-subscribed entry list meant that all the facets of the strong UK team-racing scene were represented, including 2013 University National Champions (Bristol University), 2013 School National Champions (sailing as Royal Thames YC), 2013 Wilson winners and 2013 Irish National Championship winners (Wessex Exempt) and the two-time UK National champions returning to defend their title (Spinnaker Auspicious).
Based on performances over the past year, teams were seeded into four ‘mini-leagues’, which were completed by mid-afternoon on Saturday. The top two teams in each mini-league then began a gold-league round-robin, with the other teams divided into silver and bronze leagues. The high standard of entries made for some extremely close racing (especially given the 30° shifts that forced more than one sailor into ‘auto-tacks’). Spinnaker Club, made up of ex-Southampton University sailors, showed themselves as a force to be reckoned with during an undefeated morning – and a few teams were undone as strict enforcement of the wetsuit/drysuit rule cost crucial race wins.
Racing was halted for the evening after 101 races, with the committee letting the sailors off the usual early-morning motorway dash by setting a 10am Sunday start. Spinnaker Auspicious won a tight race against Wessex Exempt to spend the evening unbeaten, ahead of Royal Forth Hoosiers.
Sunday morning dawned much like Saturday – a similarly shifty wind-direction forced the race-team to adapt to the local geography, setting the ’starboard-S’ team-racing course around the lake's island. Spinnaker Auspicious continued their unbeaten run to end the gold league on top, with Wessex Exempt and Royal Forth Hoosiers also qualifying for the knock-out semi-finals. Silver league winners Royal Thames YC defeated 4th-placed Cambridge University with a 2-1 win in the 3-race play-off for the final semi-final spot.
In amongst hail-storms, 25 knot squalls and moments of glassy calm, the semi-finals got underway after lunch. Wessex Exempt defeated Royal Forth Hoosiers 2-0, while Spinnaker Auspicious bounced back from an initial defeat from Royal Thames to progress to the final with a 2-1 victory. The weather-gods threw one more spanner in the mix, with a wind-shift on the start-line of the first race of the final forcing the race to be abandoned and the entire course to be moved to a different area of the lake. In a first-to-3-wins final, Wessex Exempt made the most of some solid starting to defeat Spinnaker Auspicious 3-0 and win the Prince Philip Trophy and the 2014 UK Team Racing National Championship.
The prizegiving was a crowded affair, recognising the immense contribution of Spinnaker SC members to make the event such a success. The majority of the competing teams will now be looking towards the coveted Wilson Trophy competition, the unofficial world championships of team racing, which takes place in West Kirby on 9th-11th May.
1st: Wessex Exempt (Ben Ainsworth & Rach Williamson, Tom Heywood & Cat Friend, Jon Pinner & Kerry Capps).
2nd: Spinnaker Auspicious (Sam Littlejohn & Jo Findlay, Matt Findlay & Toby Lewis, Tom Hebbert & Marianthe Evangelidis).
3rd: Royal Forth Hoosiers (Rob Friend & George Clark, Tim Saxton & Pete Matthews, Ed Green & Isobel Walker).