Britain retain blind sailing championship
After six months of practice in Cowes it was time to put all the hard work to test. The fifth World Blind Sailing Championships took place the week beginning 23/9/2002 at Gargagno on Lake Garda. Great Britain again competed in all 3 categories, against teams from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Norway, Finland, Northern Ireland and teams from the United States represented by Texas, Florida, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
The conditions on the Lake were not ideal throughout the week with the three practice days being in either very strong winds or no wind at all. Whilst the expected swing from Northerly to Southerly winds generally happened around Midday the afternoon breeze never really got above 10 knots. The B1 and B2 crews were racing in the Italian Built Protagonist 7.50s and the B3 crews sailed the Dolphin 81s.
Racing started on the Thursday with the B3 crew (consisting of Gary Kirby, Martin Moody, Ian Shirra and Toby Davey) taking two wins and a third, and the B1 crew (Vicki Sheen, Sean Semmens, David Parker and Andy Stokes) taking an eighth and third. The B2 crew ( Lucy Hodges, Chris Sinclair, Gary Butler and John Simpson) raced in the afternoon gaining a fifth and a second place.
The following day saw stronger winds in the morning that suited the British crews. Stronger winds brought more action, a near miss in the B2 fleet at the windward mark, was to bring much excitement to the crews and spectators. As both Texas and Great Britain approached the mark on Starboard, Finland was approaching from Port. With the mark a matter of two and half boat lengths away Finland tacked onto Starboard directly in front of Great Britain. A lot of deep breaths and a big bearaway saw a collision avoided, the Great Britain boat then headed up to round the mark in front, as the others got in each others way.
In the B3 race the British crew found some good wind on the downwind leg on the first lap and the windward beat on the second to propel themselves from fourth to first - a fleet they dominated throughout the week. Overall a good morning saw both the B2 and B3 Crews taking first and second in their 2 races. Unfortunately in the afternoon it was only possible to run 1 race for the B1’s as there was no wind at all with Great Britain taking seventh.
With one days racing to go nothing had been decided with regards to the overall team trophy. Team Manager Graeme Love and trainer Ivan Sheen were busy calculating positions in respect of the overall squadron cup for the best team as results came in. The B1s and B3s raced in the morning with the B3 team securing the gold medal with another win and a fourth place. The B1 crew had their best day of the regatta with a sixth place followed by a win and a second to secure fourth overall. The B2 crew raced three times in the afternoon securing a 6th and a third but were unfortunately ruled OCS in their other race thus ruling them out of the gold position but still sufficient to win bronze.
These overall results were sufficient to enable the Great Britain team to regain the Squadron cup beating New Zealand in to second place as we all hope will be the case in Auckland.