Hundreds of the UK’s most promising young sailors took part in the RYA Zone Championships this weekend (23-24 September) held at various locations across the UK.
Nine venues hosted events with sailors challenged by light and shifty winds in England, with Wales and Northern Ireland experiencing strong winds on Saturday, while some venues were lucky enough to see the summer shine continue to shine.
Despite the wait for wind in some parts of the country, only Northern Ireland were unfortunate enough to have extremes of weather with too much breeze on Saturday followed by flat calm conditions on Sunday. Some venues were lucky enough to have members of the British Sailing Team on hand to give their top tips.
The second largest of this year’s events was held jointly between Royal Torbay Yacht Club (RTYC) and Paignton Sailing Club (PSC). On Saturday the 156 sailors were greeted with champagne conditions on the English Rivera at the 1948 Olympic sailing venue, with sunshine and 10-15 knots of wind and a slight swell. Sunday saw Torbay masked by light winds causing a short delay before a two more races were completed.
Five race areas were laid across Torbay, with the Toppers, Optimists, RS Fevas and RS Teras along with the regatta fleet sailing out of RTYC, while the 55 Laser 4.7s and windsurfers launched from PSC.
In the 35-strong Topper fleet, race wins were shared amongst five youngsters. But consistency meant Ben Purrier (Parkstone YC) led from the outset to win the fleet, whilst Matilda Gregson (Starcross YC) finished as first girl in second overall.
Optimist sailor Finley Hartshorn (Bowmoor SC) took event honours with an impressive string of five bullets and a second, while Emily Elms (Thornbury SC), the only other race winner, finished first girl and second overall.
Another dominant display came from Quinn Edmonds and Fin Oliver (Chew Valley Lake SC) scoring five race wins to take the Feva title. The Tera fleet would prove to be the closest event with Albert Gillmore (RDYC) winning on count back with four race wins to William James’ (Paignton SC) three race wins.
The national Laser 4.7 fleet reveled in Saturday’s chop, but it was Drew Barnes (Christchurch SC) who mastered Sunday’s light breeze to win the 54-boat fleet. Flo Nicholls (Royal Lymington SC) edged ahead of her rivals to finish first girl and eighth overall.
Sailing close inshore, the windsurfers provided a great spectacle for the spectators watching from the harbour breakwater. Ellie Wilcox (OTC) won the 6.8m fleet, with Archie York first 7.8m. In the smaller rig fleet, Luke Pailing (OTC) finished top 5.8m, while Alexander Meadway (Swanage SC) led the 4.5m windsurfers.
On Sunday local British Sailing Team 49er duo Rhos Hawes and Morgan Peach met with the sailors before they launched offer advice and see the young sailors in action. At prize giving both sailors talked about their sailing history and the fun they had in their junior sailing with great memories of the first Zones eight years ago.
South West Regional Volunteer Committee Chair Roger Jobson also attended the prize giving and commended all the sailors on their endeavour. He presented a new perpetual Trophy, the ‘RYA Zone Championships Club Trophy’ for the club which had the most sailors attending the event. With 26 different South West Clubs represented, Paignton SC were the winners with 11 sailors, Castle Cove SC second and Team15 Club OTC third.
South West results
Oxford Sailing Club welcomed 99 sailors for the South Zone event laying on sunshine and force two to three conditions all weekend creating quite the spectacle for onlookers onshore.
As the weekend progressed, it would be those who could capitalize on wind shifts and spot pressure who eventually came out on top.
In was a family affair in the largest Optimist fleet at the nine venues with 59-boats taking the startline. Kuba Staite (Hayling Island SC) stormed to victory counting all top three scores. After an OCS in race three, Julia Staite clawed back to finish top girl and fifth overall.
With six first to her name, Phoebe Hutchings (Warsash SC) was victorious in the Topper fleet winning by a 19-point margin. Fellow Warsash sailor Frederick Barry finished first boy in third overall.
London and South East
Some 129 sailors gathered at Datchet Water Sailing Club for the South East Zone Championships. A steady 10-knots across the course all weekend meant the sailors had no trouble completing a full series.
Over on the 33-strong Optimist course, it was a battle of the Gatehouse brothers from Bewl Barbarians. In a close matched event, it was eventually Charlie Gatehouse who edged ahead to beat brother Jamie Gatehouse by one point. Laura Elms (HISC) took the girl’s gold medal.
With four bullets on his scoreline, Aaron Evans (Silver Wings SC) snatched the Topper victory, whilst Yana Skvortsova (IBRSC) finished top girl in fifth overall.
In the Feva fleet, Joe Slipper and Tea Sirolla (Silver Wings SC) narrowly topped the scoreboard after beating Abby and Tim Hire (Royal Lymington YC) on countback.
On the Windsurf course, Cameron Kersey (Queen Mary SC) proved unbeatable winning all nine 4.5m race, meanwhile Tommy Millard (Emsworth) took the 5.8m crown. Queen Mary windsurfer Elektra Day-San counted seven bullets in the scoreline to win the 6.8m fleet, while Louis Walker matched the performance in the 7.8m fleet.
London and South East results
On the East Coast Royal Harwich YC played host to 86 young racers. The event saw the Optimist and Topper fleets, and coached regatta fleet take to the river Orwell. Sailors were lucky enough to meet British Sailing Team Nacra 17 sailor Kirstie Urwin as she chatted to the youngsters offering her top tips and answering questions.
At the second largest gathering of Optimist sailors, William Pank (Norfolk Broads YC) stormed to victory in the 38-boat fleet posting five firsts and a second. The only other race winner Florence Brellisford (Corinthian Otters) was crowned first girl.
Local sailor James Deaton (Royal Harwich YC) used home water knowledge to his advantage to win the Topper fleet, while Catherine Albone (Milton Keynes SC) took girl’s gold in eighth overall.
The largest gathering of Zone Sailors descended on Rutland Water with 170 sailors competing across four dinghy fleets, four windsurf classes as well as a coached regatta fleet.
Not finishing a race outside of the top two, Charlie Turnbull won the 34-boat Topper fleet, while Kate Robertson (Swarkestone SC) finished first girl and fifth overall.
Consistency paid off for Hazel McDonnell (Hollowell SC) as she topped the Optimist fleet leaderboard. First boy and second overall went to Thomas Kelsall (Stauton Harold SC).
In the national Cadet fleet, Angus Collingridge and Edward Fletcher (Waldringfield SC) landed event hours by a massive 20 points. Rosie Targett and Sophie Sfaxi (Frensham Pond SC) first girls and second overall in the 26 boat fleet.
Rutland Water saw the largest congregation of windsurfers with some 40 boards taking to the racecourse. In the smallest 4.5m rig, Rebecca Hall (Glossop SC) took the event win, while Jack Harrison (North Lincolnshire and Humberside SC) finished first boy in second overall.
A tight battle ensued between 5.8m windsurfers Jack Pilkington (Hollingworth Lake) and Caitlin Boothroyd (West Kirby Warriors). In the final race decider Pilkington did enough to beat Boothroyd on countback. Charlie Bennett (North Lincolnshire and Humberside SC) won the 6.8m fleet, while Jennie Roberts (Hollingworth Lake) took 7.8m honours.
Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club provided sailors with light winds over the weekend which offered great close racing in the shifty but predictable breeze over the two courses.
Saturday was a game of snakes and ladders with the overnight leaders coming from the consistent scorelines. A very close matched Topper fleet saw Oliver Mills (Penine SC) pip fellow club sailor Millie Heeley to take first, with Heeley in second overall and first girl.
Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club dominated the Optimist fleet taking all three podium spots, as Edward Coady led the charge to win the event. Abi Cowley (Kielder Water SC) finished first girl in fifth overall. Meanwhie Teddy Dunn snatched the Tera fleet gold medal, with Esme Barraclough named as girl’s champion.
The regatta fleet, led by Jo Crabtree saw sailors learning new skills both on and off the water, followed by putting them into action on day two’s racing.
Event Director Roy McCubbin commented: “A big thank you to the team at Leigh and Lowton who went the extra mile to deliver an excellent Zone Championship.”
Over 130 boats launched on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond for the annual RYA Zone Championships. This year the event incorporated the Scottish Club Trophy as the coached regatta fleet which brought several new classes to join the overall fleet.
Alongside the two Zones fleets consisting of Optimists, Toppers, Laser 4.7, Laser Radials, RS:X, Techno, 420 and 29er, while the Scottish Club Trophy fleet took on the regatta fleets and included Fevas, Teras and Hansas.
The club volunteers did a fantastic job throughout the varied and predominately light airs regatta, from assisting on the water across the three courses to the flow of hot tea and bacon rolls in the clubhouse.
Glen Carrick, Loch Lomond Sailing Club’s Commodore said, “The Event has been very well run, many thanks to all our volunteers who have put in a lot of work in the background. It’s great to host a RYA event with over 160 competitors on the water and all the parents for getting them here. It has been absolutely tremendous.”
Conditions started out light on Saturday but picked up during the day, perfect for those new to racing in the Club Trophy fleet. The more experienced racers battled with shifty and patchy breeze to keep their places at the front of the fleet over the day’s three races.
Sunday brought a change in weather to the locally named ‘smurr’ or Scotch mist but the breeze remained constant enough to hold another three races on the Loch. British Sailing Team 49er sailor Gilles Munro joined the coaching team afloat and provided some insights into his sailing pathway.
Munro commented: “It doesn’t feel very long since I was here at a Zone Championships listening to Luke Patience and receiving a prize from him when I sailed a Feva or a 29er. To come back and be associated with that is really cool. It’s great to see so many kids out sailing and coming through the RYA Pathway, some of them maybe standing up at the prize giving and sharing their story in a few years.”
At the Welsh event, 108 sailors enjoyed the sunny weather and gusty conditions on Fishguard Bay with winds ranging from 25 knots to a manageable 12 knots on Saturday. The sailors aged from six to 16 competed in six fleets contesting the various championships.
Sunday dawned with drizzle and light winds enabling the smaller sailors to have their day. However a combination of light winds and sea fog curtailed the day for the main fleet who only managing to get in one more race. Meanwhile closer to shore the regatta fleet managed another three races.
Callum Davidson-Guild (Treaddur Bay/Shotwick Lake SC) showed a clean pair of heels to his competitors in the 34 strong Optimist Main Fleet with a string of firsts with Elle Thomas (Cardiff Bay YC) top girl.
The 32-strong Topper fleet was won by Aled Llewelyn-Jones (Saundersfoot SC) posting 3,1,1,1 while Lowri Boorman (Dale YC) finished as first girl.
Feva duo Josh Manning and Lucy Hughes (Pwllheli SC/Rydal Penrhos) won the general handicap fleet counting all top three results. They were joined on the podium by first girls Megan Owens and Anja Ackerman (Pembrokeshire YC).
Meanwhile Fishguard Sea Cadets dominate the windsurf fleet with Mia Childs crowned top girl and Jack Type winning the boys fleet.