Over 1,000 of the UK’s best young sailors took part in the RYA Zone Championships this weekend (24-25 September) held at various locations around the UK.

Eight venues hosted events with sailors battling blustery autumnal weather. Challenging conditions meant racing was delayed or even cancelled at some venues, rain squalls of 30 knots came pouring down in Cardiff while the North and Scottish sailors took shelter from 40 knot gusts in their clubhouses.

Even with the difficult weather conditions all sailors completed at least one day of racing and at some venues, members of the British Sailing Team were on hand to give their top windy weather sailing tips. 

South East

Over 92 sailors took part in the South East Zone Championships held at Weir Wood Sailing Club.

British Sailing Team’s Eilidh McIntyre put in an appearance on the Saturday answering questions from the competitors then went on the water to give some advice to sailors between races.

The Topper fleet on the Saturday was dominated by Coco Barret (Island Barn Reservoir) putting three bullets in her score line and followed this up with another win and two seconds on Sunday.

The Optimist was a bit more spread out with Jamie Gatehouse and Thicome Biron-Monnier (Weir Wood) putting in some strong results with Gatehouse edging the weekend advantage by just two points.

The Optimist regatta fleet competed a number of races and training sessions. Harvey Jenkins (Newhaven & Seaford SC) won the Optimist fleet and Roan Briggs (Newhaven & Seaford SC) was the Topper winner.

Southeast results

Midlands

Sailors attending the Midland Zone Championships were welcomed to a sunny and warm Draycote Water. Racing fleets included Toppers, Optimist, Bic Techno 293 windsurfers and also a mixed dinghy regatta fleet.

The windsurfers had a great time in the windy conditions training in the morning and racing in the afternoon.

Jacob Felton (Staunton Harold SC) won five of the six Optimist races to win his class. After retiring in the first race, Gemma McDonnell’s (Hollowell SC) consistency in the following four put her two points ahead of Charlie Turnbull (Rutland SC) in the Topper class.

Charlie Bennett and Jack Pilkington (Hollingworth Lake) battled it out in the 4.5m windsurfing class with Bennett just taking a one point advantage to win. Winning all but one race in the 5.8m windsurfer, William Russell was in a league of his own, Billy Ellis won the 7.8m event.

The sailors had a British Sailing Team VIP guest on both days. Dylan Fletcher, fresh from the Olympic Games in Rio, spent the day both on the water and chatting to groups of sailors on the beach, in the dinghy park and helping with lots of tips and advice.

On Sunday, Nick Dempsey, triple Olympic medallist windsurfer and budding photographer, was on duty taking pictures.

Midlands results

South and South West

The South and South West sailors were met with a challenging winds at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

Luckily Olympic gold medallist Saskia Clark and Laser Radial World Champion Ali Young were on hand to give their top windy weather tips in the boat park.

After a short postponement the fleets were launched into the harbour.

The Topper fleet saw some very close sailing with just four points separating the top three sailors with Angus Kemp (Poole YC) first, followed by Milly Jinks (Saltash SC)  in second and local sailor Will Adler (Castle Cove SC) in third.

In the RS Tera fleet Jack Oakley (Royal Hospital School) won with four race wins.

The RS Feva winners were Jamie Allen and Chris Clark (HISC), followed by Rupert Jameson and Ossian Bracegirdle (HISC) and Sophie Dennis and Delphine Ala (HISC, Emsworth) in third with two points between them.

The Optimist fleet was won by William Heathcote (Royal Lymington YC) on two points, with Kieran Young (Spinnaker SC) and James Foster (Poole YC) tied on five points in second and third respectively. Julia Staite (HISC) was the first girl.

The windsurfers had some very exciting sailing in full planing conditions and managed four races with Jaycob Green (Watersports Academy) and Daisy Illingworth (Oxford SC) tied on four points in the 4.5m class, while the 5.8m class was led by Archie York (Croft Farm Flyers) and Bella Thompson (BCYC) in second. The 6.8m event saw Finn Hawkins (Porthpean SC) first with four race wins and Izzy Adcock in second. The 7.8m class saw Jeremy Whale (Porthpean SC) with a perfect score line and Kate Hatcher in second with four second places.

The regatta fleet launched to sail in the protection behind the marina wall and the Optimist fleet was dominated by the girls with Lila Edwards (Parkstone), Ella McWilliam (WSC/RSYC/LRYC) and Gwen Sargent (Emsworth) in the top three positions. The Tera fleet was led by Tommy Millard (Emsworth) and the Toppers by Harris Goodman (Hill Head).

The Sunday forecast proved too much for the sailors and while the fleets were held ashore, British Sailing Team’s Kirstie Urwin was on hand to ask the sailors questions while the windsurfers enjoyed some controlled blasting in coached groups.

With no signs of the wind conditions improving, Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott popped down to WPNSA to sign buoyancy aids and hand out the medals at the prize giving.

South and South West results

Wales

Over 100 boats raced in Cardiff Bay for the RYA Cymru Welsh Zone Championships, with sailors ranging from 8 to 16 years old competing in six fleets contesting the various championships.

The Optimists, Toppers and General Handicap fleet made up of RS Fevas, Laser Radials & Laser 4.7s completed three races before returning to shore for lunch. The conditions were too much for the regatta fleet so they stayed ashore and played games. The Optimists, Topper and General Handicap fleet completed three more races after lunch and the windsurfers managed four races, as did the regatta fleet. 

Sunday’s conditions started out damp, but the Optimist, Topper & General Handicap fleet completed three out of their four scheduled races, battling rain squalls as they went. The other fleets were unable to get in any more races due to the conditions.

Many sailors went away to apply for the squads and hopefully selection to the RYA Cymru Wales winter squad coaching with renewed enthusiasm and determination.

Wales results

Scotland

A postponement was announced on Saturday morning in Largs before racing was cancelled for the day because of windy weather. However sailors were treated to two presentations by the British Sailing Team’s Luke Patience and Charlotte Dobson. 

Sunday showcased Scotland at its best, four races were completed by the regatta fleet with coaches on hand to provide top tips. The star of the fleet was Sean Rutherford in his RS Tera taking four race wins.

The Topper fleet was highly contested with it going down to the wire between Suzy Homer and Finlay Tulett both from Dalgety Bay Sailing Club. Homer’s gear failure proved to be her downfall as Tulett thrived under the pressure to win the final race of the day and take the overall series. The Optimists were more straightforward as Scott Forbes took the first three race wins to continue his fine form from the summer.

The Laser Radials were dominated by Christine Wood of Clyde Cruising Club, who didn’t finish outside the top two despite a capsize in the first race, after a quick pep talk from former Laser Radial sailor Charlotte Dobson, Christine was formidable upwind leaving others in her wake.

The Bic Technos enjoyed the big waves that remained from the previous day’s storm with Maya Wylie and Jude Nicol battling at the top, Wylie was the quickest around the race track taking the win from her rival.

Scotland results

North

Over 90 competitors were met with strong winds at Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club for the North Zone Championships. Sailors were held ashore on Saturday but were kept busy with sessions and workshops on heavy wind sailing technique, starting strategy and strong wind boat set up, which would prove useful on Sunday. 

After a frustrating opening day, the sailors got four races under their belts on Sunday.

In the RS Feva event, Harvey Leigh and Drew Gibbons’ (Leigh and Lowton SC) three bullets ensured they took the top spot ahead of Pierce Harris and Alfie Cogger (Windermere School) and first girls, and third overall, Sian Talbot and Eloise Clapson McBride (Leigh and Lowton SC).

It was a three-way battle in the Topper fleet between Marcus Howard (Redesmere SC), Oliver Mills (Pennine SC) and Tom Platt (Bolton SC) as they dominated the top spots. After a tussle in the final race, it was Howard who secured event honours.

In the RS Tera (Sport Rig) class, Cameron Straughan’s (Derwent Reservoir SC) and Esme Barraclough’s (Ripon SC) consistency paid off in the gusty conditions to take first and second respectively.

Maria Athina Vogiatzl, thanked all of the competitors in the 24-strong Optimist fleet for making her feel so welcome in her winners speech. In close second, and first boy, was local sailor Edward Coady (Derwent Reservoir) followed by George Creasy (West Kirby SC).

Meanwhile, the regatta fleet completed two races in the challenging conditions. Daniel Curtis (Kielder Water SC) and Edward Jenkinson (Tees & Hartlepool YC) finished the event tied on three points apiece, with Curtris coming out on top after the tie-break. Matthew Rayner (Ripon SC) and Henry Ashton (Tees & Hartlepool YC) took the regatta RS Tera and Topper titles respectively.

North results

East

Over 216 sailors gathered at Grafham Water for the East Zone Championships.

The Optimist, Topper and RS Feva sailors coped well with the conditions, sailing two races on Saturday and three on Sunday.

The windsurfers revelled in the high winds with some fast racing completing their full of races schedule on Sunday. Meanwhile the regatta fleet kept close to shore and managed one race on Saturday and three on Sunday with some coaching and other activities provided to help them develop for the future.

Andreas Purse and Macos Purse (The Skinners’ School) won the RS Feva class. William Harrison’s (Marconi SC) three race wins and two seconds put him ahead in the Topper class. Jonathan Bailey (Hunts) won three races in the Optimist to finish first overall.

Queen Mary’s Emily-Jane Eldred won the 6.8m windsurfing class while Tom Cunningham led the 7.8m.

East results

Northern Ireland

Despite challenging weather conditions, it was a successful weekend for RYA Northern Ireland at Strangford Lough Yacht Club, with a record number of 160 sailors taking to the water for the Youth Championships.

The wind took hold on Saturday and sailing was brought to a standstill but Irish Olympic duo Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton were on hand to keep spirits high, delivering an inspiring talk to young sailors, discussing their Olympic journey.

In the 420 Juliette Kennedy and Emily Hill from Strangford Lough Yacht Club took first overall, with Nicola and Fiona Ferguson from National Yacht Club following closely behind taking Silver. Malahide Yacht Club’s Gemma and Cara McDowell secured Bronze.

In the largest fleet, the Toppers, Dan McGaughey from Donaghadee Sailing Club clinched first place and first junior overall while County Antrim Yacht Club’s Jenna McCarlie was crowned second place and first junior lady overall.

The Laser Radial champion was Aoife Hopkins from Howth Yacht Club and Carlingford Lough Yacht Club’s Conor Quinn was first boy overall. He also took first youth overall while Sally Bell from Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club secured first lady overall.

Larne Grammar was crowned winner of the prestigious Schools Cup and County Antrim Yacht Club claimed the Club Trophy.

Northern Ireland results

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