The Marlow Ropes Women’s Match Racing Championship returned to Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy with glamour conditions and epic racing.
In sunshine and around 14-15 knots of breeze, the race team smashed through 15 flights and 43 races for a full round robin series, with eight teams duelling for supremacy on windward-leeward courses in one-design Elliott 6M keelboats.
Ellie Cumpsty with Rosie Povall, Pippa Benson and Emily Au dominated the round robin stage to finish day one undefeated, with Ali Morrish and her team of Emily Gent, Mary Chapman and Ellie Clark/Sarah Jarman claiming second overall in the series.
This gave Cumpsty and Morrish a ticket to the finals series, while the remaining six teams went into Repechage, with incredibly close racing taking the battle to the wire for the remaining two semi-final places, which were taken by the teams of Sophie Otter and Sophie Taylor.
Summing up overnight, Cumpsty said: “It’s been a really good day and we had some exciting situations on the water… my favourite was race one against Sophie Taylor, when I tried a new move I’ve not done before and pulled it off; it was good to transfer what we’ve done in training into racing - we knew Sophie was ahead but had a penalty and how that played out made it really interesting.”
Rosie commented that for every race the team had a plan and then executed it, with Pippa explaining: “We’ve practised a lot our communication and who plays each role in the boat and we really took control of those positions today and put into practice a lot of manoeuvres that we’d trained for so that was really positive.”
Emily added: “We went into the first race thinking ‘we just want to enjoy today’ and started feeling like our tactics, sailing and boat handling were really clean and all coming together. We definitely felt like these tiny gains that we’ve made over the last few years had paid off, and small things that would previously have caused us problems, we were just solving as a team, staying calm. We had a good balance of heads in the boat, heads out of the boat, so that together with the conditions and the great course and management, created this perfect day for us to do well.”
Post racing saw the return of the ever-popular Saturday evening debrief and cocktails with Pimm’s and/or lemonade after racing. Day two then dawned with no wind and mirror flat water but a light sea breeze filled in, enabling the finals series to take place around 4-6 knots.
The semi-finals saw Cumpsty’s well-drilled team continuing their winning ways to beat Sophie Taylor, Emma Wrixon, Kate Ledgard and Megan Ferguson 3:0. A tighter affair for the other semi-final saw Sophie Otter, Amy Sparks, Emma Baker and Harriet Watkins competing against Ali Morrish’s team with very close racing resulting in a scoreline of 3:2 to Morrish, while a ‘king of the hill’ competition for 5th to 8th was won by last year’s champion Octavia Owen.
The score for the petit final between Otter and Taylor went 1:1, with Otter taking the deciding match to win 2: 1 and claim third overall for the championship. A five-race battle for the title then saw Cumpsty and Morrish giving it their all in the final showdown.
Cumpsty took a tense first race with places changing around the course, then Morrish levelled the series to make it one-all after Cumpsty gained two penalties at the windward mark. A penalty off the start for Cumpsty in race three saw Morrish leading to make it 2:1 but unperturbed, Cumpsty kept pushing to claim another race win. Heading into the deciding match, Cumpsty led from the startline and extended and after splitting with a decent shift held on to claim the title.
Ellie said: “It was a tense finals. We all felt like we’d lost it at one point but didn’t give up and managed to take the win in the end. I don’t think any of us can really believe it! We were 2:1 down to Ali and she was winning by quite a long way in what would have been her third win, then on the final run to the finish we managed to get past but it was really close, so it was quite stressful, and that gave us the opportunity to do another race and we managed to win that one. It was a brilliant event and we can confidently say it was the best weekend of match racing we’ve ever had!”
Full results from the Marlow Ropes Women’s Match Racing Championship, which took place over the weekend of 11-12 September 2021, can be found here.
Among those competing were two new teams to the event. From Cambridge University, Juliette Kennedy, sailing with Lily Reece, Molly Desorgher and Juliette Welham, said: “It was my first time helming a keelboat and first time match racing but I really enjoyed it. Everyone has been so helpful to us and encouraging and we’ll definitely be doing more events.”
Also competing for the first time at the women’s championship was Eva Miller with a team from the east coast, who was inspired to enter after taking part in the Hyde Sails Under 19 Match Racing at WPNSA earlier in the year, and is now keen to do more. Eva, aged 17, said the latest event had been a great opportunity to build on her experience: “I learnt so much and everyone was really welcoming and willing to help and talk to us. We finished last which we expected but we actually won a race so we were quite proud of ourselves. It was really fun.”
Next up in the RYA National Match Racing Series is the sell-out Summer Match Racing 3 event in RS21s at Poole Yacht Club, 2-3 October, followed by the Ceilidh Cup in Sonars at Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club, 9-10 October, which is open for entries. The one-design boats are rigged and ready to go for each #rockupandrace event. Take part! Find out more and enter at RYA Match Racing.