Kent Schools Sailing Association Annual Regatta

Combative conditions greeted the competitors in the Kent Schools Sailing Association Annual Regatta at Downs Sailing Club on 17 September.
28 Sep 22
KSSA regatta 2022 winners

With thanks to Jonathan Bentman for this report and photo.

The Kent Schools Sailing Association (KSSA) held its ‘Annual Regatta’, the last of three scheduled regattas each season, at Downs Sailing Club, in Walmer, on 17 September. Following a very successful team outing at the National School Sailing Association’s National Youth Regatta, where the KSSA team won several classes and the Team Trophy – there were high hopes for a competitive day’s sailing.

‘Combative’ might be the better adjective as the 30 dinghy crews looked upon the English Channel in some dismay as a brisk north westerly was whipping up a fair sea. The morning’s racing nonetheless got underway on time, only quickly it was evident the increasing wind strength was making conditions untenable. Barely one lap into the first race the call came from the committee boat to abandon the morning’s programme. Given the conditions, the rest of the morning was taken up with recovering the fleet as the young sailors learnt much about the challenges of swell and gusts – and capsize recovery!

After lunch the wind had abated slightly, although the sea state, now on high tide, looked no less challenging. Given the crashing waves over Downs SC’s steeply sloping stone beach, launch and recovery carried some risk, so only half the fleet made the decision to join the afternoon’s race start. Despite the uncomfortable ride at anchor for the race officers on the committee boat, the actual sailing conditions had improved and a near 40-minute race around a trapezoid course was run successfully.

Here, young Izzy Johnson prevailed in her Topper. Having recently sailed in the Topper Worlds at Lake Garda and having clearly picked up a lesson or two in high winds and big fleet racing, the Chipstead SC youth sailed away from the rest of the Topper fleet and did enough to beat on handicap the winner on the water, Bobby Deards (Wilsonian SC) in his Laser Radial. Bobby then finished just one second ahead of the Topper of Harry Mitchell (Erith YC), again on handicap. Incidentally, both Bobby and Harry won their classes (Radial and Topper) at the NSSA Nationals. Equally close was the race for fourth place, as Dan Hebditch (Topper, Chipstead SC) squeaked in ahead of Enya Gibbs (Radial, Wilsonian SC) by just two seconds. Close racing all round, on handicap at least.

With the wind and tide still causing issues on the beach, and with conditions likely to deteriorate further, the decision was made to abandon the rest of the day’s sailing and get the youth sailors (and adult safety crews) safely on land.

So, the KSSA witnessed some excellent racing, but sadly in only the one completed race. Such is the sailing life. However, the KSSA is far from done for the 2022 season, it now embarking on a three-date Autumn training and race coaching programme, starting at Margate YC on October 1. This will be followed by Whitstable YC on October 29 and finally a lake sailing session at Chipstead SC on November 26. The training caters for all abilities, beginner to winner, so long as the helm can sail a triangular course and is under 18 years old (and lives in Kent) everyone is welcome. For more information see

Steve Mitchell, the RYA's Regional Development Officer, said: "The KSSA once again delivered a fantastic regatta, enabling a large number of young people to go sailing on the Kent coast. The KSSA has long been an asset to Kent with many Kent clubs signposting their young sailors to KSSA's annual calendar of events, including training and racing, to help support youth development. 

Photo - The award winners, with winners of the fast fleet, Bobby Deards, and slow fleet, Izzy Johnson, centre of the back row.