It was a home win for Olympian Kate Macgregor and her team at the RYA Summer Match Racing Qualifier 3 over a breeze-on weekend at Poole Yacht Club.
Organisers had thought the event might be in jeopardy due to the high wind forecast for 2-3 October 2021 which saw a number of regattas canned along the south coast.
But in anticipation of a couple of weather-windows, a decision was made to go ahead and the sell-out event saw 10 teams match racing RS21 sportsboats and revelling in the conditions.
Day one saw four flights being run, with spinnakers making a brief appearance before the breeze rapidly built and forced a return to shore just as a 42 knot gust was recorded.
Poole YC’s Macgregor and her team of Nicky Walsh, Bethan Carden, Saskia Tidey and Sophie Pearson, won all three of their races and then continued their winning ways on day two.
Breeze and sunshine kicked off the Sunday with more great match racing and busy pre-starts. The wind then started to build, with exciting conditions and smiley sailors loving the downwind blasts with spinnakers mostly up, occasionally away, and boat handling at a premium.
Despite a few big broaches, teams managed the conditions well for some tight racing throughout the fleet, resulting in a tie for second place and a tie for fifth overall as well.
With Macgregor’s team continuing undefeated – winning all of their matches for an emphatic victory – Ali Morrish sailing with Emily Robertson, Richard Moxey and Sarah Jarman took second overall, as in 2020, to add to her second place at this year’s Marlow Ropes Women’s Match Racing Championships.
George Haynes with Lily Reece, Josh Dawson and Huw Edwards took third place in a very tight battle with Ted Blowers’ team of Tom Hough, Bobby Hewitt, Anna Watkins, who in their deciding match had been in the lead but took a penalty early on downwind, enabling Haynes to get past for the win.
Macgregor - helming for this event rather than on bow as for her Olympic match racing and Women’s World Match Racing Champion title - said: “Driving was a little bit different but I had a really good crew with Sophie, Sas, Nicky and Bethan. They did a really good job so it took a lot of distractions away meaning I could focus more on the steering, so it was a little bit different but it was good fun, I enjoyed it.”
Kate has coached many of the sailors she was competing against and found it rewarding to see their progression in action, explaining: “The racing was actually a lot closer than I thought it was going to be, there were a few pre-starts where I did feel a bit nervous! But it was really cool to see how far everyone has come and that all their training that they’ve been doing has been worthwhile.”
Commenting on the secret to her own team’s success over the weekend, she added: “I think we just didn’t over complicate it. We made sure we got off the start cleanly and on time and when we didn’t we definitely paid for it. There was one race in particular where we were late and also had a penalty and luckily we managed to pull back but I think it was just keeping it simple, and in my team there’s a few other experienced match racers so it was useful having them on board as well.”
Another stand out performance of the weekend came from Lymington’s Nik Froud and his team - Sam De La Feuillade, Connie Stock, Hannah Froud and Robby Boyd - who won an impressive four of their nine matches at Nik’s first ever match racing event and claimed fifth overall.
Nik, who sails a Moth and is also a team racer, said: “I wanted to come match racing because a lot of my friends do it and they have a really good time, so I wanted to get involved. I absolutely loved it. I was a bit worried the forecast was for it to be really windy and I didn’t think there’d be much match racing going on - like in team racing if it’s 30 knots it’s just a fleet race - but we were match racing all the time and learning about the rules as well, and all the different boat-on-boat scenarios that I just haven’t encountered before, so for me, comparing the second-to-last race we did with the first, we learnt loads and I really enjoyed it.”
Asked whether he’d recommend match racing, Nik says he ‘100 per cent’ will be back for more and has this advice for anyone who thinks they might like to try match racing: “Just come and do it, if you can fleet race competitively, read up on the rules beforehand, watch a few videos, make sure you’re aware of the differences but just come and give it a go because it’s great fun!”
Next up is the RYA Summer Match Racing 4 Qualifier for the Ceilidh Cup in Sonars at Royal Northern & Clyde YC, Helensburgh, this weekend (9-10 October 2021). The series then concludes with the invitational National Match Racing Championship Grand Finals at Queen Mary SC in RS21s, 29-31 October 2021.
To find out more about match racing and how you can take part, visit: www.rya.org.uk/racing/keelboat-racer/match-racing