A hat-trick of titles went to a team from the Midlands following the four-day RS Feva National Championships at Hayling Island Sailing Club.
Millie Irish and Jess Powell from Draycote Water SC made a dramatic comeback after a tricky day one to claim the national, ladies and pro-am titles.
Millie, aged 16, helms a 420 but returned to the RS Feva for the nationals and invited 11-year-old Topper sailor Jess to crew with the aim of introducing a new junior sailor to the class.
Lucy Jameson, RS Feva Class Association Secretary, said: “Millie and Jess entered the event as a Pro Am team, a concept that had been introduced by a past RS Feva Chairman Jon Webster, the idea being that past RS Feva sailors enter the RS Feva National Championship with a new to Feva sailing partner. The newbie sailor would have a boost of confidence knowing that they are in the very capable hands of an experienced friend who knows the boat well and also understands the format for racing. It was clear that under Millie's excellent guidance, and with her boundless energy and confidence, this team would be a force to be reckoned with.”
The pair had been lying 27th overnight following the first day of racing for the 85-boat fleet, but then smashed out four races wins on day two to enter the final series for gold and silver fleet racing in third overall. Adding a 1,6 to their scoreline on day three saw them enter the last day in pole position and consolidating their overall lead with a 5,1,1,3 for championship victory.
Millie said: "It was great to be able to take Jess to her first RS Feva event and first-ever nationals and we made a great team! The conditions were tricky and in such a big fleet we had to stay focussed across the four days but we worked really hard and it's brilliant to have been able to win the title."
Millie is a former Optimist Zone Squad, Optimist Intermediate National Squad and RYA RS Feva National Squad sailor, while Jess is just beginning her journey through the RYA pathway for junior classes, having gained selection to the BYS Regional Training Group for Toppers in 2020-21.
Jess was inspired at the age of six by meeting GBR’s Rio Olympians at the 2016 Royal Dartmouth Regatta and two years later – supported by her non-sailing parents – found her way into the sport via an RYA Stage 1 and 2 course with Rockley in Poole. Certificates 3,4 and advanced followed alongside sailing with Draycote Water SC’s juniors and coaching with the club’s Draycote Academy, which was launched in 2019 to develop young racing sailors to a national level.
Jess did her first Topper race at the club in September 2019 and competes on the Midlands circuit but has only so far competed in one Topper national series event. In the run up to the RS Feva nationals, Millie and Jess took part in a handful of Wednesday evening club races to introduce Jess to competing in a doublehanded boat.
Jess said: “Draycote has taught me so much and I have made so many great friends. From the courses to the academy, it is a fun and friendly place for juniors. It was really exciting to win the RS Feva national championships with Millie at Hayling Island Sailing Club. It was an amazing experience for me and between us, we sailed consistently strong throughout the whole regatta. The support and congratulations from our club has been amazing.”
British Youth Sailing’s Tim Hall, RYA Regional Performance Manager for the Midlands, said: “I’m so impressed with Millie and Jess winning the Feva Nationals at Hayling Island. A huge event with some serious competition and these two girls from Draycote have really shown their skills and determination to win. So nice that Millie, who usually sails a 420, teamed up with Jess, who is only just turned 11 and sails her Topper in the Midlands RTG and with the Draycote Academy. They only did a few Wednesday evenings on the lake after school, so to go and win on the sea is even more impressive. I know they had so much fun and this shows how good it is to sail different boats with different people. Watch out for these two passionate sailing girls in the future!”
Also demonstrating winning ways from Draycote Water SC were junior sailors Imogen Green - also a member of the RYA Midlands Topper Regional Training Group - and RS Tera sailor Felicity Angell, who finished their first RS Feva Nationals with an impressive second overall in the Silver Fleet.
The next opportunity for junior sailors to join the RYA British Youth Sailing Regional Training Groups will be in autumn, when selection events will include the BYS Regional Junior Championships. To find out more about RYA pathway classes and training, visit British Youth Sailing.
To find out more about sailing courses for children, visit RYA Training.