Mike O’Donovan from Stokes Bay Sailing Club, Gosport, will be competing for national honours in the RYA eSailing Winter Club Championship Final after claiming the South title in the regional final.
Fourteen of the region’s finest e-racers represented their sailing clubs to battle it out on the online eSailing platform Vitual Regatta on Monday 15 February. The competitors e-sailed against each other in a series of six live races, in a different class of boat in each race, to really test their skills on the virtual waters.
Mike, sailing under the sail name of “Ronstan Déjà Vu”, raced to three firsts, two seconds and discarded a third place to be crowned the South Regional Winter Club Champion. As Regional Champion Mike wins the right to represent the South region in the National Final which takes place on Sunday 28 February at the RYA virtual Dinghy Show.
Commenting on his win, Mike said: “I'm really happy with the win, how I raced, and I’m also proud that I can continue on behalf my club, Stokes Bay Sailing Club. With the event only having one discard I mostly just focused on having clean starts; not going for the jugular but just playing it safe. I just tried to keep it clean, sailing the percentages and keeping one eye on my main rivals. The game plan played out pretty well I guess!”
As 2020 eSailGP World Champion, Mike is one of the best eSailors in the world. He also medalled with a Bronze in the 2020 eSailing World Championship and led Team GBR to victory in the 2020 eSailing Nations Cup. Several fellow Nations Cup team members also took part in the South regional final including 16-year-old Arthur Farley. Representing Brading Haven Yacht Club on the Isle of Wight, Arthur took second place. Sandy McPherson from Netley Sailing Club came third.
Mike made the perfect start to win race 1 in the 49er boat. In race 2, there was a lot of close racing between Mike and Arthur Farley – who is currently 2nd in the eSailing world rankings. Sailing under his sail name of “VIT Farley”, Arthur pushed Mike all the way down the finish line, and despite suffering some internet connections and having to rely on a slower 3G connection, he was still able to finish second behind Mike in the Laser class boat.
VIT Farley and Ronstan Déjà Vu in race 2 in the Laser
Again, there was some very close racing in race 3 when Arthur took his only win in the Nacra boat. Race 4 in the Star boat was a very tactical affair with quite slow upwind sailing and clever tactics playing a big role downwind. Mike finished second behind Sandy McPherson sailing under the name “Woodwind 5”.
Woodwind 5 claims victory in race 4
Race 5, in the rarely used in the game, Formula 18 boat didn’t start well for Mike as he was given a penalty. Despite this set back he raced back up the leader board to take the win.
Isabelle Waha, from the Royal Southern Yacht Club, won race 6 in the popular eSailing boat J70. Sailing as “Isswizz”, Isabelle is the top ranked female GBR eSailor and a Team GBR member which won last year’s eSailing Nations Cup, along with Mike and Arthur.
Isswizz won the final race of the Final
Reflecting on who his main competitor was, Mike said: “Farley was of course my main competitor, as expected, and he definitely gave me a run for my money. But I managed to get some clean starts and got the better of him this time.”
The 20-year-old aerospace engineering student at the University of Southampton is a Laser/RS200 sailor by trade. He also enjoys yacht racing on the Solent, in particular in J/70s.“Of course the Covid-19 restrictions have hampered things but I managed to get some J/70 sailing in last autumn and I hopefully will get back out on the Laser as soon as possible. I’m looking forward to representing Stokes Bay Sailing Club and the South region in the national final. It should be fun with some really close racing. With a lot less races it might get up close and personal for the win.”
Ten-year-old Raffy Seddon from Salterns Sailing Club, Lymington, was the Regional Final’s youngest competitor. Raffy said: “It was really difficult sailing against some of the best e-Sailors in the country, but if I’d finished 40 seconds behind Ben Ainslie in an RS Tera Race I’d be really happy. I would recommend other your sailors give this a go, it’s a great way to sailing with your friends during lockdown and you can learn lots about the wind and racing strategy.”
The event was live streamed on Facebook @RYASouth with live commentary from RYA South Regional Development Officer Susie Moore and RYA eSailing expert Adam McGovern.
Commenting afterwards Susie said: “There is a lot of top e-sailing talent here in the South. Over the last few weeks, a total of 248 sailors, from across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands, took part in club competitions to qualify for the final. The sailors in the South Regional Final really are the best of the best which was demonstrated with some fantastic racing in the Regional Final.”
Adam added: “What a great race! Well done to Mike and to everyone who took part. eSailing has become very popular and is a great alternative for sailors to get their sailing fix whilst we’ve been unable to get out on the water. I am delighted that so many racers and clubs have got involved in the Winter Club Championship, helping not only sailors to continue practicing and honing their race skills, but also as a means of keeping the racing community engaged and in touch with each other.”