Epic conditions at London’s Queen Mary Sailing Club for the RYA National Match Racing Championship Grand Final saw Kate Macgregor and her team keeping their cool to claim the title.
With racing in RS21s over three days, 29-31 October 2021, and in up to 30 knots of wind, the 12 invited teams began the event with reefs in mainsails and across the weekend the conditions put a premium on boat handling and teamwork.
The strong line-up included a number of past champions, including Andy Cornah (2020), Ted Blowers (2019) and four-times winner Nick Cherry, plus this year’s Harken RYA Youth Match Racing champion Alex Colquitt, and Hyde Sails U-19 Match Racing champion Will Caiger.
In the final reckoning it would be Kate Macgregor, Imogen Stanley, Bethan Carden and Macgregor sisters Lucy Forrester-Coles and Nicky Walsh who would emerge victorious as the the first all female team and first female helm to ever win the championship.
Nick Cherry with Tom Dawson, Alan Roberts, Chris Cowan claimed second overall and Andy Cornah’s team comprising Owen Bowerman, Niall Myant-Best and Si Morris third, narrowly edging out Ted Blowers, Will Birch-Tomlinson, Patrick Bray and Zac Bermon. The full results from the event are available here.
On the same page
Macgregor, who went into the Grand Final having won the RYA Summer Match Racing Qualifier 3 at Poole in October, said: “It was my second match racing event helming as normally I’m on bow sailing for my sister Lucy but we switched over so I helmed and she did bow for me. I didn’t really know what to expect, especially against some of the good guys there like Andy Cornah and Nick Cherry who’ve obviously had a lot of experience, so it was nice to come away with the win.
“I think our boat handling was really solid and we’ve all sailed together a lot which helps. We’re all just on the same page with the boat handling and boat speed and even on the communication side we just know what each other means so that’s really good, especially in those manic conditions when it’s a bit gusty. It was a fun weekend and we all really enjoyed it despite the rain and wind!”
Big breeze on day one put the pressure on, with teams needing to get off the startline cleanly. With one team wiping out during practise before the racing, teams were conscious of the need for solid boat handling, and little mistakes quickly turned into big ones. A couple of races turned on their head due to downwind boat handling issues.
As the wind began to moderate during the day, reefs were taken out and racing became closer with tighter boat on boat situations. After 11 flights the overnight scores revealed a tight battle developing at the top, with Ali Morrish, Nick Cherry, Kate Macgregor and Andy Cornah all very close.
A new day
Day two had a grey start with wind and rain but no reefs and as forecast, the wind dropped and the sun came out to provide glamour match racing conditions.
The round robin continued with Cherry dominating most of his matches, only losing to Macgregor, with Cornah also sailing well with losses only to Macgregor and Cherry. Macgregor, having beaten both Cornah and Cherry, lost to Morrish in a very tight battle on day one and on day two picked the wrong side of the course to lose to Caiger but was fairly dominant in most of her races.
At the conclusion of the round robin, Cherry led with 10 wins from 11 races, with a tie between Macgregor and Cornah for second and third, and a tie between Blowers and Morrish, with the latter in 5th. Also making it to the quarter finals were George Haynes, Alex Colquitt and Joe Burns.
Day two concluded with the quarter finals getting underway with tight racing and Macgregor winning 3:1 over Colquitt and the remaining scorelines 3:0, with extremely close competition as the teams took each race all the way to the wire.
With a forecast for very strong winds on day three, the teams arrived early and were rigging up on the water when a 40 knot squall came through. The race committee wisely returned the fleet to shore for the weather to abate and enable racing to get underway.
The semi-finals kicked off with Macgregor v Cornah and Blowers v. Cherry. Macgregor managed to beat Cornah 3:0. The racing was again super tight but Macgregor and team had the edge and an ability to neutralise Cornah’s strength at starting to take the win.
The other semi- final saw both Blowers and Cherry taking a race win, followed by another one each, with Cherry then showing his experience in the deciding race to make the final. This meant that heading to the final were Macgregor and Cherry, with Blowers and Cornah for the petit final.
A 5th to 8th play off saw Morrish, having finished the round robin in fifth, win her matches to seal fifth place overall in the event. In the playoff for 9th to 12th, the teams of Sophie Otter and Jack Fenwick took the first wins to compete for ninth overall with Otter leading off the line and on the first run. A boat handling error and broach by Fenwick saw Otter extend but a big gust on final run then saw roles reversed, with Otter broaching and Fenwick overtaking for the win and ninth overall.
In the final and petit final there were initial wins for Macgregor and Cornah but their opponents immediately replied with a win in the second race, leading to a third race decider for both. In the petit final, this saw a tight pre-start with Cornah arriving at the windward mark just ahead of Blowers, a lead he then didn’t relinquish to claim third overall.
And the winner is....
In the finals decider, Macgregor set up to windward of Cherry off the start line and explains: “It was one-all and I’d made some mistakes in the race before where we were over the line so we just wanted to get a clean start and we had a plan for that. Some of the pre-starts had been pretty windy so it was quite hard to get the position you wanted and there was lots of sideways action, but we won the start and we were just able to hold Nick’s team out to the port layline and managed to pull away and take control from there.”
On the final run Cherry spotted and gybed into some pressure on the right to try and close the gap but Macgregor’s team had done enough to stay ahead for the win to claim the 2021 RYA National Match Racing Championship title.
Organisers thanked all those who supported the event including the umpires, race officer Tom Rusbridge and Tanya Robinson, event director David Campbell James, hosts Queen Mary SC and RS Sailing. Find out more about match racing and taking part at RYA Match Racing.