Skipper Ben Tylecote and his team claimed the first event of the RYA Match Racing Series 2024 at London’s Queen Mary Sailing Club.
A sell-out Qualifier 1 saw nine teams #rockupandrace in RS21s across a range of conditions ahead of the arrival of Storm Isha (20-21 January).
Saturday started lighter with the breeze building through the day, enabling the race team to start on time and complete the round robin series by around 4pm.
Ollie Meadowcroft was beaten by Matt Greenfield in his first match but from then on won all seven his remaining races in the round robin to top the leaderboard overnight.
Greenfield, Tylecote and Patrick Croghan meanwhile each claimed six race wins in the round robin to result in a three-way tie for second.
A prompt start on the Sunday in a race against time before Storm Isha came in saw the teams launching with reefed mains and the breeze already up at 15-18 knots.
Both semi finals were concluded with a 2-1 scoreline, with Tylecote beating Meadowcroft and Croghan winning from Greenfield.
The petit final was unable to run after a crew member from Greenfield’s boat fell overboard; with a concern over concussion, the team withdrew, which saw Exeter University’s Meadowcroft and his team finishing third overall.
With the wind now building quickly, Tylecote won the first race of the final and was then leading up the beat in the second when the jib halyard broke on Croghan’s boat.
As the breeze hit 30+ knots with the arrival of Storm Isha, Tylecote was declared the overall winner.
Play-offs down the fleet saw 8th racing 9th, then the winner racing 7th and so on. Oli Hale, who finished the round robin in 5th, consolidated his position.
Exeter University’s Heather Quinn, the only female skipper, finished last in the round robin but won the 8th/9th and 7th/8th matches to advance to 7th overall.
Event Director David Campbell-James said: “We were worried the whole week about Storm Isha so went ahead on the basis that Saturday would be a good day and Sunday we’d get maybe half a day. We had five more experienced teams and four less experienced teams, so some of the races on the Saturday were quite close and some were less so, but everyone was having fun.
“The racing was then really good on the Sunday but we did have to stop around 12.30 and it turned into a bit of a frantic day. But overall everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, with good-spirited racing from all of the teams.”
The prizegiving included thanks to the club for hosting and all of the volunteers who supported the event, including Robert Owens, completing his first weekend as a match racing umpire.
It was a good start to the season for skipper Ben Tylecote, who was Down Under racing in Sydney Harbour in December at the Youth Match Racing Worlds and a pre-event championship.
Sailing with Issy Leetch, Matt Wright, David Bromilow and Will Martin for this event, Tylecote said: “We hadn’t all sailed together before so that’s always an interesting experience but we started really coming together as a team towards the end when it mattered the most.
“I think coming into this event as a skipper after two weeks of international match racing against some pretty good teams helped, along with everyone in the team having some experience of keelboats and also bringing their skills from other classes like the 470.”
Both Tylecote and Issy are members of Rutland Sailing Club, which benefits from having two RS21s for training thanks to a John Merricks Sailing Trust legacy grant.
Tylecote added: “The conditions on the Saturday were pretty manageable but shifty and patchy, so if you weren’t close covering someone they could come from behind and overtake you.
“Then on the Sunday, it became so windy that even with reefed mainsails, we were having to dump the jib in the gusts and we had a couple of broaches along with some of the other teams. It meant that managing the gusts and not tripping up and slipping sideways was a big factor but it was a lot of fun and it’s always good to get the RS21s going fast in the wind!”
RYA Match Racing offers a warm welcome for both new and experienced teams with support on hand at events for those wanting to give it a go for the first time.
Next up in the series this Spring is the RYA/BUSA Women's Winter Match Racing Championships at Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy, 17-18 February.
RYA National Match Racing Qualifier 2 is then at Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Burnham-on-crouch, 9-10 March, with Qualifier 3 at WPNSA, 20-21 April 2024.
Find all the information and entry for upcoming events at RYA Match Racing.