Mike O’Donovan from Stokes Bay Sailing Club, Gosport, will be competing in the national final of the RYA eSailing Spring Club Championship this Saturday (30 May) after winning the South Regional Final to win the right to represent the South.
The South regional final (which took place on Saturday 2 May) saw twenty of the region’s finest e-sailors battle it out on virtual water, with the leader board changing hands frequently through-out the five races. Paul Outram representing Guernsey Yacht Club took second place whilst Robbie Southwell from Island Sailing Club, Isle of Wight, secured third spot.
Mike O’Donovan, 19, who sails under the virtual sail name of DeJaVu, improved his performance with each race. Out of five races in total, Mike was able to discard his first two race results (eleventh and twelfth) and make his next results of fourth and two first places count. After the first two races Mike realised that he needed to do something differently, as he explains: “I needed to fix my starts mainly. For the first couple of races I was a bit complacent and was trying to be a bit too fancy in my starting technique and so from race three onwards I stuck to the more tried and tested, lower risk, starts.”
Mike added: “To be honest though, every race is so different that I wasn’t replying so much on the experience from those races specifically, but more on my experience of virtual sailing as a whole”
When asked if he got nervous before the regional final, Mike replied: “A little. Although the nerves made it fun! I get so much of the same rush from real sailing, as in virtual sailing. Furthermore, everything happens so much faster due to the shorter races that often adrenaline is pumping harder than when out on real water. And that’s what makes it fun for me.”
Originally from Aberdeen, the 19-year-old student become a member of Stokes Bay Sailing Club after moving to the South Coast to attend University of Southampton. A keen laser sailor, Mike competed in the Scottish Winter Nationals, and with his helm won the RS200 Scottish Nationals in 2017. He is now keen to embrace University team racing, along with yacht racing having already taken part in J88 racing during his first year on the South Coast.
It’s the world of virtual reality eSailing where Mike thinks he has been more successful though, as he explains: “I recently won the eSailing Rooster Series. I then went onto achieve eleventh in the Finals Playoffs last autumn, missing out on the LAN finals by only three places, which was pretty bittersweet. I’ve also won the Diamond Cup and J boats Portugal, team racing events as well as other event like Daily eSailing Racing. However: winning the South Regional Final is right up there. It was a pretty tough one to win and I am happy to win it not just for myself but also for my club, Stokes Bay.”
When questioned on if he will be changing any tactics Mike answered: “There will be a lot less boats on the race course and so that changes a lot of how I will approach the racing throughout, as well as at the start. It might come down to just one other boat and me, rather than a selection of us, meaning I might have to focus on them more than the fleet. But for the most part the strategy will stay pretty similar.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to the National Final. I know there will be some tough competition from the other regional finalists but I’m looking forward to the racing.”
On reflecting on the South Regional Final, second place Paul Outram from Guernsey Yacht Club commented: “There was some tough racing with a lot of boats on a short course and very varied results for a lot of people. For me especially: going from second in the first race to twentieth in the second race. I stuck to my tactics and it all came down to getting a fast, clean start to get away from the pack. That gave me the opportunity to my two second places. The two ninths I had to fight for in the middle of the fleet with hectic mark roundings. I thought afterwards that I had done well enough to get into the top ten, which had been my aim, so was really happy to see I had made it into second place.”
Paul added: “Mike did really well in both the qualifiers and especially in the final getting consistent results so he is a well deserved winner.”
Susie Moore, RYA south regional development officer said: “Congratulations to all the competitors during what was an incredibly tight South regional final. I’m incredibly proud of all the South’s eSailors that have taken part through-out this competition and very much looking forward to watching Mike in the National Final.”
With sailing out on the water prohibited during lockdown, eSailing provides an excellent way for sailors to take to the water virtually to get their daily sailing fix. It is estimated that over 3,000 sailors from over 235 clubs nationwide have taken part in the eSailing regional and club heats.
Susie added: “With lockdown restrictions now easing, we are now able to return to the water. However, I am confident that many sailors will continue to play eSailing and it will perhaps remain a part of sailing clubs’ regatta programmes.”
The live final will take place at 10.00am this Saturday 30 May. It will be available to watch for free on the Virtual Regatta website or App. It will also be streamed live on Yachts & Yachting online - www.yachtsandyachting.com - with live commentary from Mark Jardine from Y&Y Online alongside a member of the British Sailing Team.
For those who want to find out more or practise their skills in between club racing, the game is free to play for individuals and easy to access. Simply visit https://www.virtualregatta.com/en/ or download the app on a smartphone or iPad, and click ‘play now’ on either the inshore or offshore game. If you want to compete and keep your score, create a login and a user profile.
The RYA also has a wealth of information to help everyone – from beginners to experienced sailors alike. Visit the RYA for more information: https://www.rya.org.uk/Pages/virtual-regatta.aspx