Mark Lees and his crew of Tarra Gill-Taylor and Matt Wallis were this weekend (12-13 October) crowned RYA Youth National Match Racing Champions after seeing off the challenge of eight other teams at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sailing venue provided some great conditions for the nine teams to battle it out in the RYA's fleet of former Olympic class Elliot 6m boats. The sailors completed the full schedule of the round robin stage before going on to contest semi-finals and final in which Lees and his team needed all five races to book their berth in the 2013 RYA National Match Racing Grand Finals.
21-year-old Lees from Poole, who won the same event back in 2009 at Queen Mary Sailing Club and who finished on the podium in 2011 and 2012, was pleased with his win considering his team had never stepped in foot in a boat together before this weekend.
"It's always pleasing to win but this was especially satisfying for a number of reasons," expressed Lees.
"We were a bit cautious going into the event as we had never sailed together before and the practice day was called off so we really were starting from scratch as a team. Also Phil and his team, who we raced in the final, beat me in the final of the Youth European Championships two weeks ago. My crew from that event were all too old for this regatta so that added a bit more pressure so it was great to win this time."
Lees continued: "I think our greatest strengths were our starts and our mark rounding's. We spent a long time sat on the boats on the dock on the practice day and just talked through all the manoeuvres, what might happen when, back-up plans etc. I think that was really valuable time, the guys did really well to make it all happen when we were under pressure."
After cruising through the round robin stages and a semi-final bout against Tom Harrison, Lees faced Philip Bendon in what turned out to be a thrilling final which needed all five races and came right down to moves at the finish line before championships honours could be decided.
"I think the final was definitely the highlight, we wobbled a bit after going 2-0 up and didn't get what we wanted out of the starts and sailed his [Philip Bendon] race instead of ours. But we were always positive and confident that if we got our plan then it would come good and thankfully that's what happened in the last race," said Lees of his victory.
Lees, who will now come up against the cream of the crop at the RYA National Match Racing Grand Finals in November, was quick to give praise to his two young crew members - 19 year-olds Tarra Gill-Taylor and Matt Wallis.
"Tarra and Matt are both very good dinghy sailors and sailed together in the 2009 420 World Championships. This year they were selected for the UK Etchells Class youth academy (as was Phil Bendon) and have posted some top results this year including coming 3rd in Cowes Week. They were both great, they never stopped working on the set up and we felt like we got the boat going really well and a lot sooner than we could have hoped for without any preparation."
Sailors are reminded that entry is still open for the RYA NMR Qualifier 1 which will take place in J80s at Queen Mary Sailing Club on 9-10 November 2013.
The RYA National Match Racing Championship Grand Finals in conjunction with Royal Thames YC will take place in J80s at Queen Mary Sailing Club on 22-24 November 2013.
Entry forms for the 2013 RYA National Match Racing Series along with the NOR for each event can be found on the RYA event website, please send completed entry forms to firstname.lastname@example.org
2013 RYA Youth National Match Racing Championship Results
1 Mark Lees, Tarra Gill-Taylor, Matt Wallis
2 Phillip Bendon, Chris Tiernan, Tommy Freeman
3 Jason Saints, Jordan Saints, Emily Nagel
4 Tom Harrison, Jonty Cook, Will Goldsmith
5 Andrew Wishart, Joe Stansfield, Alex Frankling
6 Matt Deacon, Smith Cameron Ho, Eddie Romano
7 Dan Stokes, Tom Piggott, Tom Cornthwaite
8 James Cunnison, Matt Goodburn, James Dewing
9 Nathan Howell, Henry Cross, Richard Stonehewer-Smith
Photo: Mark Lees (Centre) Tarra Gill-Taylor & Matt Wallis