Kielder Water SC’s Robbie Langford will be competing for national honours in the RYA eSailing Spring Club Championships after claiming the North East title.

Ten of the region’s finest e-racers represented their sailing clubs to battle it out on Virtual Regatta on Saturday 16th May 2020 and the top four places were decided on countback after an incredibly close finish.

After five races, with two discards, Robbie’s scoreline of 3, 1, (4), 2, (8) was just enough in the final reckoning to take the title from Tynemouth SC’s Justin Smith, who counted a trio of second places to likewise finish on six points nett.

Third overall just a point further back was Sunderland YC’s Danny Boatman with Derwent Reservoir SC’s Simon Weatherspoon in fourth, also with seven points, with these two likewise only separated on countback.

The event was streamed live on Facebook @RYANorthEast with live commentary from RYA Keelboat Development Manager Jack Fenwick, giving supporters a chance to tune in and cheer on their club!

Commenting afterwards, Robbie said: “It’s been amazing, when you get a load of high quality racers on this game it’s really thrilling. It was so tight, I know the positions were changing constantly and I’m really pleased to have just snuck into first place. Very happy!”

The 20-year-old engineering student is now looking forward to representing Kielder Water SC and the RYA North East region in the national final of the Musto-sponsored RYA eSailing Spring Club Championships, which will take place on Saturday 30th May 2020.

Race strategy

Robbie Langford by the water pre-lockdown with actual boats sailing in the background! On the water, Robbie is race captain for Sheffield University Sailing Club, whose team qualified for the BUCS Team Racing Finals in 2019 and again this year.

Explaining his strategy as 'Captain Rob' for the virtual racing of the North East RYA eSailing Spring Club Championships, he said: “Going into the first race I just wanted to have a safe race and not do anything too stupid, and kind of suss out who the good guys were to beat. Once I knew that I could focus on making sure I was staying ahead of certain people, which was swaying which way I’d go on upwind legs and so on, and also making sure I kept finishing in top positions.”

First beats were key and Robbie pulled off one of the most memorable starts of the event with a last second spinnaker drop and port flyer in race four.

Asked about his decision-making heading into the first leg of each race, he said: “I’m always before the start looking at where the wind might have shifted and what the shifts have been like before the start, seeing if it’s quite consistent or if it seems to be blowing around.

“I’ll check if the port end is higher and then I can maybe start at the port end, depending on the wind shifts and what the wind direction is, and I’ll also be looking up the course, seeing which areas of water look like they’ve got a bit of wind coming down on them - you can tell quite a lot from that I feel. You can sail into some nice windy patches if you play your game right.”

Tough competition

Robbie Langford's port end flyer on Virtual Regatta in race 4 of the regional eSailing club championshipsSecond-placed Tynemouth SC’s Justin Smith said: “Every race seemed to have quite shifty wind conditions which could make or break someone's race. I managed to make a lot of positions by picking some good shifts on both the upwind and downwind legs.

“Best manoeuvre I have ever seen was pulled off by Robbie when he started a race on port at the port end with the spinnaker flying, dropping the spinnaker with less than a second to go and crossing in front of the fleet on port. It can be seen on the video on the RYA North East Facebook page (at 17 minutes). I was the blue boat closest to him. It was a bold move.”

Simon Weatherspoon, who just missed out the podium having led the championship early on with a bullet followed by a hat-trick of third places, added: “Although I was happy with how I came back from some tough spots, I wish I had gone for some riskier starts in later races. In hindsight, two discards meant that we could afford to have a bad race and I think I was too conservative in my game plan.

“Ultimately, I needed either another 1st or a 2nd to win overall. That being said, it was a great experience and so close between the top four! The last race in particular, when me and Danny went right and the others went left, was very tense because the wind could have gone either way, but went left. Unfortunately it just wasn’t my day. But congratulations to Robbie, who I grew up sailing with in zone squad, coached by the brilliant Martin Boatman. It was great to see Danny Boatman carrying on the family name and keeping everybody on their toes. Overall a brilliant day, thanks to the RYA and everybody involved in making it a great event.”

RYA North East Regional Development Officer Sam Usher said: "It was incredibly tight racing and a really exciting event for all the competitors and for everyone watching. Well done to all the competitors and to Robbie on claiming the title as the region’s champion - good luck in the finals!"

Find out more about eSailing and RYA events held as part of the #SailFromHome programme here.

The results sheet from the regional eSailing championships showing the close finish for the top competitors and the rest of the placings