Since the RYA announced the launch of the RYA eSailing Winter Club Championship at the virtual RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference last November, hundreds of club sailors have been taking their tactics and strategies onto the virtual waters in an attempt to represent their club in the national final.

Getting through to the final not only means beating fellow club members in a club championship, but it also requires each finalist to win against other local champions within each of the RYA regions and home counties, which is no easy feat.

A total of 780 competitors have taken part in the championship from 71 clubs. Following the completion of all the regional and home county finals, the RYA can now announce the line-up for the RYA sSailing Winer Club Championship national final.

South - Mike O’Donovan “Ronstan Déjà Vu” from Stokes Bay Sailing Club. As 2020 eSailGP World Champion, Mike is one of the best eSailors in the world. He also medalled with a Bronze in the 2020 eSailing World Championship and as Captain led Team GBR to victory in the 2020 eSailing Nations Cup. “I'm really happy with the win, how I raced, and I’m also proud that I can continue on behalf my club, Stokes Bay Sailing Club. With the event only having one discard I mostly just focused on having clean starts; not going for the jugular but just playing it safe. I just tried to keep it clean, sailing the percentages and keeping one eye on my main rivals. The game plan played out pretty well I guess! The national final should be fun with some really close racing. With a lot less races it might get up close and personal for the win.”

South West – Mike Way “SoapDish” from Exe Sailing Club. Mike bought his first boat, an I14, at the age of 14 and taught himself to sail. 

Midlands - Wil Hitchman “Serenity0” from Ogston Sailing Club. Wil learnt to sail when he was nine years old. After spending time sailing Toppers, Comets and Lasers, Mil now sails a 2000 and a Solo.

East - Rik Codling “VonPigeon” from Woolverstone Project. Rik only started racing in Virtual Regatta last year during Lockdown 1:0. He came 4th in the Sailability RYA eSailing Multiclass Final and won the 2020 Hansa GUL VR Christmas Series.

London and South East - Gary Bullock “Mutley” from Maidenhead Sailing Club. Gary started sailing when he was only 4 years old in a Mirror, until aged 17. After that he tinkered with many other classes before finally sailing a Laser, 35 years ago. Gary is currently the Laser Fleet Captain at Maidenhead Sailing Club.

North East - Justin Smith “JustinGP14” from Tynemouth Sailing Club. After pulling together a fantastic final series to qualify Justin commented: "I never thought finishing consistently 2nd or 3rd would ever win me anything".

North West - Chris Smallwood “Splash” from Budworth Sailing Club. During lockdown 1:0 Chris took up VRinshore eracing and VRoffshore for the Vendee Globe.

Scotland - Paul McCombie “Bell Rock” from St Andrews Sailing Club. Paul is the Chief Instructor at St Andrews Sailing Club and was a member of the victorious eSailing 2020 Nations Cup Team.

Northern Ireland - Cavan Fyans “ACF” from Ballyholme Yacht Club. After coming on the podium at the Celtic Clash, Cavan commented - “It was great to see a good turnout of boats for the first Celtic Clash with only a few points deciding the top three. There was a lot of close competition at the top of the fleet, showing just how much hidden eSailing talent we have across the Celtic regions. RossK gave me a good run for the NI title, especially after I had a couple of bad results early in the regatta and it looked like he was going to get a clear win. I'm looking forward to representing Ballyholme YC & Northern Ireland at the finals on Sunday - There's several boats in it that I race with often, but also a few names I don't know, so I expect a tough race and no easy win for the champion. It's great to see this event being broadcast at the RYA Dinghy Show and all the regionals streamed & commentated by Adam and his team, I'm excited to see what future events we can push to get more competition and events going in the eSailing clubs & communities across the country”.

Wales - James Adams “Jester- 553” from Llandegfedd Sailing Club. James grew up on a sailing boat and claims that sailing is in his blood.

National - Thomas Goodman “Stargazer” from Royal Air Force SA.

Adam McGovern, RYA eSailing Race Officer comments: “We have seen some really close racing in the regional finals with no runaway winner at any event. The closest event has to have been the London & South East final with Gary Bullock beating Megan Pascoe on countback! The line-up for the final is amazing with three of the eSailors from the winning nations cup team in the race along with a host of other top eSailors who have clearly used this lockdown to improve their skill in the game. I can’t wait to watch the final, with only one discard consistency is going to be key if they want to make the final podium!”

The National Final will air live at 3pm on Sunday 28 February at the RYA virtual Dinghy Show. Live commentary will be provided by Mark Jardine, Yachts and Yachting, and Olympic medallist and Team GB sailor Stuart Bithell.

Mark said: “It’ll be great to watch the virtual sailing again after the success of all the 2020 events, such as the Lockdown Cup and The splASHES. Having Stu Bithell join me in the virtual commentary booth will add some real colour – he’s a seasoned virtual sailor and was part of the winning British team who defeated the all-star Australian line-up in the 2020 splASHES, which was such a great moment in British virtual sailing history! The RYA eSailing Winter Club Championship Final is sure to see some extremely competitive action on the pixel seas and it will be fascinating to hear the sailors’ insights and their strategies to win the coveted title.”

Stuart added: “I’m looking forward to commentating on the eSailing Winter Club Championship Final this weekend. It will be interesting to see where the level has got too. its always good to watch and learn from racing and this weekend will be no different.”

To find out more about eSailing, details on how to get started and lots of great videos visit the RYA eSailing hub page – www.rya.org.uk/go/esailing