Day 1 - Royal visit & close racing

Post date: Jul 24, 2015 5:36:14 PM

By Mike Haigh

Sailing teams from around the World joined battle on the first day of the 2015 ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Team Racing World Championship at Rutland Sailing Club, Rutland Water on 20 July.

Some 18 teams from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan and USA, plus an ASAF (Asian Sailing Federation) team comprising Indian, Malaysian and Hong Kong sailors are competing.

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, President of the Royal Yachting Association, visited the event and attended a reception to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of Rutland Sailability, which provides sailing for disabled people of all ages, in her capacity as Patron of the RYA Foundation.

On arrival Her Royal Highness was presented to Richard Langford, OBE, chairman of RYA Foundation, Martin Sutcliffe, Rutland Sailability chairman, Rutland Sailing Club commodore Nick Clarke, club manager Hugh Neill, and championship event director David Wilkins. David then explained the 2015 ISAF Team Racing World Championships from race control in the John Merricks Training Centre.

Following lunch Her Royal Highness chatted with championship competitors including the GBR 1 and the Japanese under 19 teams, then was taken out in the spectator boat by Rutland SC head coxswain Dick Richardson for a close up view of the action in the team racing, and to see a sail past by Rutland Sailability. Finally Her Royal Highness visited the clubhouse for a reception where she was introduced to members of Rutland Sailability.

Event director and former Olympic sailor David Wilkins said of the opening day's events: "We've really had a fantastic day here. The racing has been very close between the top half dozen teams.

"The Royal visit was very enjoyable. Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal spent over an hour out on a boat. She was very interested in our Sailability fleet as there is such a wide variety from training to performance boats.

"She was very knowledgeable, having done a lot of sailing, and was fascinated with the team racing and picked up the format very quickly. You get some amazing things going on around the course marks and I would encourage anyone to come down and watch the racing."

Francine Counsell, a twice British Universities Sailing Association team racing national champion, and now in the Bermudian team, said: "It's good to see so many teams here at Rutland and great to have such a wide range of countries including Bermuda's first time at a Team Racing World Championships."

"We are eager to show the world that Bermudians can hold their own not only in fleet racing but team racing as well," added team captain Emily Nagel, the 2014 International University Sports Federation women's match racing World Champion. "We have all been busy training in earnest anticipation of the event in which Bermuda has never been represented before."

Rutland Sailability chairman Martin Sutcliffe said: "The Royal visit was absolutely wonderful. We had a fantastic day. Her Royal Highness reviewed the Sailability fleet and we had a very good technical discussion about how we'd re-rigged the boat she had named for us at the London Boat Show, and whilst watching the team racing she called to one competitor to advise him of a rigging problem. At the Sailability reception she spoke to every single person in the room – absolutely marvellous. We had a great day which people will remember for a very, very long time."

The ISAF Grade 1 event is the pinnacle of international dinghy team racing. Races are very short at around 12 minutes and can be action packed and spectacular.

The top sailors competing are often World and national dinghy champions in their own right. Many have sailed for university and collegiate teams and have already represented their countries at international level.

More than 100 races took place on day one, and after 99 races the British GBR 1 team West Kirby Hawks, who are the current World Champions, were tying with USA 1 on 11 race wins, closely followed on 10 wins each by GBR 2 and GBR 3, and USA 3 on nine wins. The top youth teams were USA Y1 on five wins and GBR Y1 on four.

The competition has Open and Under 19 divisions and the top three teams in each section will be awarded ISAF championship medals.

The GBR 2 team is the Royal Forth Hoosiers, who are the reigning UK National Champions, and the GBR 3 team is from Bristol University.

Magdalen College School, Oxford, Sevenoaks School, Kent and West Kirby Sailing Club on the Wirral make up the British Youth (under 19) teams.

Principal sponsors of the event are The Royal Yachting Association, Rondar Raceboats (providing two flights of Firefly dinghies), Allen Brothers (British manufacturer of performance dinghy hardware), Oakley (sunglasses) and Rooster (chandlery).

Other sponsors include: Old Pulteney, Harken, Zhik, Gill Marine, Selden, Barnsdale Hall Hotel, Redwings Lodge, Berridge Taxis, Sevenoaks School, West Kirby Sailing Club, Anglian Water and Rutland Tourism. Additional flights of boats are being loaned by Oakham, Oundle and Uppingham Schools and Rutland Sailing Club.

A 'Virtual 2015 ISAF Team Racing Championship', hosted by SailX, will also be run in conjunction with the real event.

Live video coverage of the racing will be available on YouTube along with GPS tracking provided by SailRacer.

For breaking news and race results, follow Twitter @ISAFupdates and @Rutland2015. Use Twitter hashtag #TRWC to participate in the conversation throughout the championship.