Thanks to Ali Hinds for the report.
Young sailors Ffinlo Wright, Patrick Cope and Rory Donegan, racing for King William’s College, recently beat the Isle of Man Yacht Club’s team to win the trophy in the nail-biting final of the 2013 Topper Challenge on the Mooragh Park Lake.
The annual event is a team racing competition for teams of three sailors aged 16 and under, raced in identical Topper dinghies. Six teams took part in the event, representing the Isle of Man Yacht Club, 7th Wave Sailing Centre, the Venture Centre and King William’s College.
Team racing presents a different tactical challenge to more conventional racing as individuals. Two teams compete head-to-head in a bid to finish ahead of their opponents. After each race, the finishing positions of each team are added together, and the team with the fewest points wins. Stronger sailors can help the weaker members of their team to overtake their opponents to gain a winning combination of results.
The forecasted 60-knot winds and torrential rain failed to materialise and sailors were treated to sunshine and a moderate breeze throughout the day. The Mooragh Park has a reputation for swirling winds and big gusts, and all the sailors coped extremely well with the testing conditions. Despite several dramatic capsizes the majority made it around the race course without incident, a testament to the talent and determination of these young sailors.
Several members of the Equiom Manx Youth Sailing Squad took part, racing for the KWC and IOMYC teams. Other teams, including the Venture Centre and 7th Wave, included sailors who had never raced a sailing dinghy before. But the unfamiliar Toppers helped level the playing field between the competitors, whose ages ranged from eight to 16 years old.
Racing was exciting throughout the day, with very few races won by a clear 1,2,3 combination. Some star performances came from the IOMYC women’s team: Emily Batchelor, who normally acts as crew, sailed brilliantly and reminded us that she is an excellent helmswomen in her own right, while Anna Harding sailed skillfully despite having only a tiny amount of racing experience. This team, led by Amie Shute, had lots of really close races and their final result certainly did not reflect how well they had sailed throughout the day.
KWC 1 won all five of their round-robin races thanks to some superb starts from Patrick Cope and consistent sailing from the other team members Ffinlo Wright and Rory Donegan. Close behind them were IOMYC 1 and the Venture Centre, who were tied on three wins each, followed by 7th Wave and the IOMYC women’s team, both with two wins. KWC 2 struggled to get to grips with the unfamiliar boats, and after a series of dramatic capsizes, did not win any of their races, placing them sixth.
The top four teams then progressed to semi-finals in which KWC 1 beat 7th Wave and IOMYC 1 beat the Venture Centre, setting up a two-lap showdown for the trophy between KWC and IOMYC, each fielding two members of the Equiom Manx Youth Sailing Squad.
KWC’s Ffinlo Wright cleverly positioned himself on starboard tack on the start line and gave two members of the opposing team penalty turns before catching a gust of wind which took him half way to the windward mark before most of the sailors had even crossed the start line. This brilliant piece of sailing enabled him to maintain a clear lead for the entire race.
By the first mark IOMYC’s Ben Batchelor and Matthew Perry were in second and third place, and the pair helped team-mate Ali Kelly overtake two of the KWC boats with some tactical sailing during the second lap. But KWC’s Rory Donegan was third around the windward mark, giving KWC a winning 1, 3, 6 combination.
Batchelor sped down the run in a bid to take third place from Rory, which would have given IOMYC a winning 2, 3, 5 combination. It was a photo finish, but Rory had done enough, beating Batchelor by a whisker to secure the trophy for KWC.
Thanks to the Venture Centre for providing the Toppers and safety boats, Salamander Services for the generous refreshments and finally to Nigel Hendy, who founded the event in 1994, for presenting the trophy.
Results: 1, KWC 1 (Ffinlo Wright, Patrick Cope, Rory Donegan); 2, IOMYC 1 (Ben Batchelor, Matthew Perry, Ali Kelly); 3, Venture Centre; 4, 7th Wave (James Arnold, Dylan Sewell, Will Henthorn); 5, IOMYC 2 (Amie Shute, Emily Batchelor, Anna Harding); 6, KWC 2 (Alec Cope, Robert Harding, Alex Brown)