The first of three RYA Winter Match Racing events got underway at the weekend (22-24 January) at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA).
Claire Lasko’s Royal Thames Yacht Club team won every race over the course of the weekend to be crowned RYA Winter Match Racing one champions.
Fully briefed the teams headed to WPNSA on Saturday morning to rig up the RYA’s fleet of matched Elliot Keelboats, the boats used for the London 2012 Olympic Games Women’s Match Racing. The wind gods were smiling on Portland Harbour and the teams enjoyed 12-16 knots of breeze all day.
Training and improvement are important at the winter match racing events, and the teams were given time in the boats to get to know them and practice their boat handling manoeuvres.
With this practice session completed, Richard Kingsnorth, Principal Race Officer, got the first flight underway on time at 11am.
The strong umpire team, led by Ewan McEwan, was put under pressure from the very start, with tight racing and flags flying all over the place.
By the end of the first day, and with nine of the ten round robin flights completed, Lasko’s all-female team were the only unbeaten team securing them a semi-final spot. Bruno Van Dyke, also guaranteed a semi-final spot, followed closely in second with their round-robin match against Lasko scheduled for first thing Sunday morning.
Tom Low, sailing with his brother and his cousin, had won four out of his seven matches and had secured his place in the semi-finals. The fourth semi-final spot was still to play for.
On the second day Lasko kept up her winning ways beating Van Dyke to win the round robin. The last space in the semi-finals was taken by Ali Hinds.
In an effort to keep everyone sailing as long as possible the normal fifth and sixth playoff was replaced by a round robin to decide fifth to eighth.
Lasko won both races in semi-final against Hinds to secure her spot in the final. In semi-final two, Van Dyke beat Lowe comfortably in the first of the best of three series.
Lowe fought back to level the series in the second race and the teams faced off in a sudden death decider. Van Dyke’s experience, normally on the bow in match racing, came to the fore and he took the decider to ensure a place in the final.
Lasko won the first match of the final and the pressure was on for Van Dyke in the second. The race started even with Van Dyke winning the pin, he couldn’t quite squeeze ahead of Lasko who led around the first and second mark. Tacking and gybing battles endured for the rest of the race and Van Dyke had an opportunity to sneak around Lasko’s bow.
Lasko defended with a double gybe, luffing Van Dyke off the course. Lasko led into the finish, as she had done all weekend, winning the first Winter Match Racing event of the season.
In the Petit-final Lowe kept his cool to take a 2-0 win over Hinds.
Second placed Van Dyke said: “I had a great time this weekend, it was a great event with a good mix of competition from Claire who is an experienced team and match racer to the younger guys giving match racing ago for the first time.
“We had a decent breeze and great sailing on the Saturday and lighter, trickier conditions on the Sunday to challenge many aspects of our sailing. The race management did a great job getting all of the races completed and our thanks go to them.
“I will also send my entry off for Winter Match Racing three first thing on Monday morning,” concluded Van Dyke.
The second event in the series will be held at WPNSA19-21 February which is now full.
Bruno Van Dyke