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Learning experience for Derbyshire Youth Match Racers

by Mike Haynes on 26 Feb 2013 23-24 February 2013
The Derbyshire Youth Sailing team (l to r) Ben Haynes, Josh Haynes, Harrison Coppinger & Lewis Coppinger at the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Winter Match Racing Series qualifier © Mike Haynes

What an unforgettable experience for the four Derbyshire Youth Sailing members who were at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) last weekend. The team set out to do battle in the heats for a place in the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Winter Match Racing Series finals, racing in the Elliot 6m keel boats that had been used in the 2012 Olympics. The weekend of racing, including teams from the National School Sailing Association (NSSA), provided tuition and coaching as well as a programme of racing against seven other teams from around the UK.

The Derbyshire Team, supported financially in part by Derbyshire Youth Sailing, consisted of 17 year old helmsman, Lewis Coppinger together with a three strong crew of his Brother, Harrison Coppinger, 15, Ben Haynes, 17 and his Brother, Josh Haynes, 14. The Derbyshire Team had in mind that this was their first event together as a team and had managed to fit in just a single short practice session on a keel boat on Carsington Water, before the event.

Event Director, David Campbell-James, one of the Race Officers from the 2012 Olympics, had provided a programme of training and racing for the weekend, supported by a willing team of volunteers who worked as umpires, safety cover, support crew, coaches and race team to deliver an excellent learning experience for all those involved.

Match Racing is a very challenging form of the sport of racing sailing, with one-on-one action and tactical battles at all points of the racing. It makes it an exciting format to watch and compete in. The Derbyshire Team's results show how hard it is, with just one win from their eight races, they placed 6th overall. However, they all came out of the experience wanting more and will be first in line for the next event with a strong desire to improve their performance.

Helmsman Lewis Coppinger noted "We worked really well as a team together and learned a lot from the experience. However, despite the results not going our way, we were getting better all the time. The Elliott 6 metre boats are fantastic to sail and it was such a privilege to be racing them. We're definitely going to give it another try if the opportunity is there."

As well as the coaching and racing in the former Olympic boats, they also had the opportunity of being on board the umpire boats or on the committee boat to understand how the officials make their decisions and manage the racing. Crew member Ben Haynes said "I am definitely interested in learning more about the umpiring side of match racing. If we get the rules knowledge that the umpires have, I am sure we can put it to good effect in the racing and come out with better results."

The whole weekend provided an excellent learning experience for all those involved and the Derbyshire Team would like to thank the RYA, the NSSA, the volunteers, WPNSA, Derbyshire Youth Sailing and their parents for the opportunity.

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