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UK Blind Sailing National Championship at Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club

by Blind Sailing on 13 Oct 2016 7-9 October 2016

Friday the 7th to the 9th October saw twelve visual impaired sailors (VIs) and nine sighted sailors take part in this years Blind Nations jointly organised with Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club and the charity Blind Sailing.

This event is held each year to celebrate the charity's success and to start the next phase of training. For all VIs and sighted this is the build up to selection for the 2017 Blind Fleet Racing Championships as they look to build a stronger team to defend current the World Champions title.

With registration complete all six boats took to the water in a light 7-8 knots of breeze, with thanks to the Island Sailing Club the sailors sail in two fleets of Sonars.

In the B1 fleet each boat has a helm who has no vision (or has only slight light perception), plus a mainsheet or jib sheet trimmer that can be a B1 or B2 (those that can count figures and see hand movements). These two people sail with two sighted sailors; one doing tactics (touching nothing) and the other taking up the alternate role to the VI crew.

The B2 fleet for this event was comprised of helms rated B2 to B3 (those with more vision, often tunnel or blurred), plus a B2 or B3 crew, and a sighted tactician.

Friday was a day to get a feel for the conditions and the boat, as well as getting to know each other in the team that had been selected. The wind gradually dropped but with practice races it was clear to see it was going to be a weekend of close racing.

Friday evening saw CCYC host the Charity's awards for the year - a chance to thank the sighted sailors who this year have helped the charity with Blind Match Race Training, helping GBR take Gold and Silver in the Open Italian Match Racing championships, and also Gold in the World Blind Match Racing Championships.

This training could not have been the success it was with out the support of the Hall family; it was great to see Jonny Cormack hand over the Ian Cormack Cup to Steven Hall who, with his dad, made and kept running all the sound buoy equipment. It was also great to receive a kind donation from Claire and her boat party.

After a great dinner the racing got under way with first warning signal at 10.25. All teams were ready to go with four to five races planned for the day. Breeze was light 6-8 knots from the North East but it was due to build. The course for all racing was a windward leeward course, with Big Blue and the race team headed up by Mike Dixon and David Ross.

The B1 fleet got under way and we knew this weekend was going to be close. In this fleet it was great to see Eddie Kitchen back on the water and at the helm. One of Blind Sailing's deaf blind sailors, Lucy said, "this should show everyone that nothing should stop you in life; Eddie has a great feel for the breeze and the boat and with strong communication Eddie is able to sail the same as a sighted sailor."

The fleet set off to the windward mark changing places as they went. It was down to getting a feel for the tide and the decreasing wind over the course. This feel to a visually impaired helm is key as the tide will give a different feeling on each tack as it pushes on the bow.

The racing was close but first race of the day went to helm Sharon Grennan. In the B2 fleet it was clear from the 5 minute gun it was going to be close with all three boats flighting for a spot on the line, each team had great speed matching each other's tacks but the downwind leg saw the race decider: Lucy Hodges took the first win of the day.

Then the breeze dropped lighter and there was a short AP, but this was only until the breeze got back up to 8-10 knots. Both fleets raced a further four races seeing each B1 fleet boat take a win, but with Mark Austin, Jonny Stevenson, Dennis Manning and Charlotte Hunt end the day in the lead, but only just with a point separating each team.

The B2 fleet saw Laura Cammidge, Justin Smith and Charlie Griffiths (our youngest VI sailor) out on the water end the day ahead of the fleet.

With Saturday meal thanks to UKSA, also another great charity that supports Blind Sailing, it was great to hear each sailor mixing and share stories, getting set for a further days racing.

Sunday saw the breeze move more into the North but increase to 12-15 knots and a lumpier sea. All boats went out on cut-down mains but ready to battle.

With the wind increased the RO set a slightly longer course. It was clear no boats were going to give up; with each sailor looking for selection it was tight racing. The B1 fleet was very close but again each race saw boats swapping overall placing. It was great to see how far all sailors have come and the trust of the sighted crews; each mark rounding boats were along side each other.

In the B2 fleet it was the same; each start saw a battle for the spot on the line, it was great to see boats being held out or pushed over the line, proving that all teams were trying hard. Liam Cattermole and team had got their downwind speed sorted and were back into the points fighting Lucy Hodges to the line.

Dave Ross, a supporter and sighted volunteer said, "although I am part of the RO team this weekend it is great to watch from the outside and see the progress we the charity and sailors have made. I am pleased as Vice Commodore of CCYC along with all the members to welcome Blind Sailing into the club. They are at the top of the world in their sport and we are proud to support them."

With the racing over, all headed in to CCYC with a buzz and it was close with everyone sharing great stories.

It is also big thanks to Enterprise Rental Car who provided the transport for our sighted volunteers who make this weekend happen.

The prize giving took place in the sun and with a smile from the race officer the results were revealed. The B1 fleet finished with two boats tie for 2nd.

Lucy Hodges MBE would like to say a huge thank you to all for making one of the best Blind Nationals.

If you would like to know more or interested in supporting the charity please email

Overall Results:

B1 Fleet
1st Sharon Grennan, Sally Rodrigues, Ian Shirra and David Hawkins
2nd Mark Austin, Dennis Manning, Jonny Stevenson and Charlotte Hunt
3rd (on count back) Eddie Kitchen, Toby Davey, Jonny Cormack and James Wheeldon

B2 Fleet
1st Lucy Hodges, Chris Albert and Matt Grier
2nd Laura Cammidge, Justin Smith and Charlie Griffiths
3rd Liam Cattermole, Colin Midgley and Martin Philips

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