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Open Youth Regatta at Netley Sailing Club

by David Henshall on 18 May
As the day progressed, conditions became more testing but the young sailors battled on © Paul Vickers

In recent years, the growing youth scene sailing at club level around the Southampton Water area has been recognised by a linked series of races. This allows the younger sailors from Weston, Netley, Hamble and Warsash Sailing Clubs, plus interested Cadet Groups, to sail in different locations and against new competition. From the outset the idea was a great success, with the numbers of youth sailors growing year by year.

It is now part of the tradition that Netley hosts the first of these events each season, though last year had been a bit of a non-starter! It is difficult to forget those glorious two weeks of early May 2016, when the sun shone creating tee-shirt and shorts weather, but the breeze resolutely stayed away. This year though the weather had other ideas, as Saturday morning was greeted by horizontal rain and a building South Westerly breeze. It must have been an interesting trip for the boats sailing to Netley from the Hamble, though maybe they put this to good use by getting in some practice in the freshening conditions.

With the wind at Netley now blowing straight onshore, the first fleet to start, the 29ers, had a long close reach away up Southampton Water, before doing a number of laps of a windward –leeward course. The Warsash pairing of Ellen and Jessie Main enjoyed some great boatspeed, only to head for the wrong mark, allowing Mattis Prince and Adam Sandison to take a first heat win.

The rest of the fleet of some 50 + boats, which included just about everything from an Oppy up to a Laser 4.7, via Teras, Toppers, Picos and a well sailed Mirror, then started on a rectangular course that gave the better helms a chance for some very high speed reaching. The sun had reappeared making for sparkling conditions, though with the wind still building, getting around the course was becoming something of a challenge for some of the young competitors, with the large fleet of attendant Ribs being kept busy. The Race Team wisely decided to make Race Two longer for the 29ers but a one lap heat for the rest, which allowed some tired sailors in for lunch and a rest.

Over lunch the conditions continued to freshen, what had been gusts earlier was now the norm, with some very 'fruity' conditions experienced under the clouds. Many of the smaller sailors chose to sit out Heats 3 and 4, which was probably a good call as the tide had now turned and the normally benign Southampton Water was beginning to roughen up. Ellen and Jessie Main in their 29er were now fully into their stride, giving the home based 29ers something of a masterclass in sailing these boats in the 'full on' conditions, though the others stuck doggedly to their task of chasing the flying leaders.

At the front of the second fleet there was a very tight competition between the leading three Laser 4.7s and the very well sailed Europe of Ben Harris. These four boats raced hard all day and at the end, the points were very close, with Mark Vickers winning overall from Cameron Yates and Jake Hallam, with Ben having to settle for fourth place in his Europe. The Race Team also recognised the gutsy performance of Jake Smoker in the Tera Pro who kept going through all four races. In conditions that would have tested many adult sailors, all of the competitors showed not only good boat handling and racing skills but the resilience to recover after sometimes numerous capsizes and keep sailing.

Thanks go to Netley SC and all the adults and helpers, from all of the clubs, some afloat, some ashore, who worked hard all day to make this event such a success. The next event in the 2017 Series will be at Weston SC on the 24th June, before Hamble host the third day on Saturday 8th July.

Overall Results:

29ers
1st Ellen and Jessie Main
2nd Cameron Barr and Polly Sandison

Main Fleet
1st Mark Vickers, Laser 4.7
2nd Cameron Yates, Laser 4.7
3rd Jake Hallam, Laser 4.7
4th Ben Harris, Europe
5th Aj Luxton, RS Tera Pro

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