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Sailing for Gold in York

by Hugh Brazier 16 Jun 2011 08:17 BST 11 June 2011

The waves on the River Ouse in York city centre may be a little smaller than those in Weymouth Bay, the wind is not quite so reliable, and the courses are more restricted (a full Olympic course doesn’t really work on a river only 30 metres wide) – but that didn’t stop two York sailing clubs joining forces to celebrate the Sail for Gold Regatta at the weekend. Inspired by the RYA’s Sail for Gold programme, York RI SC and Yorkshire Ouse SC abandoned their usual stretch of river and organised an event in the centre of the city, attracting the attention of passers-by (residents and tourists) with banners and bunting, and handing out leaflets to anyone who paused for more then a moment to watch the sailing.

A mixed fleet of eight boats raced on the stretch between Skeldergate Bridge and the Millennium Bridge, and meanwhile some RYA Level 2 training was taking place just downstream, watched by all who walked across the Millennium Bridge. With so many buildings and tall trees, the wind was bound to be fluky, but river sailors are used to that – and in fact for most of the time the wind behaved itself reasonably well. As did the majority of the many motor boats that chug up and down that stretch of river, from large red tourist-laden water-buses to one-person inflatables. The variable wind and the many obstacles (not just the boats, but also overhanging trees and some very hard concrete banks) made for some challenging racing, with frequent calls for water. As often happens on the river, the light-weight single-handers came out on top. Over the four races, Kate Skelton came first in a Topper, followed by another Topper helmed by Ian Graham, with Steve Chilton third in a Streaker.

The city centre is not the easiest place to sail, but it certainly makes a change – and it’s a good way of publicising the sport of sailing and the two local sailing clubs. We’ll do it again next year (maybe)...

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