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Wilson Trophy at West Kirby Sailing Club - Day 1

by Sailing Intelligence 9 May 2015 08:33 BST 8-10 May 2015

Four on five points after torrential opening day

Post-Election blues and drizzle that turned into torrential rain and eventually a deluge, did nothing to dampen the spirits of the 28 teams on the opening day of UK Team Racing's annual spectacular, the Wilson Trophy, run each year since 1949 by West Kirby Sailing Club on the Wirral.

With a phenomenal 300+ races to sail over three days, the Race Committee was ablur on the course, set up on West Kirby's land-locked man-made water way - Marine Lake, overlooking the River Dee. The event also possibly holds the world record for the number of on the water umpires it employs – 26 in total. But it is the hospitality of West Kirby Sailing Club that over the years has given the Wilson Trophy a special place in the heart of so many of its competitors – all those racing are put up by club members, plus there is the renowned 'blow the roof off the club' Wilson Dinner on the Saturday night.

2015 is an exciting year for Team Racing in the UK, the sport undergoing a considerable boost thanks to the ISAF Team Racing World Championship taking place on Rutland Water over 19th-24th July. The top three teams selected to represent Team GBR at the Worlds - West Kirby Hawks (GBR 1), Royal Forth Hoosiers (GBR 2), and Bristol University (GBR 3) - are all competing at this year's Wilson Trophy.

"We have got some really strong teams," says West Kirby Sailing Club Commodore Phil Shepherd of the Wilson Trophy line-up. "Cambridge is a really strong university this year as they demonstrated recently at the BUSA championships and they have several teams here. The Worlds have also helped, with teams coming here for some practice."

Today over the course of four hours and with a gusty wind ranging from four knots into the early teens, the race committee managed to fire off 84 races. This intense race program is another aspect that makes the Wilson special. One of the Bristol University team helms, James Grant, competing in his fourth Wilson Trophy, says that in other Team Racing events you might get to sail seven races over an entire weekend. "Today was fun apart from the rain, but the wind was good. The Wilson is well run and you do more races. Its definitely the event you want to win."

At the end of day one, four teams are on five wins. Wilson Trophy defending champions and reigning World Champions – West Kirby Hawks – lead overall, having won all but one of the six of the races they sailed today, losing out to Wessex Exempt, which lies second. They are followed by Bristol University in third place having lost two of their seven races to Royal Forth and the West Kirby Hawks, while Royal Thames Yacht Club Red is fourth.

"The rain obviously works well for us," said a soaking Honor Fell, who sails in Royal Thames Yacht Club Red as crew for Fiona Hampshire in one of the few all-female crews competing. "We had a lot of tight racing."

Lying surprisingly in the mid-field is the all-star team from the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy including London 2012 Olympic 470 silver medallists Luke Patience (above) and Stuart Bithell.

"I'm here primarily having fun, but it is SO good for us," says Patience, for whom this is his third Wilson Trophy. At present the WPNSA team is mid-field, the Scottish helm acknowledges: "We do get beaten a lot, but the people who come here year after year are so good at team racing that we learn so much and it is all really applicable to our Medal Races. It is frustrating because you come back and you learn a few things you remember you learned last year. I think it's because the speed at which things happen is so fast, I am not computing it very well in my brain."

Racing continues tomorrow. Mercifully the rain is set to stop for the remainder of the weekend with good breeze forecast dropping off in the afternoon tomorrow but blowing a solid 15, gusting to 20 on Sunday.

Individual race results are here

Overall team results here

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