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Dobson prevails in duel of the World Champions

by Andy Rice 26 Feb 2016 10:30 GMT 26 February 2016
Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash © Tim Olin /

The seventh edition of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series came down to a battle of dinghy world champions, with GP14 World Champs Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe getting the better of Fireball World Champion Tom Gillard, who campaigned over the winter with Andy Couch in a 505.

We've seen many extreme conditions during past seasons of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series, but never have we witnessed a winter as consistently windy as in 2015/16. The opening day of the first event of the Series, the Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash, set the tone for the rest of the Series. With gusts in excess of 35 knots, Draycote was a war of attrition that took out even some of the big names including last year's Series winner Nick Craig, whose hi-tech rigging on his Merlin Rocket mast gave way in the big breeze.

That first weekend proved to be a ding-dong between Dobson and Gillard, with Gillard overtaking the GP14 in the Sunday pursuit race to win Draycote and become the first of five Series leaders during the course of the seven-event, three-month competition.

Going into the final event, the Rutland Challenge for the John Merricks Tiger Trophy, Ben Schooling was leading the Series after some exceptional boathandling in his Musto Skiff at previous events including the Oxford Dash which he won. But the big breeze at Rutland proved too much even for Schooling. And so it came back to a renewal of that Draycote battle between Gillard and Dobson, with Dobson again sailing his GP14 incredibly effectively in the strong winds to finish 6th at Rutland, just one place behind Gillard's Five-Oh. That was good enough to give Dobson and Tunnicliffe overall victory this season, making the GP14 the sixth dinghy class to win the overall prize in seven seasons of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series.

There were many other battles within the Series, and here's a round-up of other winners...

Harken Youth Trophy

With two bullets at the start of the Series and managing to hold onto to his lead to the final round, it looked like D-Zero sailor Tom Southwell from Hill Head would lift the inaugural Harken Youth Trophy. However, Nick Devereux (GP14) and Edward Higson (Laser) both mounted late challenges to take 1st and 2nd places respectively, knocking the D-Zero sailor into 3rd. Fifteen year old Eleanor Craig (Radial) took the under-16 prize and 4th overall in the youth class.

Gul Top Lady

Going into the final event, Ann Jackson (Enterprise) and Eleanor Craig (Radial) were tied on 11 points apiece. With Jackson unable to attend the Tiger Trophy the pressure was on the 15 year old Radial sailor to achieve a top 3 result at Rutland. Impressively given the challenging conditions, Eleanor managed to be the 3rd placed lady at Rutland, giving her the necessary 10 points to win the GUL Top Lady award. Also of note was the performance from Val Millward (Challenger), who has revelled in the challenging conditions throughout the winter, and who took another win at Rutland.

Trident Top Club Award

The race to find the Top Club has been wide open, with several clubs in the running and achieving at least three top results from each race. Going into the final event, Burghfield Sailing Club held a narrow lead over early front runners Hill Head SC. Burghfield managed to hold onto to their lead and crowned Trident Top Club 2015/16, but a strong showing by Staunton Harold Sailing Club at Rutland jumped them up to second overall, knocking Hill Head into third overall.

Battle of the Classes

With 81 classes posting results for this Series - of which 10 had the potential to win going into the final round - the Battle of the Classes has been very close throughout. The new D-Zero class managed to top the leader board up to the penultimate round, but a late push by the Laser knocked the D-Zero down to 2nd. The Radials were 3rd, pushing the RS200s down to 4th.

Musto Speed Challenge

Ralph & Sophie Singleton (RS800) topped the MUSTO Speed Wall after an adjusted speed of 16.14765351 kts achieved at the Oxford Blue. Their victory earns the Singleton duo £500 of great MUSTO kit.

The prizegiving for the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series takes place at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show, with some of the prize winners and leading sailors from the Series appearing on the Main Stage on both the Saturday and Sunday at 1.45pm. Multiple Fireball and Merlin Rocket Champion and America's Cup TV pundit Richard Parslow will be the M.C., coaxing the best go-faster tips and techniques from the winners.

For full results from the Series visit

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