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Knox-Johnston on Seamanship & Seafaring by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
Knox-Johnston on Seamanship & Seafaring by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

International One Metre World Championship at Pierrelatte, France

by Darin Ballington 5 Jun 2017 15:43 BST 14-20 May 2017
International One Metre World Championship at Pierrelatte, France © Sue Brown

What a week, what an advert for our sport, and what stiff competition! Reports from Facebook started to come in from the middle of the week prior to the event, the early settlers in their campervans reporting a good venue and fine weather with preparations well underway.

It's amazing how a group of radio sailors and their entourage can turn the quietest venues into a mini village of cars, boats, rig boxes and sailing paraphernalia. Add to this a tv crew and catering staff and you get an idea of the atmosphere of the 2017 IOM Worlds.

The GBR and MYA were represented by skippers selected from the 2016 Ranking list and were:

  • Rob Walsh – GBR 25
  • Darin Ballington - GBR 198
  • Graham Bantock – GBR95
  • Josh King - GBR 26
  • Tony Edwards - GBR 75
  • Peter Stollery - GBR 39
  • Martin Roberts - GBR 122
  • Nigel Brown - GBR 155
  • Ken Binks - GBR 83
  • John Cleave - GBR 00
Plenty has been written about the racing on social media and been seen on the you tube channels, check out one of the best reports at Scuttlebutt this gives a fantastic overview from an American skipper's point, an antipodean view can be found on the NZ IOM website.

Sailing amongst 76 of the best radio sailors in the world against boats of differing design but very similar performance is demanding, every tack, gybe or wind shift could mean the difference between a good heat position or a fight for survival. The overall victor in Zvonko Jelacic will testify to this, only taking the win in the final race, pushing our own Rob Walsh into 3rd and the Spanish Skipper Guillermo Beltri into 2nd. It should be said that these three along with Pierluigi Puthod were the class of the field, pushing each other all the way despite not having it all their own way, all 4 were in B fleet in the last day, they managed to put in a series of scores worthy of their positions.

The courses were the now common windward-leeward with a spreader mark at the windward end and a gate to leeward. The control area was a relatively small elevated area that had been created for the event and would throughout the week cause a little frustration for those used to walking alongside their boat, especially those who were not the tallest, the results of this could be seen by those watching the live feed as boats were leaving far more room around marks than usual, and some collisions were occurring that may not have been expected, however most skippers managed to adjust their sailing to suit the greater distances from eye to boat as the week progressed. The wind during the week was not bad, although it was consistently shifting with a north bias on most days, these shifts were quite large at times and made gains and losses on the beats quite significant catching out most skippers at one time or another during the week, although as usual the top skippers found themselves on the better shifts more of the times, funny how they do that...

An opening ceremony on Saturday night was followed by the start of racing on Sunday 14th May with the seeding races taking place in a mid No1 rig shifting Northerly breeze. In fact No 1 rig was the choice for most of the week with only a brief period mid-week when No2 rig was used to cope with some heavy gusts that came through. As is the norm for these events the first day was a little slow to settle down, with some skippers performing better than expected in the early skirmishes and others finding themselves in unfamiliar territory. Sailing amongst skippers from other nations requires a more cautious approach; the IOM class is now a truly global class and although many of the competitors were familiar with each other and their sailing styles there were many skippers for whom the fleet sizes and demanding sailing were an eye opener, this reporter being one, and it took a few skippers a while to get used to the pace of the races, managing the traffic around their boat and feel comfortable within their heat. Although it is good to report that the level of concentration meant that the "discussion" on the water was always kept to a reasonable level. The use of Judges in the control area and their decisions certainly helps to regulate the standard and those used at Pierrelatte were regular international radio sailing judges and have created a good system for dealing with the racing incidents. Observing alongside them was a pleasure and very educational at times – thanks to them for volunteering.

Once past the 1st day, the races flow from one to another and you quickly get in to a routine of race, relax, watch and prepare only punctuated by the end of day, de brief and wine tasting sessions, although the finish time of 18.30pm and start times of 9.30am meant that de brief was more subdued that at previous events!

Of the GBR skippers only Rob Walsh and Peter Stollery showed the consistency to challenge for the top honours, with the rest showing glimpses of their abilities but unable to string together the small number results required to get close to the podium positions, looking at the results every skipper put in some good races, with Rob and Peter recording overall race wins and Darin, Tony, Josh and Martin having top 3 finishes, the rest of the GBR skippers had some fine wins within their heat but could not quite get to the sharp end in the tough racing.

Overall GBR Skipper Results:

Rob Walsh – 3rd
Peter Stollery – 5th
Martin Roberts - 13th
Josh King – 14th
Darin Ballington – 15th
Tony Edwards - 16th
Graham Bantock - 18th
Ken Binks – 43rd
Nigel Brown – 52nd
John Cleave – 62nd

A full set of results are available here.

The quality of racing, race management and boats must be a credit to the sport and with the TV coverage offering a global audience it feels that radio sailing at the very top has never been healthier; hopefully the TV coverage will encourage more club and district skippers to strive to qualify and attend these events.

We should acknowledge the efforts of Pierre Gonnet, the French organising team, race officials and IOMICA in organizing such a fantastic week's sailing for the skippers, their dedication to providing the best for the skippers and their families should not be underestimated and it is volunteers like these across the world who underpin our sport and sailing. Thank you from all in the GBR team and the many UK "Youtubers" who watched from a far.

Finally, during the presentation ceremony, the newly appointed French sailing federation president Nicholas Henard stood up and announced that as an ex Olympian and experienced sailor he had experienced a first on his visit to the lake; apparently his sail of Josh King's boat was the 1st time he had sailed a pink boat!!

For the full results, images and catch up videos please visit the event website,

If radio sailing interests you please check out the MYA website for more information and to find out about a club near to you,

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