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Winter Match Racing Series kicks off in Weymouth and Portland

by Suzie Holland, RYA 7 Feb 19:18 GMT 27-28 January 2018
Winter Match Racing Series Round 1 at the WPNSA © RYA

The last weekend of January saw the first round of the Winter Match Racing Series get underway at Weymouth & Portland with sailors experiencing some typically British winter weather.

Upon arrival in Weymouth and Portland, sailors were given a reminder of what it is really like to race in the UK wintertime. They were greeted by rain and gusts in excess of 25 knots. With this in mind reefs were the order of the day, but boats were still allowed to use their spinnakers in the strong winds meaning boat handling would play a big part in the results. Race Officer for the day, David Campbell-James, cracked through the schedule to complete ten flights before the end of the day on Saturday to complete the round robin. At the end of day one the results showed that racing had been tight; there was a tie for first, a tie for third and a three way tie for fifth. Matt Greenfield claimed the top spot ahead of Nick Wilkinson with James Clapham taking third ahead of Ed Connellan.

On day two the wind was still up and the reefs remained in but the sailors were treated to some glamour racing conditions. The semi-finals got underway with Greenfield facing Connellan and Wilkinson against Clapham. Greenfield won his semi 3-0 against Connellan but the racing was anything but one sided, Connellan fought hard but Greenfield's experience and calm demeanour prevailed. Wilkinson did not have it all his own way in his semi with Clapham pushing him hard but in the end Wilkinson took his place in the finals 3-1.

As the finals were getting underway the bottom four were fighting it out for the all-important ranking points that were up for grabs. Mathieu Cadei, in training for Southampton Solent's campaign for the upcoming BUSA Match Racing championship won all of his matches to secure fifth place. The other three teams of Sophie Otter, Neil Marshall and Campbell Manzoni all won one match each to end up with another three way tie and a headache for the organisers.

The finals produced some great racing between Wilkinson and Greenfield with Greenfield taking an early lead. However, Wilkinson fought hard in the remaining races to win 3-1 and book his place in November's RYA National Championship Grand Final.

After the win, Wilkinson commented; "It was a great event, well organised and we were lucky with the weather. 25+ knots didn't feel too bad with the reefs and allowed us to complete the full series. It was a very entertaining final series, with the reefs offering very few passing opportunities up and down wind, placing more emphasis on the prestart which played out well for us on most races and helped us secure the win."

The RYA Winter Match Racing Series is focussed on learning the skills of Match Racing in a competitive environment with on water coaching and an umpire team who are eager to help the sailors understand the rules. Both remaining Winter Match Racing events are oversubscribed but places are still available at Qualifier 1 at the Royal Southern Yacht Club in July and Qualifier 2 at Queen Mary Sailing Club in October, as well as the women's and youth championships taking place in September. More information can be found at www.rya.org.uk/go/keelboat.

The second Winter Match Racing event takes place 24-25 February at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.