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British Keelboat League at Royal Torbay Yacht Club

by Will Carson, RYA 25 Jun 2018 15:55 BST 23-24 June 2018
British Keelboat League in Torbay © Nigel Vick

West Hoe Sailing Club clinched victory in the latest round of the British Keelboat League as six teams from six clubs did battle in Torbay, Devon.

The crews, also representing Royal Western Yacht Club, the British University Sailing Association, Horizons Children's Sailing Charity, Exeter University Sailing Club and hosts Royal Torbay Yacht Club, took to the glistening waters of the English Riviera for a weekend of close racing in SB20 keelboats.

A stellar performance by the West Hoe Sailing Club team, led by Tom Low and crewed by his brother, sister and cousin, saw them book their place in the BKL Final at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in September.

The British Keelboat League brings together the country's most experienced keelboat racers while providing an opportunity for talented young sailors to access top level competition.

Racing takes place in identical yachts provided for the teams, from Hunter 707s to Sonars, SB20s to J70s, pitting clubs against each other on a level playing field.

The format is designed to make exciting, high-speed sailing and minimise the spread in the fleet, and with a target time of 15 minutes per race the emphasis is on as many short races in as quick succession as possible.

With the sun beating down and a building 5-6 knot breeze, principal race officer Bill Butcher got racing underway.

The wind was fickle and the racing was tight all day long, giving the on-water umpires plenty to do.

West Hoe SC were the standout performers on the opening day, and after luring the competition in to a false sense of security by losing their first race they then fired in six bullets with one second place spoiling the days score line.

With 14 races completed, the BUSA team showed good form and finished the day in second just ahead of hosts Royal Torbay.

The teams found themselves in a race before even hitting the water on Sunday as road closures foe the Torbay half marathon making access to the club tricky.

The Royal Western YC team, led by Neil Marshall, had obviously spent the previous night analysing and debriefing as their performance on day two was much improved and they kicked off the day with their first win.

The breeze was definitely lighter which called for a slightly gentler form of sailing, not that it made the battle for the favoured committee boat end of the line any less intense.

With ten races left on the schedule each club still had plenty of opportunity to make gains or losses in the shifty and patchy breeze.

While not quite up to their day one standards, West Hoe SC were still sailing consistently well and had overall victory all but sewn up with two races to spare.

For the others, every point counted as the remaining places were far from secure, positions were traded frequently and the umpires were getting up close and personal to ensure they had the best view of the racing to keep it all clean.

With just one race to go any of three teams could take second place; with a dying breeze the BUSA team had to sit on the hotel boat and watch and wait to see if the dice would fall in their favour.

While it all looked good at the start, luck was not on their side, and a windward mark incident with RTYC, WHSC and RWYC let the Horizons Children's Sailing Charity slip through, briefly, into the lead while RTYC and WHSC were being made dizzy by the umpires.

The Royal Western YC team had just enough pace to roll back over the top, forcing the Horizons team to gybe off to the unflavoured left hand side.

Second place in the race was enough for Horizons to secure the runner up spot.

The next two rounds of qualifying will take place on August 18 and 19 at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes and the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club in Helensburgh.

More details can be found at

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