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Blueoak Estates 70th Wilson Trophy at West Kirby Sailing Club

by Lucy Storey 16 May 2019 14:14 BST 9-12 May 2019
Blueoak Estates 70th Wilson Trophy at West Kirby © Howard Williams

On the 70th anniversary of the Wilson Trophy, 36 teams travelled from around the world to compete at West Kirby Sailing Club from Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th May 2019. Five flights of Fireflys were beautifully fettled in anticipation of the welcoming the world's elite to the paradise peninsula.

The event was kickstarted with the Cross Nations Trophy, a newly established invitational event in memory of Tony Cross. In its inaugural year seven international teams were selected to compete for the trophy coming from as far as Australia, America, and Austria. In spite of a never ending 'British afternoon shower' and shifty light airs the race office managed to power through all bar one race of the round robin. Credit to the starters, finishers, and umpires who stuck it out in damp conditions- a few commenting that it was a fitting tribute to those who first braved the elements to pioneer 'on the water' umpiring! By 4pm with the tide on the ebb, the remaining 5kts of wind died to none and so racing was abandoned. As overall round robin leaders the Birdham Bandits (GBR) were presented with the Cross Nations Trophy in the warmth of the clubhouse bar with promises of a better forecast for the following morning.

Friday morning saw the remaining 29 teams arrive to be greeted by glorious Costa del Kirby sunshine. The first 3 minute warning hooter rang out across the lake at precisely 09:27 BST, and with that the Swiss League was under way. The promise of sunnier skies held true until 11am at which point hefty gusts started to sweep across the lake and team Hilbre Highlanders spotted the responsible ominous front on the horizon. Before the media team had time to turn around and take a photo of the electric skyline a rumble of thunder followed by a fork of lightning at the far side of the marine lake prompted a hasty race postponement and return to shore for all boats. Following a quick spell of hail racing resumed to conclude the day with 72 races in the bag and Wessex Exempt sitting at the top of the table.

Friday night saw the first socials of the event with the US & Irish themed party for competitors running alongside the Commodore's reception. The competitors enjoyed two bands performing in the summer pavilion with Manchester University SC leading the way onto the dance floor and the Commodore Jean-Louis Simons leading the way to the bar.

On Saturday morning racing commenced at 8am in a brisk 8-10kts blowing away any remaining cobwebs from the night before. Wessex Exempt remained at the top of the Swiss League for most of the day and took a notable win from SMVC to win the Dobson Trophy and a bottle of port, courtesy of Ian Dobson's capsize. As the breeze picked up into the afternoon a 'rumoured 25 boats' capsized and the decision was taken by race office to switch to storm sails. The beach team executed a speedy change to cutdowns and with less than 15 minutes delay the boats were back out on the water and continuing with the Swiss League. Rolling starts for the remainder of the afternoon left race office satisfied at 5.30pm to call it a day and allow the competitors a quick shower before the evening's shenanigans commenced.

The infamous Saturday night Wilson dinner was launched with Pimms on the patio and an umpires drinks reception. After a few Mexican waves and a dash for the pre-ordered wine everyone settled down to enjoy a fabulous three course meal. Peter Price was celebrated for his lifetime contribution to the Wilson Trophy and Emmett Smith was the proud recipient of the Joyce Evans Award for his crewing ability and commitment to the sport of team racing. As guest speaker Leo Dixon got a large proportion of the room to join him in shots at the bar and thus the party ensued.

Sunday dawn found a pair of boxers at the top of a firefly mast. Conveniently the perpetrator had sewn in a name tag so they were quickly returned to their rightful owner before racing got under way at 8am. By Sunday afternoon the marine lake was basked in sunshine with perfect sea breeze for the knock out stages to commence. Quarter finals were hotly contested and the Americans asserted their dominance to progress three of their teams to the semi finals alongside Birdham Bandits (GBR). The Bandits proved their worth on home soil by beating Screaming Eagles in a protest filled semi final, briefly interrupted by a black flag hearing ashore to make sense of an action packed final beat in the second heat. As the finals got under way a large crowd of teams plus families, friends, and members of the public gathered in the grandstand and along the edges of the marine lake to watch the US vs. UK showdown.

Birdham Bandits (GBR) vs. East Coast Drifters (USA + Spain + Portugal) lined up for their final in champagne sailing conditions. In a clean sweep East Coast Drifters took three consecutive wins and enjoyed massive support from their fellow American team mates watching on the rocks.

Congratulations to the East Coast Drifters a conglomeration of nationalities and first-time victors of the Wilson Trophy (Martin Anderson, Mackenzie Bryan, Greiner Hobbs, Marino Cano, Mike McBrien, Miranda Bakos).

Full results are

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