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Independent Schools Inlands 2019 at Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, Burghfield

by Jane Homewood 7 Oct 11:59 BST 2-3 October 2019

On Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd October the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre at Burghfield, near Reading played host to the 2019 Independent Schools Inlands. Durlston Court Sailing Team entered 4 RS Fevas helmed and crewed by John Cameron & Sean Jardine in the U11 division, Harry West & Dan Vaughan, Max Tait & Jacob Cross and Freya England & Evie Cameron in the U13 division.

Falling fortunately between the 40kn winds at the beginning of the week and the looming threat of ex-hurricane Lorenzo at the end of the week, Wednesday was the turn of the U11s. In idyllic conditions with bright sunshine and a light breeze, John & Sean lined up against fellow competitors for their first ever race together. After a nerve-wracking start, which resulted in them being behind off the line, the boys sailed their way deftly through the fleet, showing superb boat handling, awareness of the wind and working exceptionally well as a team.

After a tense race, it was great to watch them as they crossed the finish line high-fiving each other! Off to a flying start and with confidence soaring, the boys went on to clock up win after win in all four races of the day, learning quickly from each lap of each race how to read the gusty and shifty winds that developed through the day and showing tenacity, determination and intelligence in their approach. A fabulous day, a well-earned victory and very bright prospects indeed for the future!

Winter appeared to arrive overnight, with Thursday's temperature seemingly a good 10 degrees below those of Wednesday. No matter to our U13 team as they arrived at the venue to face a substantial fleet of RS Fevas with representation from schools across the country. Boats rigged, and briefing complete, the crews took to the water disappointed by the light breeze - a long way from the 30kn gusts in which they've become accustomed to training of late!

In the two races before lunch, the breeze failed to reach more than 8 knots; in the first race, the boys crews were frustrated with 5th and 6th position, whilst the tenacious Freya and Evie, the only all-girl crew of the event and the only female helm, took 3th place ahead of the boys. In race 2, still waiting for the breeze to fill in, patience, perseverance, smooth boat handling and excellent race tactics, saw all three Durlston crews finish at the head of the fleet, with Harry & Dan taking line honours, from Max & Jacob in second and Freya & Evie coming in 4th.

A very wise break for lunch gave time for the wind to come round to the SW and build, much to the delight of our sailors - breeze on! Shifts and gusts were the backdrop of the next two races as Durlston crews dominated with some very close, tense cat-and-mouse chases around the course. Race 3 was the turn of Max & Jacob to lead the fleet across the finish line, from Harry and Dan in 2nd and Freya and Evie coming in 5th, having sailed their way up brilliantly from the back of the fleet after a difficult start.

With the two boys' crews vying for first position and the girls hot on their heels going into the final race, but with some strong competition from the rest of the fleet, which contained many RS Tera and RS Feva circuit sailors, it was all to play for! Excitement and tension built on the spectators' balcony as parents and teachers watched anxiously and WhatsApp pinged live updates to excited parents following the action from overseas.

Our Durlston sailors did not disappoint and did themselves proud! After a hard-fought battle around 3 laps of the course, with Max & Jacob leading the way for the first 2 laps, it was Harry & Dan who crossed the line first to win the event, with Freya and Evie coming in 7th. After discards, the final results were Harry & Dan 1st, Max & Jacob 2nd and Freya and Evie 4th.

A huge, huge thank you and well done to all the team! None of this would be possible with the incredible partnership between parents and school and without the invaluable support of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club and Salterns Sailing Club. We are very fortunate to have such an experienced, enthusiastic and dedicated core of supportive parents and some very talented and, in some cases, experienced young sailors, with Harry West & Max Tait being selected for the RS Tera National Squad, but it is worth noting that for some of the team, it was only a few months ago that they tentatively took to the water as part of the burgeoning sailing programme at Durlston Court.

A combination of fun, playful, confidence-building sessions at Salterns, parent-supported time on the water at weekends, RLymYC Friday night racing and a couple of weekends of coaching by Nik Froud has meant that all have progressed tremendously in their sailing in a short space of time. It is also most rewarding to see how the more experienced young sailors have developed their mentoring, coaching and leadership skills in the process and how well the team works... and how much fun everyone is having in the process!

A massive thank you to Mark Jardine and Simon Cameron for their tireless enthusiasm and superb coaching, not just of those who competed this week but of all Durlston Salterns Associates every Monday evening, to Nicola & David West for helping to make it all happen in the first place and to Simon & Kate Cross, Alistair & Charlotte Tait, Philippa and Mark Vaughan, Charlotte & Simon England and all other parents involved in making Durlston Court Sailing such a success for the children; exciting times ahead!

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