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Durlston Court Sailing Squad at the 2019 Eric Twiname Team Racing Championship

by Mark Jardine 15 Oct 2019 09:30 BST 12-13 October 2019
RYA Eric Twiname Youth and Junior Team Racing Championship © Paul Wyeth / RYA

Over the weekend of 12th-13th October, the Durlston Court Sailing Squad attended the RYA Eric Twiname Youth and Junior Team Racing Championship at Oxford Sailing Club, sailing on Farmoor Reservoir.

This is a huge event with 54 teams and 280 sailors taking part in two categories; the under 16 Juniors sailing in RS Feva dinghies and the under 19 Youths in Fireflys. In 2019 the under 16 Junior category was expanded from 24 to 30 teams due to demand and a phenomenal 210 races were held.

The Durlston Sailing Squad had two teams entered: Durlston Court HW consisting of Harry West, Daniel Vaughan, John Cameron and Sean Jardine; and Durlston Court MT made up of Max Tait, Jacob Cross, Freya England and Evie Cameron. The teams were the two youngest at the event by some margin and the aim of the event was valuable experience for future years, with expectations of picking up any wins against the much older competition, representing top Sailing Clubs, Public Schools and class squads, slim.

Team racing is a superb discipline of sailing. Two teams of two boats battle with the aim being not to have one of your boats in last place. This results in tactical battles, trying to slow the opposition down to allow a team-mate through. The racing rules are used to full effect, using techniques known as mark traps, luffing battles and pre-start manoeuvres all employed to slow down the other team.

With starts every 3 minutes and crews being ferried to and from the race area by support boats, there was a huge amount to take in for the young team, but they took to it with relish. Durlston Court MT started proceedings, and the whole event, taking part in Race 1 against Sevenoaks Blue. Sevenoaks have a strong reputation in Team Racing so the aim was to familiarise themselves with the 'S' course more than anything, so the nervous shore-side parents stood open-mouthed and speechless as the Durlston team completed a 1-2 whitewash over Sevenoaks. An astounding start to the event. They were also involved in Race 6, narrowly losing to the National Schools Sailing Association team from Derbyshire.

Durlston Court HW's turn came in Race 21, taking on Guernsey Junior 1. Once again, expectations were surpassed with a 1-2 win. Next up they faced Prodigy, the eventually winners of the event, who showed their skill and experience to win.

During the breaks ashore, the parents kept the kids loaded with food, including Sway Butchers sausages courtesy of David and Nicola West, and enough flapjacks to feed a small army thanks to Simon and Kate Cross. The Durlston Court gazebo was the source of many an envious glance from passing sailors and friends as the kids tucked into the feast.

The Durlston Squad continued to raise the bar with HW picking up a win over Reading, and MT over Claires Court. Then it came to Race 103... a point which all the parents had been looking towards with apprehension... Durlston Court HW vs. Durlston Court MT. Highly amusing shore-side event commentary being broadcast to the spectators included lines such as 'I believe Durlston Court is in the lead' and 'Durlston are currently occupying 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place'. A clearly divided Simon Cameron didn't know who to cheer for, but in the end the win went to Durlston Court HW in a tightly-fought battle. The Squad were all smiling afterwards though and chatting straight away amongst themselves.

Durlston Court HW followed this up with a massive win over Sherbourne, ending Saturday on four wins and four defeats, with Durlston Court MT also defeating Sherbourne in Race 130, ending the day with three wins.

The elated squad returned to their hotel for a well-earned swim, carefully watched over by the 'responsible parents' who joined them in the pool, making sure none of the kids caused too much of a splash on the other guests or received a black eye... ahem... sorry Dan!

Dinner followed, with the squad happily chatting about their day before hitting the sack.

Sunday dawned with torrential rain and a forecast that included no wind, force 8 gusts and everything in-between, but definitely rain. Durlston Court HW were straight into action and off with a bang, defeating Claires Court. Durlston Court MT had an incredibly close race against the Burghfield Bro's, taking the win by the finest of margins.

The wind switched 180 degrees throughout the morning, and the rain continued to fall, resulting in delays as the event organisers reset the course. This happened while both Durlston teams were on the water, resulting in some cold and tired sailors by the end of the morning. The Durlston Court insulated coats which Mrs Homewood had brought to the event proved invaluable and the barbecued sausages and hot drinks soon brought the energy back into the Squad.

The wind built steadily through late morning and early afternoon, which gave a huge advantage to the older and heavier teams. The Durlston Squad battled on gamely, with Freya England and Evie Cameron showing superb boat handling in close battles with event winner Prodigy and another top team of Disco Feva (OSC).

On Sunday afternoon the wind built to 20 knots, with Durlston Court HW involved in races 204 and 209 against Funky Feva (OSC) and Sevenoaks Blue, losing 2-4 on each occasion. In both races the young team of John Cameron and Sean Jardine, both 10 and very light for a Feva, capsized a few times, but on each occasion righted the boat and continued to complete the race. The perseverance and tenacity shown exemplified the spirit of the Durlston Squad and left more than one parent shore-side with a tear in their eye.

Throughout the weekend, Team Captains Harry West and Max Tait were more than happy to share their knowledge with the less experienced Squad members, and Coaches Mark Jardine and Simon Cameron briefed each team before they were ferried to their boats and ran through scenarios they'd encountered on the water using whiteboards and also commentary of other races to demonstrate similar manoeuvres. Such was the level of racing that clarification on one rule had to be sought from an America's Cup judge who was umpiring at the event.

The Durlston Court Sailing Squad surpassed all expectations, the two youngest teams at the event finishing in 20th and 25th overall. During the event prize giving special mention was made of Durlston Court's participation, stating that it exemplified the spirit of the event with the Squad's battling and cheerful spirit continuing to the very end, receiving a warm round of applause from all those in the packed clubhouse.

Without the support of Mrs Homewood, who travelled up especially on Saturday, Mrs Vaughan and all the parents, participation at the event simply wouldn't have been possible. A huge thank-you to each and every one of them and congratulations to the entire Durlston Court Sailing Squad. The bar has been well and truly raised, Durlston Sailing is on a high with hugely enjoyable Monday evenings at Salterns, racing at events and training sessions held out of Lymington. Parents nationally took note of the young sailors' achievements, attitude and cheery nature this past weekend in Oxford with several mentioning 'I didn't know Durlston Court sailed'.

They certainly do now.

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