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UKLA National Championships - Runners and Riders - The Masters

by Guy Noble 6 Aug 15:21 BST
Masters Trainning at Stokes Bay © UKLA

UKLA are the first to put on a major regatta since the lockdown restrictions are lifted

Over the past few months sailing event after event has been cancelled, in some cases absurdly far in advance creating a rather hopeless atmosphere. However behind the scenes UKLA, WPNSA and the RYA have been working flat out planning what is now called the 2020 UKLA National Championships. These are to be held from the 23rd to 28th August 2020 in Weymouth and is sold out.

As many of you will know unfortunately the name Laser and the starburst logo are the subject of legal disputes so we cannot use them. The Standard or Full rig Laser is now to be known as the ILCA 7, the Radial becomes the ILCA 6 and the 4.7 is now the ILCA 4.

The 6 day event has been limited to 200 boats and split into 2 separate regattas. The first three days the WPNSA will be hosting the full rig ILCA 7 and the ILCA 4. Each fleet has been limited to 50 boats and was sold out within a matter of hours. The following 3 days will see the 100 boat fleet of ILCA 6 (Radials) getting some top racing action. The organisers are currently looking into potentially expanding upon these numbers. Each day of racing will have a daily title sponsor, UKLA is grateful to Ovington, Sailingfast and Sailboats for their support.

Over the next few days Y&Y and UKLA will take a look at the different fleets checking out who is racing and what they've been up to over the past few months. Here I'm going to take a look at the Masters entered in the full rig fleet (ILCA 7) and what they've been doing during lockdown.

The Masters

For many of us the last few months have proven Einstein's 'theory of relativity' correct - "Time moves more slowly when you are with your relatives (and not sailing)" - I added the last bit. Weeks have blurred into months and 2020 is slipping away into a frog of dramatic inaction - But not for the Lase.. sorry ILCA sailors... Now, as lockdown restrictions are gradually being lifted everyone is dusting off their old Lasers and getting back onto the water at their local clubs - which is a wonderful thing - UKLA is approaching 1000 members! So what have some of the masters been up to?

Masters in Lockdown

Sometime ago now we were all going crazy and turning to virtual regatta to get our sailing fix. The Masters were no exception and embraced this new if somewhat challenging technology. Interestingly local clubs and the RYA were organising races that were appealing to both old and young alike. Personally I think this technology may well become a really interesting learning tool for racing tactics but as a substitute for the real thing it sucks!

Apparently sales of sailing books have gone ballistic. I have bought about a dozen different titles by Ben Ainslie, Ed Baird, Glenn Bourke, Jon Emmett, Dave Perry, Nick Craig and others. For me the stand-outs are Stuart H Walker - Advanced Racing Tactics and Bill Gladstone - North U Racing tactics.

Many of the masters I know have put a lot of effort into getting seriously fit. Hours on the rowing machine have been interspersed with these rather dubious challenges on Facebook. 400 back flips while eating a hotdog ! The 25 daily press up challenge is one that I'm trying to dodge. There's no doubt we could all do with keeping our fitness going but generally all the Lase.. sorry ILCA sailors I know are in pretty good shape.

Easing of Lockdown

As restrictions were eased, some of the Masters I know got together for sailing at Stokes Bay Sailing Club every Friday. We have been doing this now for almost 3 months. Most weeks we were getting about 15 boats out. Nick Harrison was instrumental in making sure we stayed focused and organised the two or three hour sessions of windward leeward courses with rabbit starts. For the first five or six weeks we had 15 to 20 kts and blue skies - superb. Anybody standing on the shore would of been looking out enviously and indeed last Friday while Orlando Gledhill was making his way across the Solent on the ferry spotted us all lined up ready for another start (see photo).

The Masters at the ILCA 7 2020 Nationals

To be eligible for Master status you have to be over 35 (33 in the UK). Over 30% of the ILCA 7 entrants are masters of which there are many national champions and the odd Olympian but they are all pretty realistic about what they can achieve. Mark Lyttle, Alan Davis, Tim Law, Terry Scutcher, Nick Harrison and Michael Hicks have all tasted National success so understand what it takes to win. They know the young bloods will probably prevail but they won't go down without a fight.

Mark Lytle

Mark competed in the 1996 Olympic games representing Ireland in the Laser class coming 11th winning Race 3. In recent years he's become Masters National champion and was crowned world champion in the grandmaster division in 2018. He is currently a member of Queen Mary Sailing Club where the standard is so ridiculously high he doesn't always win!


Tim Law

Tim has been UK national champion twice, in 1975 in 1978. Many of you will remember his incredibly gifted brother Chris who tragically died at a very young age. I've known Tim for three years, like many of the masters, has become a good friend. An extraordinarily talented and focused sailor with great determination and a tenacious spirit - if anyone can do well it is he.


Nick Harrison

Back in the days of the legendary Bart Simpson and Ian Percy Nick was deeply involved in coaching the British Squad and has an incredible history of Masters achievements and an absolute downwind demon. His house is almost in the dinghy park at Stokes Bay. Try coming in on port at the windward mark and his stare will freeze your mainsheet blocks solid!


Alan Davies

Alan is now our illustrious UKLA measure. Tim and Alan are probably the two fittest masters I know and quite competitive about it. Alan has his name on more trophies not only in the UK but also in Europe than probably any other ILCA sailor.


Terry Scutcher

One of the Masters toughest characters he normally sails in the ILCA 6 fleet but has decided to mix it with the big boys. In the Full rig in 2013 Oman Masters Worlds he narrowly missed out on the top spot and again in 2015 in the ILCA 6 was second. He travels all over the world competing in the ILCA and the 505.


Michael Hicks

Michael is probably one of the nicest people you are ever going to meet but it also has a long and interesting sailing history. In 1976 he and his brother were Scorpion National Champions and both sailed the Star to a very high international level becoming French National Star Champions in 1993. Mike is also a member of Queen Mary Sailing Club where he almost always does well.


Tony Woods

Mr Jazz man. Apart from being an incredible jazz musician Tony is also class captain at Queen Mary Sailing Club and is responsible for building a fleet of such high calibre that even very competent sailors can find it difficult to get into the top 10. Tony has been putting in a lot of pre-national sea training and was gutted when the Mounts Bay event was cancelled.


Chris Ellyatt

Chris came over from Hong Kong in the late 1970s. In 1979 he entered the Laser Nationals at Whitstable SC; 73rd in the Gold fleet of 130 wasn't bad for a 16 year old. In recent years he has been getting better and better and been pushing the top boys hard. In the overall rankings at Queen Mary Sailing Club he was number one for 2019 and has got very quick downwind and if its blowing he'll be doing well.


These are just a few of the Masters who I think will put on a good show at the 2020 UKLA Nationals at Weymouth - fingers crossed that it goes ahead - we are all looking forward to it. But even if it doesn't we really must applaud UKLA, WPNSA and the RYA for working out how to make it possible and to the dozens of volunteers who have offered their services. These events were always challenging to run and have been made even more difficult with the Covid 19 restrictions but with everyone pulling together we can get racing again.

More on the ILCA 6 and ILCA 4 to follow...

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