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West Kirby Hawks retain RYA National Team Racing Championship title

by Will Carson, RYA 30 Mar 17:09 BST 26-27 March 2022
West Kirby Hawks retain RYA National Team Racing Championship title © Dan Booth

The RYA National Team Racing Championship saw West Kirby Hawks successfully retaining their title and the Prince Philip Trophy for another year.

Hosted by West Kirby Sailing Club on the Wirral, it was the third consecutive win of the championship for the team, which has now claimed victory at the event six times in total.

The sell-out national championship over the weekend of 26-27 March 2022 had 24 teams of six competing in Firefly dinghies. Although the forecast was not promising - with sailors preparing for a day of reading newspapers and playing cards - after a short delay, a gentle breeze stabilised to enable a full and uninterrupted day of racing in glorious sunshine.

With around 8-9 knots the race team rattled through a full round robin schedule with 84 fast turnaround races for three flights of eight teams before the breeze started to wane.

Ideal conditions saw plenty of roll tacking and crews occasionally on the side, with incredibly close racing and a number of teams tied on points. All three qualifying leagues were completed, allowing the teams to progress into Gold, Silver and Bronze leagues on the Sunday.

At the end of day one, West Kirby Hawks had won all seven of their races to top their league, many other teams having won six of their seven races: Exeter Blue, Society Exodus, RTYC (Royal Thames YC) Red, Cindies Sailing Club, Rutland Raiders and Bristol Red. The top three from each league went into Gold and also included RTYC Blue and Paddington Bears.

Final race decider

Sunday brought more sunshine and wind for a prompt start with the breeze gradually picking up to around 13-14 knots. By mid afternoon West Kirby Hawks had won seven of their eight races and all three leagues had almost been completed - but a re-sail was needed between RTYC Blue and Cindies to determine pole position and who would sail who in the knockout stage. The wind was beginning to vanish and in very light conditions, Cindies won the match, leaving RTYC Blue second overall in the Gold league.

West Kirby Hawks helm Dom Johnson explains: "From our point of view we were sailing well and winning our races. We'd had one loss to the Royal Thames team, who were also sailing really well all weekend, and that made their racing quite important towards the end because they likewise had one loss.

"Their very last race and the last race of the event in a dying breeze was a re-sail between them and Cindies. If Royal Thames won that re-sail then they would have topped the Gold league as we weren't able to go to knock-outs because the wind went fragile. But they didn't win it and so Cindies did us a favour! We only had one loss and they had two so it was all quite close."

With a failing breeze and a time limit of 15:30 for the semis and finals, the overall results from 87 races in the Gold, Silver and Bronze leagues proved final, giving the title to the West Kirby Hawks team of Andy Cornah, Dom Johnson, Ben Field, Fiona Harrington, Izzy Johnson and Tom Foster.

Second overall were Royal Thames Blue (Murray Hampshire, Scott Wallis, Jack Hanslope, Emma Baker, Harley Stone, Phoebe Warren) with Society Exodus (Peter Gray, John Platts-Mills, James Godd, George Clarke, Lucy Preston, Emma Mackeley) third.

Team racing for all ages

Summing up their weekend for the West Kirby Hawks, Dom, for whom the victory was a ninth personal win at the event, said: "We benefit from being a team that was established a long time ago - we started sailing together in 2008 and have team raced pretty consistently at a lot of the big events since then, so we have a deep background that we can rely on and when we do get back together for the bigger events we have a good platform to be able to race on.

"One change this event though was that my usual team racing crew Holly was travelling so I had to recruit my daughter Izzy. We do Firefly sailing together but normally fleet racing and it was the first time we'd done team racing together, she's only 13 and did a really good job in the front of the boat so it was great to be able to win the event with her. She had a great time and really enjoys team racing and the frantic nature of the sprint races.

"I've been in team racing for decades and you get brilliant boat handling and understanding of the rules from it, so it complements other sailing and it's sociable, and that's the bit my daughter enjoys and what we as the Hawks have always really enjoyed because we're a team. That social element really encourages children and young people to continue in the sport."

The RYA National Team Racing Championship was the first event in the UK to utilise the new World Sailing team racing rankings, which enables teams to create an id and for championship organisers to add an event. This pilot project for event grading and team rankings is supported by the Team Racing Sub Committee at World Sailing and open to all classes for 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 team racing, offering three different ranking lists for countries, sailors and clubs/teams.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Dom said: "A lot of the teams were racing well and you can see that from the first rounds and the Gold league. We have some fantastic teams and it bodes well for the big events coming up like the Wilson Trophy in May, when we should have overseas teams who are now able to travel again, and hopefully some solid British teams who will do well."

He added that for upcoming teams, there is "no substitute for boat speed in team racing which really helps win races... I would encourage any of the university or school teams looking to improve their boat speed to come along to the Firefly Nationals at Tenby this year. It will make a big difference to their performance on the team racing course."

To find out more about team racing events and how to take part, visit RYA Team Racing or the UK Team Racing Association.

Overall Results - Gold Fleet: (8 races)

PositionTeamWins% Wins
1West Kirby Hawks787.5
2RTYC Blue675
3Society Exodus562.5
4Exeter Blue450
5RTYC Red450
6Rutland Raiders337.5
7Cindies Sailing Club337.5
8Paddington Bears225
9Bristol Red225

Overall Results - Silver Fleet: (8 races)

PositionTeamWins% Wins
10Southampton Green787.5
11Rugby Alumni675
12Southampton Red562.5
13Cambridge Blue562.5
14American British Yacht Club562.5
15WKSC450
16Royal Lymmington337.5
17MCS112.5
18Cambridge Orange00

Overall Results - Bronze Fleet: (5 races)

PositionTeamWins% Wins
19Cardiff Black480
20Sevenoaks360
21Grafham Viper Tornadoes240
22Manchester Purple240
23Castaways240
24Rutland Extras240

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