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British Keelboat League Sailability Championship 2023

by Paula Irish / British Keelboat League 7 Jul 2023 09:15 BST 1-2 July 2023
British Keelboat League Sailability Championship 2023 © British Keelboat League

Champagne conditions combined with close competition for a memorable British Keelboat League Sailability Championship at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

Nine teams battled it out in classic BKL style with multiple fast and fun races enabling competitors to hone their teamwork, boat handling and tactics across the weekend of 1-2 July 2023.

As the racing became ever tighter, the overall results ended up going right to the wire, with the fathers-and-daughters of Team Goat ultimately claiming victory, just ahead of Blind Sailing's A and B teams, who could only be separated for second and third on countback.

Team Goat comprised Matt and Jenna Snedker, and Alan and Natalia Hillman, who commenting on their weekend said: "What an amazing event! The regatta seemed to really cater for the individual needs of everyone, which based on the number of people and the diversity of challenges that competitors faced was an incredible achievement. With such a competitive and close regatta, everyone on board knows and appreciates each others' skills as well as challenges. We worked as a team, to have fun and to just do the best we possibly could, every race."

Other teams included a third entry from Blind Sailing, two representing Deaf Sailing UK, Sussex Sailability, and two teams of friends who first met at the Invictus Games in 2018.

The BKL Sailability Championship was organised by the RYA, in conjunction with WPNSA and Chesil Sailability, with racing for teams of four in Elliott 6m keelboats. Find all the results here.

Competitive

Joff McGill, RYA Sailability Manager, said: "It was looking quite windy and pretty fruity when we arrived on the Saturday so instead of getting straight into racing, we took out a couple of teams at a time to give everyone a chance to get used to the boats and the conditions.

"But then it dropped a tick and everyone was coping really well so we finished the practice session, did the championship briefing and went racing. From then on we had glorious Weymouth conditions - the sun shone, the wind blew at around 15 knots and a dolphin came out to play!

"Each team did around 10-12 races and it was incredibly competitive. There was one race where four boats finished within four seconds of each other. It got tighter and tighter as the weekend went on and it was amazing to watch.

"It was everything that makes the BKL such a fantastic format and also highlighted just how inclusive sailing can be as a sport. Everyone had a brilliant time!"

Sociable

With five keelboats and more than 20 races across the weekend, teams had a chance to spectate when not racing and also enjoyed a sociable Saturday evening meal at WPNSA's Spinnakers.

Teams encompassed all ages and levels of sailing expertise, ranging from those who compete internationally to relative newcomers to the sport, and as well as blind and/or deaf sailors also included sailors with mobility, brain injury, PTSD or processing challenges.

Among those taking part was Blind Sailing World Champion Lucy Hodges, who said: "The event is inclusive with mixed disabilities working as one and this year it was great to see nine teams building on last year. The racing was exciting and close with all the teams improving: 12-minute races means no time to look back, just forward! Thanks goes to all involved. The event is growing and so are all the sailors."

Deaf Sailing UK's Richard Walker only recently completed his RYA Level 1 certificate and had a fantastic weekend on the water - including jumping in as a sub with Team Goat when they needed a crew replacement on day one, and joining the winning team on stage for the prize-giving.

It was the first time at the event for Deaf Sailing UK, who went home buzzing, not least from winning the penultimate race of the weekend. As the team summed up: "Huge, huge heart-felt thanks to everyone who made this brilliant event possible and very enjoyable. It is such a massive opportunity as well as stepping stone for the participants from Deaf Sailing UK for development and racing in the future. Let's do it again!"

Take part

If you'd like to find out more about taking part or volunteering, visit RYA Sailability, GBR Blind Sailing or Deaf Sailing UK to explore the opportunities available for getting on the water.

There's also still time to take part in the British Keelboat League! Next up is the qualifier at Royal Corinthian Yacht Club on the east coast - entries are open here - and for all the details about upcoming events visit www.britishkeelboatleague.co.uk

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