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75th Anniversary Wilson Trophy at West Kirby Sailing Club

by Andy Cornah 20 May 12:36 BST 3-5 May 2024
75th Anniversary Wilson Trophy © Dan Booth Photography

In April 1948 West Kirby Sailing Club was invited to send a team to Dun Laoghaire (IRE) for a mixed class team racing event, competing against teams from the South of Ireland and the South of England. To the surprise of the Irish this unknown team finished second to Royal St. George, and but for a mistake in the final, should have won it.

That evening over a celebratory drink in their hotel room, Cyril Clarke, Harry Dennis and Glyn Evans discussed the possibility of holding a similar racing event in West Kirby but limited to one class only - the 'Firefly' One Design. This was the conception of the Wilson Trophy.

75 years later, 34 teams gathered at the West Kirby marine lake, aka the theatre of dreams, to write another chapter in the storied history of the (probably) greatest team racing event on earth.

Held over three full days on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of May, the 75th Anniversary Wilson Trophy saw teams competing from the UK, USA and Ireland. Recent years have seen the event dominated by teams from the US, taking home the trophy at the last three attempts.

The ever-truthful notion of 'it's always sunny in West Kirby' was tested a little during the first two days of competition, and cloudy skies were accompanied by light, shifty winds which was challenging for the race committee and sailors. Nevertheless, and amazing 255 races were completed across the stage one Swiss League which saw the usual scramble to make it into the top eight spots to advance to knockouts.

When the dust settled on Sunday lunchtime, impressively all 5 US teams advanced to the quarter finals accompanied by the George Jesters from Ireland and the Wessex Walking Sticks and local team West Kirby Hawks remaining in the fight as the last UK teams standing. The quarter finals all followed the seeding, with three US teams advancing along with the WK Hawks. Semi Final one saw a bit of an upset as the number 1 ranked team and reigning champions the East Coast Drifters were de-throned by 4th seeded Rock City Cruising Club. In the other semifinal the races between WK Hawks and Seneca YC came down to the tightest of finishes in their third and deciding race with the Hawks snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a 2,3,5 at the finish line.

This set the scene for the first non all American final for four years. 5-time winners and 'ageing like a fine wine' WK Hawks against the Rock City Cruising Club. What followed was three very closely fought races which saw winning combinations for the Hawks overturned on each occasion by a combination of umpire flags and skillful manoeuvring from the US team. Rock City Cruising Club emerged victorious and kept the US winning streak going!

Full results can be found here.

The Wilson Trophy is an amazing event, not only on the water but also off it, with a cast of close to 300 volunteers from West Kirby SC all working tirelessly to pull off what can only be described as astonishing weekending since 1949. At the famous Wilson Trophy dinner on Saturday night the three guest speakers, representing the UK, US and Ireland set a vision for what the 100th Wilson might look like. In many ways, we all hope it doesn't look much different to the friendly, competitive racing and comradery that has endured for 75 years. Here's to the next 75!

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