by Matt Carter
In the 2013 Musto Vice Admiral's Cup, British Keelboat Academy sailors made the most of some mixed conditions this weekend as the young competitors on-board Farr 45 Kolga and Ker 40 Magnum three were crowned Class one and Class six champions respectively.
BKA sailors on-board Farr 45 Kolga
The RYA and UKSA’s joint keelboat racing initiative had three boats competing in the three-day event, run by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes, with James French and his BKA crew on Board Farr 45 Kolga winning Sunday’s final race of the Series and the overall regatta by six points, while sailors on board Andrew Pearce’s Ker 40 Magnum three finished first in Class six.
In the build-up to the event, the BKA Farr 45 Team had competed in three events and half of a series in 2013, so were confident an event win was within their grasp. However, inconsistency in crew availability meant that only the coach and spinnaker trimmer had been on board for every event and, with university exams underway, it looked like the team would be equally pressed to find enough available BKA sailors to make up a full F45 crew.
Fortunately, some of the ex-BKA sailors volunteered to fill-in on certain days, allowing at least one experienced Farr 45 sailor attending to the bow team and one to the middle of the boat on each day of the event.
Pat Jolly, BKA Farr 45 team coach, said: 'Once again we worked hard on developing a professional approach with regard to individual roles and team dynamics and expected this to reveal itself in the on-board communication. A firm race strategy was in place well before each start and, unlike earlier in the season, the team stuck to the strategy, be it the fastest way around the race course earlier in the event or managing the points differences by the end of day two.'
Amongst the crew new to the Farr 45 was Callum McCullough who said: 'It was a good experience to see how the BKA team on Kolga works together, I'll be keen to get back on board in the future'.
The ex-BKA sailors who were drafted in also claim to have learned something during the event, as Alex Gardner points out: 'It was great to come back to Kolga for the weekend. It's been almost a year since I moved from the BKA to join the Artemis Offshore Academy and pursue short-handed sailing. For me it was a great chance to get back to some crewed racing and to help out with getting the boat going fast from my position in pit.
'Despite the number of crew changes this weekend, the team was keen to work together and push the boat from the word go. To come away from the event with a win was great but it also felt like there was some good learning on-board and plenty of potential for the future of the boat and the campaign.'
James French, Farr 45 skipper from Newbridge, Isle of Wight , added: 'The team did a great job gelling quickly into some new roles. We coped with the shifty conditions well and got off the line with pace as often as possible. Choosing the right side of each leg meant the fleet normally spilt but we stayed on top to see out the other Farr 45's.'
Meanwhile, BKA sailors competing on Magnum 3 had the smallest class in the regatta with only two boats, themselves and Chaos, a Mills 43. A clean sweep of bullets using the one discard from the nine races completed lead to an easy victory from what turned into more of a case of match racing than fleet racing.
'It was a bit of an empty feeling if I’m honest, with Chaos not showing much competition and not competing on the last day,' admitted Magnum three Chris Robson, 24, from Edinburgh.
'With this in mind we used the last day to focus on our offshore events coming up, changing trimmers and moving people into different roles around the boat in time for the Myth of Malham, the Race in a weeks’ time. This was great experience for the BKA guys going into bowman, jib trim and main trim roles as this helped us learn a lot about the boat, and refined our own personal skills, which left us feeling more confident with the boat and boat handling.'
BKA sailors on board J109 Alice didn’t have as great a weekend as their fellow team mates, as Ed Hampton-Matthews, 20, from Warsash, explains: 'After three close days of racing, we finished up in seventh place. This was a little disappointing as we did not meet the goal we had set of finishing within the top five, however it was a promising result seeing as we were fairly under-crewed compared to the other boats in the fleet.
'Coming away from the event we have learnt a large amount about the boat and how we can adapt it for the changing conditions. As well as learning about the boat, we all learnt about how we can individually improve our own positions on the boat. The most encouraging part of the weekend were the results on the first day, posting a two, six, nine score line, with even more consistent results on day two and three.
Hampton-Matthews continues: 'Going into our main event of the season, the Nationals and Jcup held in Plymouth in August, we have many things we have learnt to develop on the boat, as well as all of us keeping up our personal development through fitness training and general position training. Overall the Vice Admiral’s Cup was an event full of learning and development for the Alice team with some areas for us to improve on in time for the Nationals in August.'
Ash Holmes, British Keelboat Academy Head Coach, added: 'I am very pleased with the results from the BKA teams. The BKA programme is not all about winning, it's about what it takes to get across the finish line and what the sailors learn along the way. I feel everyone has benefited from this event and will apply what they've learnt in future campaigns.'