by Matt Carter
It has been a case of mixed fortunes for the British Keelboat Academy so far this spring, with sailors who form part of the RYA and UKSA’s joint keelboat racing initiative overcoming some tough challenges and steep learning curves out on the Solent.
BKA sailors on-board Farr 45 Kolga - British Keelboat Academy
After a very cold couple of spring months, the start of the racing season kicked off with some impressive results. Back in March, the British Keelboat Academy started off with some training weekends alongside the Warsash Spring Series, followed by the RORC Easter Challenge and the Warsash Spring Championships towards the end of April.
The regattas allowed competitors from the BKA to bring together all of their winter training, which included technical training into areas including rules, meteorology and boat maintenance, as well as acting as the perfect opportunity to receive on the water coaching as the young keelboat sailors look to settle into their individual campaigns ahead of the key events this summer.
Seven BKA sailors joined the J109 Alice (Alastair Speare-Cole) managed by Jack Trigger. Competing in the J109 fleet in the Solent, the new team achieved some good results, competing in the BKA Inter-Club Challenge where they finished third overall, IRC, Warsash Spring Series in 11th overall, J109, and the Warsash Spring Championships where the young crew achieved fifth overall, J109. With the entire team only being in their first year of the BKA, the aspiring sailors have learnt a lot in such a short period of time with the crew now looking forward to their next regatta at the RnSYC in May.
The Beneteau 40.7 Mitchellson Interceptor (Stuart and James Wilkie) welcomed three BKA sailors to the team managed by Jonty Cook. The team so far has had a string of good results, starting the season earlier than any other team. After a number of cold weekends and missing a few days due to corporate sailing, the team still managed second overall in IRC 2, in the Warsash Spring Series. After some tough competition, the team posted eight overall in the RORC Easter Challenge and another eight overall in the Warsash Spring Championships.
'Overall it has been a successful start to the season for Mitchellson Interceptor,' said BKA squad sailor Jonty Cook, 20, from Oxford.
'The attitudes towards these events were very pleasing from all sailors on-board, and even though we still aimed to do well, the Spring Series events were treated as more of a training regatta than anything else. With such a strong fleet cross the start line on both weekends of the Series, Interceptor finished eighth, scoring a fourth and a fifth on the final day, our two best results of the Championship. With several more events in the coming months we hope to build on our performance so far to attain more results.'
On board the Ker 40 Magnum 3 (Andrew Pearce) are another four BKA squad sailors for 2013. After a successful 2012 racing season, the team are back and doing well. The team missed out on first place to the TP52 ’5 West’ in the RORC Easter Challenge and again, came second in the Warsash Spring Championships.
Christopher Robson, BKA squad sailor and crew of the Ker 40, added: 'With biting cold weather over the first RORC championship of the season, Magnum 3 put her pre-season training into good use with consistent results. The North Easterly breeze made manoeuvres tricky with cold bodies and freezing hands, however the crew battled on making the best of the bitterly cold conditions. Being top Ker 40 was one of our aims for the weekend, which we achieved, so we were happy with the result.'
With the continued support from the professional team ‘RAN’, the BKA has placed a full crew of 12 BKA sailors on board Farr 45 Kolga (Niklas Zennström) with Pat Jolly as team coach. The team had a number of good individual results, with a couple of bullets including winning a race by more than five minutes on corrected time. Overall, the team was placed second in the Warsash Spring Series, sixth in the RORC Easter Challenge and second in the Warsash Spring Championships.
Four BKA sailors joined the competitive First 40 for 2013, managed by Robbie Southwell. Unfortunately, joining the Warsash Spring Series nearer the end, the team were left in 11th overall, but even with the lack of training, the team still managed fifth in IRC 2 in the RORC Easter Challenge and an impressive first in IRC 2 in the Warsash Spring Championships.
The BKA teams will now be working on consolidating their manoeuvres and achieving consistent results for the remaining season. The sailors are now preparing for the Vice Admirals Cup in May, where the Farr 45 team will be looking to defend the IRC Class 1 trophy from 2012.
Ash Holmes, British Keelboat Academy Head Coach, commented: 'I am very pleased with the progression of the sailors this year. The teams are achieving some good results and learning by their mistakes. I am confident that we are going to have a good year and that many of the squad sailors will go on to race on some great teams in the future.'
For more information about the British Keelboat Academy please visit the BKA website at www.britishkeelboatacademy.org, or follow the BKA on Facebook or on Twitter (@tweetbka)