by Matt Carter
A blend of youth and experience prevailed in a mix of conditions at the first of the 2013 RYA Olympic Classes Spring Series events, which too place this weekend at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (9-10 March).
James Peters Ed Fitzgerald 49er - RYA Olympic Classes Spring Series 2012
The first of the three-weekend Spring Series events saw a strong turn out from both Skandia Team GBR’s seasoned performers and regular domestic Olympic Classes racers, with sailors battling against light winds and fog on Saturday followed by a breezy North Easterly 20-25 knots on the Sunday.
With only one race on the opening day and a further three on the Sunday, Skandia Team GBR Development Squad sailors James Peters/Ed Fitzgerald made light work of the challenging 49er fleet as the 2012 Spring Series champions won all four races to take the weekend victory by five points from second-placed Henry Lloyd Williams/Sam Batten.
For 2012 Olympic sailing silver medallist Stuart Bithell, and his new crew Chris Grube, the Spring Series opener acted as their first competitive outing following their announcement in January that they would be campaigning together for Rio 2016. With the pair both making the transition from the 470 to the 49er, the duo posted a consistent 4-2-3 form the three races they completed to finish third overall.
In the 470 class, 2012 470 Junior European silver medallists Mike Wood/Hugh Brayshaw enjoyed an equally straightforward weekend of racing completing a clean sweep of bullets to cement their position at the top of the leaderboard. Skandia Team GBR Development Squad sailors Anna Burnett/Flora Stewart finished second, two points above their 470 counterparts Joanna Freeman/Katie Tomsett in third.
2012 RYA Volvo Youth National Champion and ISAF Youth Worlds representative Kieran Martin notched two race wins from the four races to finish one point ahead of his RYA Youth Squad teammate Joe Bennett who provided stiff competition in the RS:X 8.5 fleet to finish one point behind in second.
In the larger RS:X 9.5 class Ai Masters finished top of the two man fleet ahead of Brian Wilson, while in the heavy weight Finn class Harry Briddon rounded off the weekend in first, two points ahead of James Hadden, with Paul Childs in third.
In the Paralympic 2.4mR class Megan Pascoe picked up from where she left off at the last ISAF World Cup event in Miami with three race wins and the overall weekend victory ahead of Carol Dugdale in second and Craig Wood in third.
Four boats made the start line in the two person SKUD class, with Paralympic bronze medallists Alexandra Rickham/Niki Birrell and John Robertson/Hannah Stodel, who are more used to sailing in the three person Sonar class, making their first competitive comeback since last summer’s Games. With only one race completed on the Sunday, the four time World champions Rickham/Birrell finished top of the pack ahead Robertson/Stodel, while Alex Hovden/Megan Harris finished third.
Barrie Edgington, Skandia Team GBR Development Squad Manager, commented: 'Despite the contrasting conditions over the two days, the race teams did an excellent job of getting the four races completed. It is equally satisfying to see a good number of new faces and teams competing in Olympic Classes for the first time which bodes well for the next two events in the Series.'
Olivia Risk, RYA Event Co-ordinator, added: 'With little wind and fog on Saturday and over 20 knots on Sunday this proved some challenging conditions for the race management teams and sailors this weekend. All in all this was a successful event with the majority of classes completing enough races to constitute a series.
'Thanks goes to the volunteers, without whom the event would not be possible and to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy for providing an excellent venue and service.'
The second event of the Spring Series will also take place at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy from 13-14 April, with the finale being hosted by Hayling Island Sailing Club on the 18-19 May.
Entries for the second weekend at WPNSA are being accepted online at RYA Racing Events website with early bird prices available if you enter online by Monday 8th April. For the Hayling Island SC event, entries will be taken at registration.
The Spring Series Notice of Race can also be found in the RYA Olympic Classes Handbook, which is available from the Crew Room section of the Skandia Team GBR website. This also contains information regarding the applicable class for each weekend, key class dates and the series of qualifiers for grants.
2013 RYA Olympic Classes Spring Series – WPNSA (9-10 March):
1: Harry Briddon
2: James Hadden
3: Paul Childs
1: Mike Wood/Hugh Brayshaw
2: Anna Burnett/Flora Stewart
3: Joanna Freeman/Katie Tomsett
1: James Peters/Ed Fitzgerald
2: Henry Williams/ Sam Batten
3: Stuart Bithell/ Chris Grube
1: Kieran Martin
2: Joe Bennett
3: Robert York
1: Ali Masters
2: Brian Wilson
1: Megan Pascoe
2: Carol Dugdale
3: Craig Wood
1: Alexandra Rickham/Niki Birrell
2: John Robertson/ Hannah Stodel
3: Alex Hovden/ Megan Harris
For full details on the 2013 RYA Olympic Classes Spring Series and for a full list of results please visit the RYA Racing website.