by Matt Carter
Over the weekend of 23-24 February, the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy played host to the third installment of the RYA Winter Match Racing programme, a programme designed to kick-start the development of UK National Match Racing.
RYA Winter Match Racing
Ice-cold conditions met the young pretenders in Portland across the two days of racing, with eight school teams of between three and four sailors ranging in ages from 16 to 20 battling for event honours.
With all eight teams being new to racing in Elliott keelboats and most new to match racing, Saturday proved tentative for all, but with chilly yet otherwise perfect sailing conditions in the harbour all progressed quickly to raise the level of competition to increasingly tight races by the end of the full single group round robin.
Jamie Diamond, sailing with Tom Williams and Tom Piggot, topped the round robin stage to book a semi-final showdown with George Watson. In the breezy yet bitterly cold conditions, Diamond and his crew stayed true to their form to clinch two race wins and their berth in the weekend final.
King’s School Hannah Goldsmith and her crew Elizabeth Wallchope, Helen Woodward, Henry Cross, finished the round robin in second and cruised through to the final with a straightforward 2-0 win over Jack Ward in their semi-final match.
Diamond, who entered the final with a spring in his step after dominating the previous rounds, managed to continue his momentum with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Goldsmith to claim event victory.
'It feels awesome' said the 17-year-old Diamond on his win at WPNSA. 'Our boat speed definitely made the difference this weekend along with a lot of hiking and a good level of fitness. In the final race with Hannah we didn’t have a great start but we managed to get ahead and eventually seal the win which is a great achievement. We are now looking forward to the Finals in April.'
Meanwhile in the petite final George Watson was eventually victorious over Jack Ward but with many place changes and lots of pre-start action. In the play-off for 5/6 Richard Matthews didn't have it all his own way being taken all the way to three flights by his worthy opponent Michael Calvert.
RYA Portland House, an RYA Olympic legacy facility at Osprey Quay on Portland was used as the base for accommodation, briefing and post-race reviews, whilst the fleet of six Elliott 6m boats, the class used for the Women's Olympic match racing, were used for this combative form of racing conducted in Portland Harbour.
The philosophy behind the programme, initiated by Event Director and RYA Match Racing Chair David Campbell-James, is as a 'development squad' with coaches following the racing and giving top tips at key moments, intensive debriefs lead by the umpires and an emphasis on constructive collaboration between teams. The overall aims of the programme being to build a new foundation for match racing.
Peter Aitken, RYA Winter Match Racing coach, said: 'We have had a fantastic weekend here in Weymouth and Portland, it’s been extremely cold with some extremely inexperienced sailors learning to sail the boats. It’s been brilliant to see how well they have got on with getting into an Elliott 6m for the first time and with some experiencing match racing for the first time, so it’s been a big learning curve for them all.'
Overall results – RYA Winter Match Racing Number 3 (23-24 February 2013)
1st Jamie Diamond, GBRJD78, Warsash.
2nd Hannah Goldsmith, GBRHG15, Kings School, Winchester.
3rd George Watson, GBRGW13, Saltash Sailing Club.
4th Jack Ward, Claire's Court School, Maidenhead, Berkshire.
5th Richard Matthews, GBRRM19, Abingdon School.
6th Michael Calvert, GBDMC87, Kent Schools.
7th Lewis Coppinger, Derbyshire Youth Sailing.
8th Liam Horgan, GBRLG40, Queen Mary Sailing Club.
The RYA Winter Match Racing Final 2013 will take place at WPNSA on 20-21 April 2013.
For more information on the RYA Winter Match Racing programme please visit www.rya.org.uk/racing.