Tom Gillard discusses the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series

Busy course at the Tiger Trophy at Rutland Water
Paul Williamson
In the month following the conclusion of the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series, the clocks have changed to British Summer Time, yet Great Britain continues to be ice-locked in a chill easterly wind from Scandinavia.

Perhaps the Series should have carried on a while longer, although six big winter handicap events from November through to February seemed plenty at the time. Winners of the 2012/13 championship were Tom Gillard and Simon Potts in their Fireball.

Winners Tom Gillard (centre) & Simon Potts (left) receive their prize GJW Direct’s Glen Wallis (right)
© Brenda Hoult, SailRacer
'Most of the events were windy, which suits the Fireball,' said Gillard, the reigning World Champion who with ‘Pottsy’ received their prizes from Glen Wallis of insurance company GJW Direct at the RYA Dinghy Show in London. 'I’d not done a lot of sailing with Pottsy and this Series is the best racing you could do in the winter. It’s been great practice for us and set us up well for the season.' Pottsy, who used to crew for another former Fireball World Champion, the late Richard Estaugh, has yet to win the Worlds in his own right.

But he’s looking forward to helping Gillard defend his title as they look towards the 2013 Worlds in Slovenia.

Gillard enjoyed racing against a variety of classes. 'It brings the whole of UK dinghy sailing together, and a lot of really high quality sailors,' he said. 'One of the best moments was at the Grafham Grand Prix in the strong wind when we found we were as fast as the 505s upwind.'

Of course the Great Lakes handicap experts might have something to say about that. Led by Great Lakes chairman, Andrew Craig from Queen Mary Sailing Club, representatives from the six participating clubs met at Alexandra Palace to work through the numbers, analysing the trends from the data and making decisions on which classes needed adjusting upwards or downwards.

One class that surely can’t escape a downward adjustment is the International Moth, three of which ripped around the race course at a sensational pace to dominate the podium at the Bloody Mary. First of the non-foilers was the 49er sailed by Rick Peacock and Nick Murray, who were fourth at Queen Mary and continued to turn in a consistent performance to finish second overall in the Winter Series.

Father and son Craig (left) and Paul Williamson (centre) receive their prizes from Andy Rice of
© Brenda Hoult, SailRacer
Flying the flag for the singlehanders were Pete Nelson aboard his third-placed RS600 and Craig Williamson sailing his standard Laser to fourth overall. Top-placed woman was Brenda Hoult in her Laser 4.7, although will she return next season in her recently acquired Devoti D-1?

'We also wanted to reward people who were talking about the Series or generally enthusing about it,' said Series founder Andy Rice from

'So we also gave prizes to people like Paul Williamson who travelled the circuit with his son Craig and took some great photos while he was at it. The 420 class were among a number of classes that have really got behind the Series and using it as the main winter focus for their fleet racing. And then we got a wonderful write-up from Musto Skiff sailor Ben Schooling who wrote up his exploits in the Series. Not only that but at the first Musto meeting of the year, Ben won the weekend and beat reigning World Champion Bruce Keen. It’s great to see sailors making the effort to get out in all weathers, and it’s that ‘can-do’ spirit that is part of what makes Great Britain great at dinghy sailing.'

According to Simon Lovesey of SailRacer who ran the Series website and online entry and payment processing: 'We had record entries, up 26% from the previous season and total entries of 783 boats. There were almost 100 different classes competing in the Series, with the biggest turnouts from the Laser Radial, Fireball and Merlin Rocket.
With more than 16,800 unique visitors to the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series website, it shows just how much interest there is in winter handicap racing.'

Prizewinners, Class, Prizes:

1st Tom Gillard and Simon Potts, Fireball (Gul/ Holt/ Sailjuice)
2nd Rick Peacock and Nick Murray, 49er (Trident/ Sailjuice)
3rd. Pete Nelson, RS600 (Holt)
4th. Craig Williamson (SailJuice)

Top Youth: Ben Hazeldine and Rhos Hawes, 420 (Holt/ Sailjuice)
Top Lady: Brenda Hoult, Laser 4.7 (Sailjuice)