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Winds blow fair for Oliver's Musto Skiff in the Wilsonian River Challenge

by Andy Rice 4 Jun 09:36 PDT 1-2 June 2019

Warm southerly winds delivered idyllic sailing conditions for the inaugural Wilsonian River Challenge, and for Graeme Oliver's Musto Skiff in particular. With 44 boats competing in a mixed fleet handicap, the regatta took place over the weekend of 1 &2 June on the challenging waters of the Medway Estuary.

Saturday's non-discardable, double-points Pursuit Race took place in a Force 2 to 3, just enough to get Oliver and the Musto Skiffs flat-wire trapezing upwind and planing fast downwind. "It couldn't have been a better course for me," admitted Oliver modestly. "There were a couple of reaches too, but it was light enough that we could fly the kite on those too. I probably got into the lead at about the three-quarters mark of the race, so it was pretty straightforward after that."

In the Slow fleet, Brian Lamb and Sam Pygall sailed their Wayfarer to the Pursuit Race win ahead of another Wayfarer sailed by John Goudie and Sam Boniface. Behind Oliver in the Fast handicap, a good mix of boats did well on the Saturday opener. Mick Greenland and David Downs were second in an Osprey, in third was Timothy Kift and Jo Wicken's AltO followed by the best of the Blazes sailed by Ben Harden.

The competitors enjoyed fantastic weather for the Saturday evening BBQ and some 'Real Barreled' on the balcony of Wilsonian Sailing Club, replenishing their energy for Sunday's three back-to-back handicap races.

With the breeze blowing a good Force 4 on Sunday and the racing taking place on a square course, former SailJuice Winter Series champion Andy Peake raced his RS600 impeccably to score 3,1,1 across the three races. Unfortunately for him the lighter breeze and adverse current on the Saturday hadn't played to the windier strengths of the RS600 and his 13th place non-discardable score from the Pursuit Race pushed Peake out of contention for overall victory.

Meanwhile the reigning RS600 National Champion Richard Smith was racing an RS800 with his daughter Ellie for the weekend but had been battling with gennaker problems. It all seemed to have come good for the final race when the Smiths and Oliver were battling it out for the lead at the leeward mark. "We then had another snag with the kite halyard and couldn't get the gennaker down, which meant we were getting close to the shore and I had to capsize the boat," said Richard Smith. "Strangely Graeme was running into trouble when his main halyard snapped, so neither of us were able to finish the race. It was a great weekend though, we were so lucky with the weather and the race management was excellent."

Oliver, who was able to discard his final race retirement, echoed that sentiment about the race officer who had travelled to Wilsonian for the weekend. "Ian Bullock did a fantastic job, he's one of the best race officers that I've come across, so it would be great if we could have him back again."

So Oliver won the fast handicap and the event overall, with Lamb and Pygall's Wayfarer winning the slow fleet. Similar to Andy Peake in the Fast handicap, the runners-up in the Slow fleet didn't have such a great Pursuit Race on Saturday but made amends with a stellar Sunday in the strong breeze, the father-son duo of Richard and Ian Hudson scoring a trio of bullets in their 2000 doublehander. First lady helm in the Fast fleet was Jayne Thorpe in an RS200. First lady helm in the Slow fleet was Steph Wicken in a Laser Radial, Steph also being the daughter of Jo Wicken in the second-placed AltO. At the prizegiving, club Commodore Bernard Smith declared himself delighted with the inaugural Wilsonian River Challenge and a date of 20/21 June is already in place for next year.

Meanwhile the summer of handicap competition rolls on with another exciting venue coming up at the end of the month, the Bala Long Distance, at Bala Sailing Club in the beautiful, mountainous setting of North Wales on 22 & 23 June 2019.

Online entry is open at

GBSC Calendar 2018/19

Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash, Draycote Water Sailing Club
17 & 18 November 2018

Datchet Flyer, Datchet Water Sailing Club
8 & 9 December 2018

Brass Monkey, Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club
27 December 2018

John Merricks Tiger Trophy, Rutland Sailing Club
2 & 3 February 2019

Oxford Blue, Oxford Sailing Club
16 February 2019

King George Gallop, King George Sailing Club
16 & 17 March 2019

Weston Grand Slam
20 & 21 April 2019

Derwent Dambuster, Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club
11 & 12 May 2019

Wilsonian River Challenge, Wilsonian Sailing Club
1 & 2 June 2019

Bala Long Distance, Bala Sailing Club
22 & 23 June 2019

Mountbatten Centre, Plymouth
8 to 10 August 2019

Ullswater Ultimate, Ullswater Yacht Club
17 & 18 August 2019

Grand Finals, Rutland Sailing Club
28 & 29 September 2019

How do I get to the Grand Finals?

The Grand Finals of the GBSC are designed to celebrate the best of everything in small-boat racing in Great Britain. So there are many ways to qualify....

Finish in the top 10 of the travellers' series (based on your best three results)

Top qualifiers in a number of boat categories:

  • Fast Asymmetric
  • Fast Non-Asymmetric
  • Slow Asymmetric
  • Slow Non-Asymmetric
  • Multihull
  • Sportsboat
  • Best Improver
  • Most attended
  • Any boat valued at less than £1000
Top qualifiers in a number of age and other categories, for example:
  • Youth (Under 19)
  • Master (Over 60)
  • Female
  • Two Generations (two people sailing together, minimum age gap of 18 years - could be parent/child but not necessarily)
There will also be a number of 'wild card' invites available based on various criteria.

Hang on, but what even IS the Great British Sailing Challenge?

It's a series of handicap racing events that take place throughout the year, and it's open to pretty much any sail-powered craft. The Challenge involve events throughout the whole year, running large regattas at a variety of inland and open water venues. Competing sailors will earn ranking points from each event they compete in, with the top 100 sailors invited to a winner-takes-all-final at Rutland Water in September, a celebration to bring together the best British sailors of the year.

Who came up with the idea?

The idea comes from the organisers of the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series which has been one of the big success stories of the past decade. Organised by Andy Rice of (sailing journalist and marketer) and Simon Lovesey of SailRacer (event organiser and GPS tracking expert) has completed its 10th season.

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