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Horsfield & Burridge win Great British Sailing Challenge

by Andy Rice 1 Oct 13:43 PDT 28-29 September 2019
Simon Horsfield & Katie Burridge fly past Tim Hire during the Great British Sailing Challenge Final at Rutland © Tim Olin / www.olinphoto.co.uk

Simon Horsfield and Katie Burridge have won the first ever Grand Final of the Great British Sailing Challenge, racing their 2000 very effectively across a range of conditions on Rutland Water.

The event, which took place over 28 & 29 September, was the culmination of a year of multi-class handicap racing around the country. A fleet of over 60 boats representing 41 different classes - ranging in size and speed from the RS Tera to the Nacra 20 Carbon - had responded to the invitation to compete in the Final. With the prospect of some very strong wind over the weekend, not all the invitees made the journey to Rutland. For those that did, Saturday's three back-to-back races around a trapezoid course proved to be a very stiff challenge for the competitors who ranged in age from 11 to 82, with lots of family members sailing together.

With the wind gusting well over 20 knots at times, staying upright and keeping the boat in one piece was a challenge in itself, even for this fleet which included several current and past national champions, Olympians, along with current and past winners of the Selden SailJuice Winter Series. However, the tight top and bottom reaches around the square course were working well for the 2000 of Horsfield and Burridge who were able to carry the gennaker for three of the four legs. This duo had already proven their handicap racing prowess earlier this year when they won the Selden SailJuice Winter Series.

However, one of the few multihulls competing was giving Horsfield and Burridge more than a run for their money, as local sailor Steven Sawford muscled his Sprint 15 around the course with great skill. Notching up scores of 1,4,2 put Sawford in the lead by the end of Saturday followed by the very consistent performance of Penny and Russ Clark who scored 2,2,3 in their immaculately sailed 505. Georgia Booth and Olly Davenport improved throughout the day, sailing their Fireball to 8,5,1 during the course of the tough afternoon.

Battered and bruised after three hard races, probably the last thing some sailors wanted to do after coming ashore was taking part in another competition. Yet the sailors rose to the new challenge, which was to present the best 20-second 'Elevator Pitch' for why they think their class is the best boat in the world. The judges deemed the National 18 to have made the best and most choreographed pitch, but the winners online for most thumbs-up from Facebook voters was the 2000, presented beautifully and succinctly by none other than Simon Horsfield and Katie Burridge. To watch the Elevator Pitches of all the participating classes, have a look here:

For dinner, Rutland Sailing Club's recently appointed caterers, Caroline and Nick Richer, put together a lovely two-course meal which led into an evening round-table chat about "The future of dinghy racing in the UK". With more than 50 sailors joining in the discussion, GBSC organisers Andy Rice and Simon Lovesey presented their plans for future years and fielded questions on various topics on how to improve the already strong racing scene in the UK.

Sunday dawned to slightly less breeze, and the rain clouds parted long enough for an extremely pleasant Pursuit Race around Rutland Water. The ever-smiling and tough young competitors in the RS Tera Pro fleet were first out of the gate at 11am for a 150-minute race around the track, chased by all manner of boats up to the fastest, including a 49er and a Nacra F20 Carbon.

Fireball and all-round dinghy star, Dave Wade, was racing a Mirror crewed by Tristian Mitchel, and led for a good part of the race. At the other end of the speed scale, the father/daughter team, Ralph and Sophie Singleton, were handling their RS800 impeccably and were closing in on the lead. However, a close-fought match race between two 2000s, Burridge and Horsfield versus Jasper and Laura Barnham, drove these two to the front of the pack. The Barnhams overtook Horsfield and Burridge to take victory in the Pursuit Race. Even so, a second place for Horsfield/Burridge - combined with their excellent results on Saturday - was sufficient for them to take overall victory.

The Force 2 to 3 conditions on Sunday weren't quite strong enough for Sawford to maintain his Sprint 15 charge from Saturday, a 13th place relegating the Rutland sailor to fourth overall. In second place overall were the Clarks in their 505 followed by third-placed Tim Hire sailing an RS Aero 7. Tim was also top Youth, with Megan Ferguson and Solomon Wilby runners-up in their 420 and Teddy Dunn the best of the RS Tera Pros in third place. Teddy, from the Isle of Man, was also top Junior.

In the Y&Y Battle of the Classes for the combined scores of the best two boats in class, the Scorpion came out on top, with the Fireball second and the 2000 in third overall.

Race officer David Wilkins, having run a great weekend's racing with his highly trained Rutland team of volunteers and professionals, finished off the prize-giving with an auction of some valuable items including a limited edition poster with autographs of all the 2008 British Olympic Squad. Seeing as Penny Clark, one of the signatories on the poster, was present, husband Russ did the decent thing and outbid his rivals to win the poster and his wife's autograph.

There were a number of categories within the overall competition, and prizes awarded according to boat type, age etc. See all the categories here.

Travelling photographer Tim Olin has been on the water for almost every event of the GBSC, and he was also honoured at the prize-giving. For more of Tim's photos and for full results from the weekend, go to www.sailingchallenge.org.

With the first season now complete, the next edition kicks off shortly for the 2019/20 GBSC at the Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash. A series of qualifying events will take place across the country through to next year's Finals in September/October 2020. A venue has yet to be confirmed, so expressions of interest are welcomed. Please contact Andy Rice at

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