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Blind Sailing Nationals Keelboat League 2021 - Round-Up in memory of Graeme Love

by Blind Sailing 8 Nov 2021 09:03 PST 29-31 October 2021
Blind Sailing Nationals © Blind Sailing

To start, we would like to thank everyone who has supported the charity to put on this competition on. Without your involvement, no matter how small or large, it simply would not have been able to go ahead.

Friday was a day of getting together, meeting new sailors who had become part of Blind Sailing through our online Try Sailing programmes that have been running since 2019.

The sun was out and a steady breeze was blowing across the lake, so after all had been welcomed it was time for everyone to grab the opportunities to experience what it is like to sail in a Flying 15, or for those that have been sailing the Flying 15s a chance to recap before racing on Saturday. With the light wind it was great to see our newest members have time to piece the puzzle together that they had learnt when they had recently joined our virtual try sailing course.

The first evening of the event was spent eating pizza and socialising at South Cerney Sailing Club, who were instrumental in supporting Blind Sailing to run this year's event. "Thank you" never seems enough appreciation for the support members at the club give to the team. Commodore Gary Morris and, Commodore Lucy Hodges, opened the event with two short welcomes setting the timings for the next couple of days, for both clubs felt so good to be opening the event after the pandemic.

It is also thanks for Premier Inn Swindon North and the Cold Harbour Pub for being amazing hosts, arranging rooms, being guides and for arranging our breakfast ahead of the public so we could have easy access to all we needed.

With the event now officially open is was now into racing with a planned schedule of 21 races over two days.

Saturday morning dawned with not much wind at all, but it was forecast to get stronger later, so the event was started with the race briefing from Gary Morris our race officer for the weekend. Commodore Lucy Hodges also welcomed everyone and introduced the race officers and safety support. Our ambition was to complete twenty races on Saturday and the remaining races on Sunday should the wind allow.

Racing begun, and although the breeze was light it slowly picked by midday to a good steady breeze, with a few lake shifts keeping the sailors busy and keeping the racing interesting. Everyone worked hard, we put on a great show for friends and family who were spectating from shoreside. Lucy commented when giving a Facebook live update about how the charity's weekend was going, "We've had a few boats who were over the line early, but if you're not pushing it then you're not working it".

The day continued with fun-filled races and sailors replenished their energy with hot home-made soup and plenty of wonderfully baked cakes that had been made by volunteers from the sailing club - Fran's chocolate brownies were legendary as always.

At the end of day one we had sailed fourteen races. Considering that the wind started light this was a good day of racing. For the charity, it was great to see our new members coming off the water with smiles of confidence and achievement, saying the nuggets Lucy planted online certainly came into play.

The evening was enjoyed by all, and we were treated to yet more home-made cooking by Jo and her wonderful team of kitchen fairies who fed us very well with pasta bake and apple and berry crumble.

During the evening of socialising Kate said to fellow sailor Judith that she was disappointed not to be closer to the top of the leaderboard, but that the real reward of the event was having the privilege of supporting and witnessing an old college friend beginning her sailing journey. Her comment is what Blind Sailing UK is all about, supporting each other to achieve more than we think is possible while learning new skills, developing independence and friendship.

The Blind Sailing annual awards completed day one of our weekend, the nominations and awards are as follows:

Ian Cormack Cup

Winner - Jonny Stevenson, Jonny has not stopped, progressing the charity, bring new and fresh ideas and ensuring all our training for our RYA Level 1 and 2 and spinnakers were a success ending the year by organising the 2021 Nationals.

With Recognition - Colin Midgley, Colin has supported the advanced online learning, supporting Lucy and held describe video. Colin also has supported our onshore training, providing some great spinnaker training for all to understand and take to the water. He is also always around to support questions, be it on rules or just what next.

With Recognition - Martin Philips, Martin supports activities on the water through many charities. With Blind Sailing growing, we have been working on advancing our procedures and policies to support our growth, Martin has given his own time to attend training and be there for the charity even when not attending a weekend.

Charlie Findlay Youth Award

Winner - Fran Neale, Fran has given so many weekends to the charity running support Saturday, running intro days for our new sailors as well as running RYA Level 1 courses and supporting the charity, running these courses from South Cerney, her home club, as well as making great brownies.

With Recognition - Oscar Phillips, Oscar found himself at home and not at sea completing his degree, wanting to support his dad Martin and the charity, he volunteered for the weekends. Oscar grew each weekend, being used to dad's vision he had a head start, but truly mixed in and supported.

Lucy also noted all the youth volunteers who have supported so much Hazel, and now Sarah starting her volunteering journey.

Helen Walsh Commitment To Service

Winner - The Neale Family, what can we say, home-made food at its best. Snacks you could not stop eating. As a family they donated time and food so we never went hungry. They are also active picking people up from station and pulling boats out the water with all-round support.

With Recognition - Kate Healey, a lady that never says no. Kate has supported all the online courses and been there to answer any questions, even the tech questions Lucy has no clue about. Kate has also taken on the role of writing blogs and getting quotes, helping put into words what the charity is up to.

Wooden Spoon - Richard Burton (Burt) - a roll tack training session turned into a bit of a swim. Supporting Lucy's sailing goals and working on body weight, it was taking a bit to get Lucy to wait for the boat to heel then, move right at the end of the day the penny dropped, just as Burt had not expected. Lucy's laughs could be heard all around the lake.

We also want to say thanks to Judy Griffiths and her amazing company, Oarsum for our day one winners' prizes, three amazing sail bags, if you want to know more go to

A great night of food, drinks and thanks.

Sunday was a contrasting day wind-wise. I know you are asking yourselves how can you have to much wind to go racing? Well, you can - with any type of sailing, whether it be on the sea or in land, you can in fact have too much wind. This would be a safety concern and everybody at Blind Sailing takes safety very seriously.

While members were disappointed to not have a chance at competing, we all understood why the day's racing was cancelled. But, with 14 races completed we had a enough to make it a regatta.

Overall Winners:

1st Judith Spencer, Neil Brooks and Richard Burton
2nd Lucy Hodges, John Churcher and Jonny Stevenson
3rd Patrick Beukanholdt, Ramin Nejad and Fran Neale
B1 Winners, Eddie Kitchen, Dennis Manning and Gareth Robinson
B2 Winners, Lucy Hodges, John Churcher and Jonny Stevenson
B3 Winners, Judith Spencer, Neil Brooks and Richard Burton

It is true to say this event is now sadly named after Graeme Love, a manager of the Blind Sailing team for many years, a true ambassador around the world getting so many involved with the charity. We know he would have loved watching the fourteen races and seeing new sailors take on the challenge. We know he would have loved Deborah's spirt at B1, new to racing and relatively new to helming, but with a natural feel taking it all in her stride.

All members would like to say to our amazing volunteers who put in so much work behind the scenes to make an event like this happen, we appreciate all that you do to help this brilliant organisation thrive and the hours you all put in before and during the training sessions, competitions and social events is honourable.

We would also like to say thank you to all the Flying 15 owners for donating their boats. To allow our sponsors for the funding to make this event happen, Mylor Sailing School, RYA Sailability and South Cerney Sailing Club.


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