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2021 IOCA Gill Winter Championships at Rutland Sailing Club

by Debbie Smith 27 Nov 2021 00:10 PST 20-21 November 2021
Main fleet launching during the Optimist Winter Championship at Rutland © Mark Webster

The 2021 IOCA Gill Winter Championships at Rutland Water offered winter sailing at its very best - bright, cold and breezy - and the challenging conditions seemed to bring out the best in everyone.

115 Optimist sailors, ranging from 8-15 years old, braved conditions that became ever more challenging as the weekend progressed, showing great enthusiasm and a competitive spirit.

The Regatta Fleet sailed fantastically, especially on the Sunday, completing an eight-race series under the experienced eye of Race Officer Imogen Gibbs. Ben McEwen (Royal Lymington YC) showed the fleet a clean pair of heels, results-wise, followed by Rupert Garlick (Burghfield SC) and Callum Marshall (Blackwater SC), with Nia Byrne (Bewl Valley SC) first girl in 4th place. Rupert Garlick also won the sportsmanship award. The Endeavour award had many contenders on such a cold weekend, but it was awarded to Thies Schuerch (Rutland S Club, Hykeham SC), who showed great grit and determination throughout the weekend.

Youngsters sailing in such conditions is impressive at any age, but some of the competitors were at their first IOCA event and they dealt with capsizes, equipment failure, plummeting temperatures and big gusts with huge grins and serious gumption, giving it their absolute best until they were simply too tired to continue. A special word to the safety fleets for their excellent work in making sure the kids felt secure out on the water, and their parents felt confident in pushing them off from shore to race.

For the 82 boats in Main Fleet, the regatta was very much tale of two halves. On the Saturday, the wind was a stable 8 knots for race 1 and conditions were mild. Competition on the start line was keen, with six boats collecting a U flag disqualification in race 1 and 9 boats falling foul of the black flag in race 2. The wind built slightly over the day and the temperature plummeted for the first beat of Race 3.

A very cold northerly wind arrived overnight, which saw the older and more experienced sailors relishing 20-knot gusts, after many months of light wind events - with the breeze topping out towards the end of race 4, when the wind increased to 20-22 knots for several minutes, representing quite a challenge for the newer members of the fleet. All sailors were hiking hard in the frosty conditions to keep themselves warm.

Under the experienced control of Race Officer Charlie Stowe, Main Fleet completed six races, and by the end of the series there were some very tired and cold sailors showing great perseverance and determination to record a finish on what was a really challenging day's racing. The series was won by Archie Munro-Price (Lymington YC and Castle Cove SC), closely followed by Hugh Andrews (Blackwater SC) and Joe Jones (Burghfield SC), with Archie and Joe giving a master class in heavy wind sailing in Sunday's fruity conditions. The girls stuck together, with Lila Edwards (Parkstone YC), Tabitha Davies (Royal Lymington YC) and Ciara Murphy (Cayman Islands Sailing Club, Royal Hospital School) taking 4th to 6th places. The Endeavour award (again another award with a lot of contenders!) went to Noah Mathers (Burnham SC), while the sportsmanship prize went to Emily Leary (Tata SC), who went back into the lake at the end of sailing on Sunday and helped to catch the smallest and most tired main fleet sailors at the back of the fleet - despite having been on the water all day herself. An example of great sportsmanship!

IOCA UK would like to thank the entire team at Rutland Sailing Club for looking after the sailors and their families so wonderfully - laying on breakfast, lunch and dinner, including spectacular cheesy chips and hot chocolate with marshmallows bigger than the sailors! The IOCA committee would also like to thank all the parent volunteers that made the weekend possible - and, as always, extend their gratitude to sponsors Gill, and Noble Marine - as well as our partners in getting kids on the water, RYA British Youth Sailing. We simply couldn't do it without you all.

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