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Inaugural Endeavour Trophy for Keelboats at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club

by Nick Milton 18 Apr 23:08 PDT 15-16 April 2023

The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, building on the success and legacy of the Endeavour Trophy for dinghy champions, hosted the inaugural Endeavour Trophy for Keelboats in Burnham on Crouch.

Nine teams, mostly with National champions on board, travelled from around the country for the event with representatives from Ajax, Cape 31, Dragon, Flying Fifteen, Illusion, J24, Sandhopper, Squib and Royal Corinthian One Design fleets. Run on the popular Keelboat League format of multiple, round robin fleet races, 23 short, sharp and frantic sprint races were completed over the two days using the club's fleet of matched Hunter 707s.

Day one started with a northerly wind at 12-15 knots and delivered the tight racing as expected, with the Principal Race Office, Edwin Buckley, laying the short windward / leeward course in the River Roach. The Cape 31 team, helmed by Johnny Cooper, got things under way with a win from the Ajax crew of Richard Merriweather, demonstrating slick handling and good boat speed, no mean feat with such closely matched boats.

Race 2 saw the local Dragon crew, skippered by Jono Brown, taking a win from West Mersea neighbours in the Illusion team, helmed by Jack Grogan, while the Flying Fifteen team helmed by Andy McKee secured another podium.

The fast-paced format meant the racing settled into a steady flow of races, crew changes, followed quickly by the next start, with teams being kept busy over the course of their three race stints, while the rest of crews rehydrated, spectated and provided the commentary from the iconic Beach Hut (the support boat moored nearby). The sheer professionalism of the committee boat team was demonstrated when one boat managed to clip the flag masts in the middle of a start sequence, yet the race still went off without a hitch despite people having to hold the signals up !

The first five races delivered five different winners, highlighting the competitiveness of all the teams, but Races 6 and 7 saw the Cape 31 team start to make their mark with comfortable wins over the Flying Fifteen team, before Race 8 saw the Dragon team back on top, chased closely by the Squib team of Tom Jeffcoate and Mark Hogan with local Squib sailors Micky Wright and RCYC Commodore Phil Aspinall on board.

While the Cape 31 team continued to show very consistent form, other teams were quietly but effectively getting some strong results, to the point where it was hard to work out overall places from one race to the next, which was reflected in the discussions and banter on the Beach Hut. At this point that the wind decided that everyone had been having too much fun and promptly disappeared for a couple of hours, giving Race Officer Edwin Buckley a headache as he moved the fleet from the River Roach back into the main River Crouch, only for the wind to swing back and forth before settling into a light but raceable easterly.

In the lighter conditions the umpires were kept busy as mark room was a premium at leeward marks, but there were relatively few incidents despite the closeness of the racing. At the end of day 1, with 12 races completed, the Cape 31 team were leading the way with five wins and a second, and the J24, Flying Fifteen, and Dragon crews in a close fought battle not far behind.

Day 2 dawned sunny, but windless - cue the inevitable waiting game and debate over when, or whether, the breeze would fill in. Thankfully the easterly which was due to arrive much later in the day decided it was going to make an appearance so the crews were sent out and made their way to the race area just to the east of the club, closely followed by everyone's favourite floating Beach Hut !

Racing got under way in a light, but building, breeze around noon, and by 2.00pm we had champagne sailing with sun, breeze, and crews who were all very much into the rhythm of the event with visibly sharper boat handling and closely matched speeds.

Race 13 saw Johnny Cooper and the Cape 31 team start the day where they left off, while David Hale and his J24 team were hot on their heels and backed that up with a win in the next two races, with Andy McKee and the Flying Fifteen team finding some new approaches that saw them stringing together a run of good results. Races 18 and 19 proved the Cape 31 boys could be beaten, with Jack Grogan (Illusions) and David Hale (J24) both pipping them for the wins, but by then it was increasingly clear that they were way out in front overall.

The final race saw another win for the Squib crew, followed by the Dragon team, rounding out what had been a brilliant day's racing.

With the extremely close scores in, and 23 races out of a possible 27 completed, the race team worked out the final results and the positions were:

1st - Cape 31 - Johnny Cooper, Luke Deegan, David Chapman, and Joni Price
2nd - J24 - David Hale, David Coward, Matt Hitt, and Jackie Hale
3rd - Flying Fifteen - Andrew McKee, Rich Jones, Chris Massey, and Steve Graham

Complete results can be found here.

Thus the Endeavour Trophy was awarded to a very deserving team, with an invite to return next year to defend their title. The talk in the bar from other teams was that they were going away to work hard to try and win their respective class championships so they could return next year to try and wrestle it away from them !

The event management team at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club once again smoothly and efficiently delivered vibrant and challenging sailing event.

While you may not (yet) be a keelboat class champion yourself there is an opportunity in July (22nd / 23rd) to race in the British Keelboat League event run to the same format of quick-fire fleet races - with entries opening shortly at

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