RYA Womens Champs 2006

The winds blow and the girls go!

Despite winds ranging from 25-35 knots on the first day of the RYA Women's Dinghy Championships, 27 boats were rigged and ready to set off from the beach at Hayling Island Sailing Club (HISC) on Saturday morning (20 May).

The forecast was ugly, predicting rain, cold temperatures and strong winds, but the highly experienced HISC race team, headed up by Roger Palmer (IRO), decided to send the fast handicap fleet out under the watchful eye of five safety boats.

Eddie Mays

A mixture of 420's, 470's, Merlin Rockets, Wayfarers, RS200's and Flying Fifteens took to the water and sailed to the start line. Due to the high winds and restrictive waters inside Chichester Harbour, a Simple "P" shaped course was laid right in front of the Sailing Club, giving the boats a beat, two screaming reaches and a long downwind leg and hook finish to play with.

There were capsizes aplenty but the true grit and determination of the girls really shone through as Maria Stanley and Kate Macgregor came through to finish first ahead of Silvania and Nerissa Booth - both sailing 420's. The boats were then returned to the shore as gusts hit 40 knots and a Force 9 gale was expected imminently. The excellent speed and organisation of the race team and safety fleet allowed all competitors to return to shore safely having completed a race in conditions that many would have been daunted by.

Eddie Mays

RYA Competitions Manager, Rob Andrews rounded up the day with an excellent video debrief of the days excitement, which was followed by a Hawaiian style dinner and disco at the Sailing Club - complete with a limbo bar!

Day two arrived and the wind had eased to a slightly more manageable 20 25 knots. The medium and fast handicaps were released from the beach and were joined by a dozen or so Solo's who were there for an open meeting.

The fast handicap fleet got away first with only one general recall. Judith Massey and Rachel Cooper got an excellent start in their Merlin Rocket but the conditions were more suited to the 420's and 470's upwind planing abilities. The first race was subsequently won by Amelia Hughes and Lesley Bannister in their flying 420. They dominated racing in the fast handicap fleet and went on to win every single race that day.

Eddie Mays

Meanwhile in the medium handicap fleet, made up entirely of Laser Radials, a battle was taking place between Kerry Tucker from Weston SC and Anna Perkins from Bosham. After three races Kerry took the overall win with two first places and one third to Anna's one first and two second places.

Eddie Mays was on hand all weekend taking some excellent pictures of what can only be described as "Ballistic off-wind sailing conditions!"

Prizes were awarded to the top three boats in each handicap fleet with the overall Women's Champion Trophy going to Amelia Hughes and Leslie Bannister for their perfect score sheet on the Sunday.

Dinghy Sailing Magazine kindly sponsored the event and supplied competitors with additional prizes. The "best improver" in each class, was presented with a years' subscription to Dinghy Sailing Magazine for showing positive improvement in their results across each race. This was won by Louise Johnson and Ellie Bremer sailing a Merlin Rocket in the fast handicap, and by Hannah Holbourn in her Laser Radial in the medium handicap.

Subscriptions and glassware was also presented to safety boat drivers and race teams for an excellent job done on the water despite the horrendous weather. Event organiser Lucy Burn from the RYA commented; "the skill and level of ability that we witnessed on the water this weekend is a true testament to women sailors up and down the country. They were not fazed by the conditions for a second and handled themselves and their boats with professionalism and extreme skill. The race team also did an incredible job to squeeze in four races this weekend - Well done to all!"

Report: Lucy Burn
Photos: Eddie Mays - www.eddiemays.com

7th - Judith Massey & Rachel Cooper
8th - Louise Johnson & Ellie Bremer
9th - Lucy Burn & Rachel Williamson

Eddie Mays