Saxton and Lewis reign supreme Endeavour Champions – Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis make it five wins in a row

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis fought back in today’s breezy conditions to secure the overall win of the Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy, for the sixth time and a record fifth time in a row, writes Sue Pelling.

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis collect the Endeavour Trophy for the fifth time in a row – photo Roger Mant

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis collect the Endeavour Trophy for the fifth time in a row – photo Roger Mant

In total contrast to the opening day’s flat conditions yesterday, the breeze was full-on today making it one of the most exciting final days seen in recent years with the results going right down to the wire.

After a relatively mediocre set of results from yesterday that included a couple of sixth places, Saxton and Lewis were on top form once again today and demonstrated their superiority on the Endeavour Trophy racecourse with an impressive 2,1,1 scoreline, which was just enough to snatch the title by just two points from James Peters/Maddy Anderson (RS200).

Chatting about his win, a delighted Saxton said: “Wining the Endeavour Trophy again is a great feeling. It was wicked fun out there and we sailed really well today.

“Given our results from yesterday, we needed to be low risk because although we were chasing it we didn’t want to count one of our sixth places. Our strategy was to be low risk on the start line then sail well and pick up places on the way round.”

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis enjoy spectacular racing in today’s breezy conditions – photo Roger Mant

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis enjoy spectacular racing in today’s breezy conditions – photo Roger Mant

Ever the gentleman, Saxton graciously put today’s success down to the expertise of his crew: “Toby’s level of sailing is just unbelievable. Going up the first beat we are usually about fifth or sixth but by the top mark we are leading. Without doubt, I can put that wholeheartedly down to Toby.”

Having finished the day yesterday in fourth place, Peters and Anderson (RS200) were on fire today with an impressive performance in race one where they managed to hold off Saxton/Lewis and score their first win of the series. They followed up this with a fifth and a second finishing the day just two points astern of the winners and in second place overall.

“We are really happy with second particularly as we didn’t sail brilliantly yesterday. We had a few problems with our downwind boat speed in the light winds, which cost us a lot but in the breeze today we were going really well. Very pleased and it has been awesome sailing with Maddy at the nationals and at this event.”

With an overnight lead of just one point, Luke Patience – Tokyo 2020 Team GBR sailor and Olympic silver medallist – and Mary Henderson, knew they had a lot on today. The breezy conditions didn’t seem to affect them dramatically, given their weight disadvantage against some of the heavier teams, until the final race of the day. Up to this point they still led the series from Saxton/Lewis but a capsize in the strong building winds dashed their winning chances.

Patience commented: “It was looking good until our capsize today but nevertheless I think Mary and I have done ourselves proud, particularly with a storming day yesterday. It has been a great weekend’s racing and a pleasure to smash round the course with all the best sailors. 

James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) winning the first race of the day – photo Sue Pelling

James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) winning the first race of the day – photo Sue Pelling

Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) continued to sail as impressively today as they did yesterday and, by adding two fifths and a second to their consistent string of results, they finish the series in fourth place overall. They were always in the top three at the windward mark and just seemed to get better and better.

Having sailed the Endeavour two years ago the Whaley boys said their aim was to improve dramatically. Sam commented: “We didn’t know much about the RS200 two years ago and finished middle of the fleet, so went away, made amends and it seems to have paid off. This time the aim was to sail consistently so we are exceptionally happy it worked out. The other thing is we are Laser sailors so we know how to hike, which was just a big advantage today. We also seemed to make some good decisions which made all the difference.”

Smiles of success as Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis cross the finish line in the final race – photo Sue Pelling

Smiles of success as Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis cross the finish line in the final race – photo Sue Pelling

Nick Craig and Emma Clarke who are no strangers to the top end of the Endeavour fleet suffered a mediocre day yesterday were back on form today but couldn’t quite match the speed of the leaders and had to settle for three third places and fifth place overall.

Craig, who is known for his love of breezy conditions said: “As much as we would have loved a final windy race, it was absolutely the right decision to call it a day. As always it was a fantastic weekend of sailing and hospitality, and we look forward to hopefully returning in the future.”

Exactly as predicted, the big winds that had been building all morning arrived on cue in the closing stages of the seventh race so the final race of the eight-race series was cancelled. 

Edwin Buckley, event director and race officer commenting on his decision to cancel the final race said: “With the wind in excess of 25kts as predicted, and forecast to increase further I felt it prudent to call it a day to ensure the safety of competitors and safety-boat crew.”

Overall Results (7 races, 1 discard)

1st Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (2018 Champion) 17pts

2nd James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) 19pts

3rd Luke Patience and Mary Henderson (Olympian) 21pts

4th Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) 25pts

5th Nick Craig and Emma Clarke (B14) 28pts

6th Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey (Merlin Rocket) 29pts

Startline action on a flooding tide – photo Roger Mant

Startline action on a flooding tide – photo Roger Mant


Patience and Henderson take overnight Endeavour Trophy lead – Olympian leads Merlin Rocket champs by one point

Olympian Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson (470) stole the show on the opening day of the Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy, with three wins in the bag writes Sue Pelling

Light winds and a strong tidal stream resulted in challenging conditions for the 30-strong fleet of champion sailors but Luke Patience – Tokyo 2020 Team GBR sailor, and Olympic silver medallist – and Mary Henderson took control of the event, managing to hold off closest rivals Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey (Merlin Rocket) in the first two races. They won the second race of the day by one minute 49 seconds. 

Olympic sailor Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson take overnight lead – photo Sue Pelling

Olympic sailor Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson take overnight lead – photo Sue Pelling

Another impressive performance was noted in race three, in arguably the most challenging conditions of the day, when Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) led the race and managed to hold off James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) in a close race to the finish line. 

Patience and Henderson were back on form again in race 4, in what turned out to be the final race of the day in slightly more favourable conditions on a course set on the River Roach. However, they certainly didn’t have it all their own way. 

Serial Endeavour Trophy winner Nick Craig, sailing with Emma Clarke (B14) executed one of the best starts of the day at the committee boat end of the line and managed to sneak inshore out the tide. Patience and Henderson, Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (Returning Endeavour champions), and Cliff and Bec Milliner (Supernova) enjoyed a fantastic short-tacking battle up the first beat.

At the close of play after an exciting finale it was Patience and Henderson who used their light wind expertise once again to snatch victory from Craig and Clark as they crossed the line. Saxton and Lewis took third and the Milliners followed closely in fourth.

As they sailed ashore this afternoon, Patience and Henderson were clearly delighted with their performance and said they particularly enjoyed the final race. Patience said: “We had a fantastic race with Nick [Craig] in that one. I have to say we are lighter so we are at an advantage. Tomorrow with a bit of breeze, he’ll be back for sure.

“In this sort of competition you take what you get at the time. The key thing is to win when it is your conditions; it’s a crime if you don’t. We knew we had to win races today because it is likely it will be full-on with more wind tomorrow. And I am sure the bigger guys will be rapid, so we are just pleased to have done well when we had the opportunity.”

Talking about their game plan tomorrow, Patience added: “We aim to sail smooth and steady and, if there is wind, we aim to keep the ‘stick in the sky’.”

Craig commenting on his performance today said: “Light winds are not our conditions really so we were pleased we did so well in the final race. Not so good in the others because we just made some wrong decisions.”

Talking about the level of competition, Craig added: “It is unbelievable this year. Having three or four Olympians here is amazing. I wish we could do this every weekend, it is fantastic.”

3At the halfway stage of the series just three points separate the top three boats, which means there is everything to play for in the final four races. Patience and Henderson with three wins clearly have the advantage but with more wind expected tomorrow and a host of premier league, adrenalin-fuelled sailors ready to do battle to secure victory at the 59th Endeavour Trophy, there’ll be no shortage of exciting competition.

In the meantime this evening, competitors are enjoying the full Endeavour experience at the annual dinner at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club where the solid silver Endeavour Trophy is on display.

Results (after four races with discard yet to come into effect)

1st Luke Patience  and Mary Henderson (Olympian) 17pts

2nd Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey (Merlin Rocket) 18pts

3rd Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (2018 Champion) 19pts

4th James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) 22pts

5th Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) 23pts

6th Ian Dobson and Matt Mee (Fireball) 23pts


Annual champion of champions race over-subscribed

3So popular is this weekend’s Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy (11-13 October), there is now a waiting list to take part writes Sue Pelling.

Despite the doom and gloom of the weather forecast threatening to put a damper on the 59th Endeavour Trophy at Burnham-on-Crouch, there are still a few hopeful competitors ready to step in at the last minute. Included on the waiting list, should a place in the 30-strong fleet become available, is Stuart Bithell former Endeavour champion, 2012 Olympic silver medallist, and Tokyo 2020 Team GBR 49er crew.

Fellow Tokyo 2020 Team GBR sailor, and Olympic silver medallist Luke Patience (470) is among the other champions signed up and ready to do battle in this weekend’s intensely competitive, and challenging eight-race, one discard, series in RS200s.

One of the biggest challenges the fleet faces this weekend is to break Ben Saxton/Toby Lewis’ recent domination of the event. Saxton and Lewis have won the last four events in a row (five overall) and if they succeed again this year they will match the overall record number of Endeavour Trophy wins – currently held by Nick Craig with six wins to his name.

Craig (B14) will also be on the startline tomorrow, with former Endeavour-winning crew Emma Clarke calling the shots at the front, so the stage is well and truly set for some top-class racing. Craig commented: “The aim of course is to improve our standing. In preparation I have lost a bit of weight and now weigh in at 85kg, so it will be interesting to see how we go. More than anything, I am really looking forward to some good racing because the champion line up is fantastic this year. We even have James Peters here again. He is now a bit older and wiser, so I think we’ll have a lot on our plate.”

Team GBR 49er sailor James Peters (RS200), sailing this time with Maddy Anderson, narrowly missed winning the Endeavour Trophy from Craig in 2011 so is keen to complete some unfinished business. He said: “I haven’t been back since then for one reason or another but it does feel a bit like unfinished business. It should be great fun and I am really looking forward to giving it my best shot.”

At today’s opening Investec-sponsored training session headed by Steve Irish – one of the UK’s leading dinghy racing coaches – teams had a chance to pick up a few tips, acquaint themselves with their boats, and fine tune their brand-new suits of sails supplied courtesy of RS Sailing and Hyde Sails.

1A mid morning briefing, and on-the-water session was followed by a video debrief back at the club this afternoon, and a summary of the day’s training, was particularly helpful to first-timers to the event, and those unfamiliar with the RS200 class.

Alice Davis (RS Tera Pro) sailing her first Endeavour Trophy said gaining an entry to the Endeavour Trophy is a great opportunity: “I am most excited about sailing against the really good sailors here tomorrow. I think we shall learn a lot. The only thing is I haven’t sailed an RS200 before so having Steve Irish here to help us rig and set up the boat today is invaluable.”

Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey test out the conditions ready for the start tomorrow – photo Roger Mant

Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey test out the conditions ready for the start tomorrow – photo Roger Mant

Irish (pictured left, with Alice Davis), a former champion and Endeavour competitor, said the aim of the day was to get the fleet on the water to give them a chance to set up their boats for the conditions. “Although it was fairly windy today gusting up to 27kts, a total of 11 teams managed to get on the water for some useful practice.

“For many sailors here, this is the first time they’ve had a chance to look at an RS200 let alone sail one so, my aim is to ensure all the newcomers have their boats rigged correctly and have the correct tuning numbers for set up when they are on the water.”

Adding a bit of advice to fellow competitors, Ben Harden competitor (Blaze), and Sales and Marketing Assistant at Allen Brothers said: “I learnt to sail on the River Crouch, so I’m extremely excited to be able to race on my home waters against the best in the country. The Crouch is known for being very tidal and there are certainly tidal gains to be had. I’d recommend looking over some charts closely to find where the shallows are and keep an eye out for back eddies and tide bends, especially at the mouth of the River Roach.”

Looking ahead at the conditions for the start of the eight-race Endeavour Championship series, which kicks off at 1030 tomorrow, Edwin Buckley, event director and race officer commented: “Although we’ve had our fair share of wind today, the rest of the weekend is looking good. The wind tomorrow will be around 12-15kts generally from the south-south west and, because we are halfway between neap and spring tides, the conditions will be ideal for some really good sailing.” 

Commenting on event in general, Buckley concluded: “I am delighted that we have a great competitor list, it’s going to be a very competitive weekend. I hope all the competitors are all looking forward to the 59th Endeavour Trophy as much as we are, it’s shaping up to be fantastic. The Corinthian, the Endeavour Committee and the sponsors have been working so hard to make it a special event.”

Confirmed 2019 Endeavour Trophy entries

  • 2018 champions – Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis
  • 2020 Olympian (470) – Luke Patience and Mary Henderson
  • 29er – Oliver Evans and Will Jarman
  • 420 – Eleanor Keers and Faye Chatterton
  • 470 mixed – Jess Lavery and Alex Hughes
  • 2000 – Jasper Barnham and Richard Thomas
  • Albacore – Oliver Davenport and Georgia Booth      
  • B14 – Nick Craig and Emma Clarke
  • Blaze – Eden Hyland and Ben Harden      
  • Cadet – Daisy Nunn and Harry Chatterton
  • Fireball  – Ian Dobson and Matt Mee
  • GP14 – Sam Watson and Andy Thompson           
  • Hadron H2 – Jack Holden and Sam Mottershead        
  • K1 – Paul Smalley and Mari Shepherd
  • Lark – James Goss and Chris White        
  • Laser  – Sam and Ben Whaley         
  • Laser Radial – Jon Emmett and Arran Holman    
  • Merlin Rocket – Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey           
  • Optimist – Henry Heathcote and Kuba Staite
  • RS Aero 5 – William Caiger and Catlin Morley           
  • RS Aero 9 – Liam Willis and Will Taylor
  • RS Feva – Joey Taylor and Terry Hacker        
  • RS Tera – Alice Davis and Dylan McPherson           
  • RS200 – James Peters and Maddy Anderson        
  • RS800 – Luke and Emma McEwen   
  • Scorpion Peter Gray and Rachael Rhodes  
  • Streaker – Martin Plenty and Sam Waller
  • Supernova – Cliff and Bec Milliner          
  • Topper 4.2 – Sam Grayton and Raife Piggott    
  • Topper 5.3 – Oliver Allen-Wilcox and Freddie Howarth


Endeavour Trophy count down – Champions prepare for annual showdown at Burnham-on-Crouch


Photo Sue Pelling

With just one month to go until the Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy (11-13 October), entry has almost reached its 30-place limit writes Sue Pelling.

For the first time in many years response to the annual Endeavour Trophy invitation dinghy champion of champions’ event has been overwhelming, with organisers at the Royal Corinthian YC, and new sponsors Investec, looking forward welcoming the 30 dinghy class national champions to the home of the Endeavour Trophy.

Edwin Buckley – event director and race officer commenting on the event and the support of its new sponsor said: “We are very proud to announce Investec Wealth & Investment becoming a sponsor this year, we are all looking forward to working with them alongside our long term sponsors for this prestigious event.”  

Among those already signed up to do battle at this annual event are Ben Saxton/Toby Lewis who are not only keen to defend the title they won last year, but who are also looking forward to trying to make it a record five Endeavour wins in a row. Another win would also put Saxton in a position of matching the record number of Endeavour Trophy wins currently held by Nick Craig who has six wins to his name.

Offering a bit of advice to fellow competitors Saxton says although winning the Endeavour is all about tactics it pays to keep things simple. “The key to success at the Endeavour is to work hard but keep the tactics simple. We don’t do anything special but we just try to keep the right side of the tide and wind, and pick a few boats off here and there.”

Having secured his Endeavour Trophy ‘ticket’ this year with a win at the 2019 B14 national championship, Nick Craig, together with Emma Clarke (former Endeavour winning crew), will also be preparing for some serious competition. Last year they were neck and neck with Saxton/Lewis so it will be interesting to see what approach they have lined up this year in an effort to break Saxton/Lewis’ recent domination of the event.

To ensure a relatively level ‘playing field’ for the diverse entry that includes youth, singlehanded and doublehanded sailors, the popular one-design RS200 dinghy is the chosen Endeavour dinghy for the fifth year in succession. For continuity competitors will also have the use of brand-new sails courtesy of RS Sailing and Hyde Sails.

The Endeavour Trophy eight-race/one discard series takes place on Saturday and Sunday on windward/leeward courses, and is preceded on the Friday by the Investec Training Day. Presented by Steve Irish – former champion/Endeavour competitor and coach – the training day offers competitors, particularly first-timers to the event, and those unfamiliar with the RS200 class, a chance to acquaint themselves with the boat before racing begins on the Saturday.

Those keen to support the event and join the champions after racing on the Saturday evening (12 October) are welcome to attend the grand Endeavour dinner in the Trophies Room at the Royal Corinthian YC. Tickets are available to purchase at £22.50 in advance from



Bilge keeler wins 88th Round the Island Race 2019

Photo – Paul Wyeth

Photo – Paul Wyeth

No records broken this year but complex, light conditions proved ideal for local hot shot Jo Richards and team, who stole the show by winning the Gold Roman Bowl on the smallest boat in the fleet writes Sue Pelling.

Beating 1,210 other boats in extreme light, shifty conditions aboard ‘Eeyore’ the smallest boat in the fleet – a 55-year-old, 18ft modified bilge keel Alacrity – to win the coveted Gold Roman Bowl will undoubtedly go down in the history books as one of the finest Round the Island Race achievements on record.

Yves Le Blevec’s 100ft Grand Prix racing multihull – ‘Actual Leader’ – the largest boat in the fleet – was the favourite for a stab at outright record but with the light to moderate forecast, and the wind set to veer from east to west later in the day, record-breaking opportunities for the 88th edition of Island Sailing Club’s headline event diminished soon after the start.

Le Blevec and team however, did take overall line honours with a time of 7hrs, 33mins, 36secs. The first monohull to cross the finish line taking 9hrs 28secs was Sir Peter Ogden’s well-sailed Judel Vrolijk Mini Maxi ‘Jethou’. To give a good indication of how extreme the weather was this year, only 257 of the 1,210 that started, completed the race before the 2230 deadline. Even the eventual Gold Roman Bowl winner finished with just 23 minutes to go.

The passion to compete in this 50nm endurance race has never been so strong however, and given the fact the smallest boat and largest boat in the fleet headlined the event this year, Island SC’s tag-line #RACEFORALL could not be more appropriate. Even after completing his duty as official race starter, the likes of Michael Kitchen, the highly respected actor known particularly for his role as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle in the ITV drama series Foyle’s War, was keen to get on the water to take part in his own boat and enjoy what he describes as “a brilliant event.”

Jo Richards (center) and Duncan Deboltz (right) receive the Gold Roman Bowl from record breaking global sailor Brian Thompson – photo Paul Wyeth

Jo Richards (centre) and Duncan De Boltz (right) receive the Gold Roman Bowl from record breaking global sailor Brian Thompson – photo Paul Wyeth

While undoubtedly there’s a certain amount of luck involved with succeeding in this sort of race, ultimately it’s about preparation, skill, tactics and making the least mistakes. Gold Roman Bowl winner Jo Richards – Flying Dutchman bronze medallist, yacht designer and regular RTIR competitor said it is also all about being able to recognise when luck it is going your way, and utilising it.

One of the first challenges of the day was keeping the right side of the line on the downwind spinnaker start on an ebbing tide. Richards, who was sailing with his regular crew David Rickard and Duncan De Boltz, agreed that getting the start right this year was particularly tricky. “The key was locating the line. For a downwind start my advice is to get onto the line with a minute and a half, or two minutes to go then sail back up. That way you know you are not going to be too far away and you can have a good look and make a decision where you want to be.

“If like us, everyone around you is quicker, there is no point in fighting for the best place on the line, you’re best off being a bit further down the line and finding an area of clear air. Having clear air and being in control is vital, and of course less stress!”

After the start Team ‘Eeyore’ basically sailed along the mainland shore to avoid the wind holes off the Island shore then judged favourable crossing over to the Needles to establish a good rounding position. Richards said being outside the bunch at the Needles is a no, no: “You can’t afford to be outside because the tide on Shingles Bank runs at 30 degrees to the Channel so it sweeps you off towards Bournemouth. You need to be wary of that, particularly in light conditions. If you end up on the outside, you’ll have no options and you’ll be totally controlled by others.”

The subject of exactly how close to sail round Needles Point is always up for debate, but Richards has one firm view: “I would seriously not recommend doing as we did and go through the Channel between Goose Rock and the Needles because it is a wreckless thing to do.”

Commenting on what he believes to have been one of the turning points in the race, Richards said: “We knew we could benefit from a wind bend between the Needles and Compton so, having rounded, we had to take a bit of a short term loss for a long term gain by tacking out in order to be on the inside of the wind bend. It seemed to work but we still had no idea how well we were doing overall.”

Richards says with this race it is vital have a strategic plan and stay in control of it. “It is all too easy to be ‘bullied’ away from where you want to go, so it is well worth taking a couple of ducks in order to do what you think is strategically good. You have always got to be thinking about long-term gains. If you have thought it through beforehand at least, you have a good starting point and if/when the conditions do change you have something to work on.”

Racing for 13+ hours in a short boat like ‘Eeyore’ that has no directional stability is quite uncomfortable and tiring and more like dinghy sailing said Richards. “Balancing the boat and keeping movement to a minimum is a priority. And because you can’t really find ‘the groove’ you constantly have to steer it, which requires lots of concentration. How did we sustain it? It was a management exercise and I seriously believe that the seven plus cups of tea on the way round was what kept the brain in order!”

Recalling when he finally felt comfortable about finishing the within the 2230 time limit, Richards concluded: “It really wasn’t until we were halfway across Osborne Bay. After we crossed the line at 2207 we still had no idea where we’d finished until we got ashore and looked at the results, so yes, it was an absolute lovely surprise.”

For Yves Le Blevec and his pro team aboard the 100ft Grand Prix round the world, racing multihull ‘Actual Leader’ they were unable to achieve anything other than overall line honours. Matt Sheahan – leading sailing journalist/commentator who joined the crew for the day said what impressed him the most was the way in which the crew handled the 100ft speed machine and their ability to keep it moving through the water in the light airs. “Because the team is so used to the size of the boat and they knew their angles really well they knew exactly when to call the gybes. They always got it spot on, which was extremely impressive.”

Sheahan was also amazed at how many boats risked crossing the bows of the huge trimaran in the jostling before the start: “You can’t really head up because it will accelerate so all you can really do is bare away. I think a lot of people out there are unaware of how dangerous it is slip across the bows. It’s like old age pensioners walking out on the M4; it’s ridiculous.”

Pip Tyler, Brand Ambassador at Neilson Holidays, one of the 17-strong contingent from Brighton, sailing with his brother Pete and crew on ‘Redeye’ – Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 – in Division 1C finished seventh in class and 118th overall. As a race regular Tyler said among one of the things to do before you get on the boat is to read the sailing instructions: “Read them carefully. They look complicated but aren’t and it’s a shame to get bunged out for an error – especially the safety gear you have to carry. Also don’t get to engrossed in route/passage planning – have a strategy but keep it flexible for if/when the conditions change.”

Andrew McIrvine – RORC past Commodore and Admiral, and former class winner – who raced his 10-year-old Beneteau First 40 ‘La Reponse’ into second place in IRC Division 1A and 61st overall this year said it pays to study the tides: “Go and look at what is actually happening near start time. And watch lobster pots, buoys and your boat speed compared with SOG. Also watch the AIS of the boats ahead to predict wind speed and direction on various parts of the course.”

The classic boat contingent is always well represented at the RTIR and this year was no exception, with the likes of Giovanni Belgrano’s 80-year-old Laurent Giles One-off IRC ‘Whooper’ making her presence known once again. She won the Gold Roman Bowl in 2015 and this year won her division and finished eighth overall 

Belgrano, representing the home club and Gurnard SC said it is important to identify lessons learnt from previous years: “Our objective is to sail our very best, and our whole campaign revolves about practicing and preparing for the race. This year we definitely stepped-up, mostly from lessons learned last year. We pride ourselves in our starts, course tidal/wind positioning, and crew-work/sail-changing manoeuvres but it is important to measure performance.” 

Recycled winner – interview with Jo Richards

Eeyore – Gold Roman Bowl 2019 winner

Eeyore – Gold Roman Bowl 2019 winner

 modest as he is, there is no getting away from the fact that Jo Richards – international yacht designer, Olympic medallist, local racing hot shot and serial RTIR competitor – was a favourite to win the Gold Roman Bowl at some point. He lives in Gurnard, and has competed in virtually every Round the Island Race since 1975 so, not surprisingly this talented sailor has an extensive knowledge of the Island, and its complex tides/winds. Although he has come close in recent years with a couple of seconds overall, his win in his latest ‘recycling’ project ‘Eeyore’ the 18ft bilge keel Alacrity, which cost him £500, was probably the most challenging. “Actually,” corrected Richards, “It was the road trailer that cost £500 and the boat was thrown in for free!

“What possessed me? Well, having spent many happy family holidays aboard my parents’ Alacrity when I was young, and remembering how well it sailed, I thought it would be a fun project to get hold of one. However, the boat in question was advertised as a Vivacity, which I thought would do, because the design was fairly similar but to my delight, when I arrived to collect her I realised she was actually a 1964-built Alacrity.

“She came from a very gloomy place at Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, near the River Trent sitting in a field and was in a terrible state. She was full of really smelly oily water so I had to drill a hole in the hull to get rid of the gunk before I trailed her back to the Island.

“The original deck had almost collapsed in on itself, so I totally replaced that with a deck I had hanging in the rafters of my shed. All the internals and bunks are original but I ended up putting an additional layer of laminate either side of the hull because I didn’t think it was strong enough for purpose. Unfortunately this made her heavier so her hull now weighs 400 kilos, while the keels only weigh 200 kilos, so it is not the ideal ballast ratio by any means.”

The new keels are, as expected, no longer bog-standard bilge keels instead they have been totally re-designed by Richards to look more like the keels on the ACC boat ‘Australia II’ without the wings. Richards added: “I did this to keep the keel in the water that runs parallel to the centerline. The good news is we still only draw 900mm so we can get into, and, importantly get out of a lot of places others wouldn’t even contemplate, so it is a great boat for the Round the Island Race.” 

In his summing up of how he sourced components for his re-cycled race winning boat, Richards confessed to carrying out a spot of ‘bin diving’: “I do a lot of work with Selden so I have special permission to raid their scrap bin, which is a lot of fun. I managed to recover an RS Elite mast second which, after a bit of modification and chopping the end off, worked perfectly, as did the National 18 mast I used as the boom. You’ll be delighted to hear that I did actually replace the original sails with a new suit of North Sails, which seemed to do the job.”


Gold Roman Bowl – 1st overall IRC – ‘Eeyore’ (Alacrity) – Jo Richards (Elapsed 13hrs, 36mins, 31secs

Line honours

‘Actual Leader’ (Grand Prix racing multihull) – Yves Le Blevec (Elapsed 7hrs, 33mins, 36secs)

Round the Island Race 2020

The 89th edition of the Round the Island Race is earlier next year – 30 May 2020.


Records to beat

  • Monohull course record: 3h 43m 50s – supermaxi, ICAP Leopard (Mike Slade) set in 2013
  • Multihull course record: 2h 22m 23s – MOD70, Team Concise 10 (Ned Collier Wakefield) set in 2017

Feature as published in Yachts & Yachting September 2019.







Cowes Week 2019 in fine fettle – Round up by Sue Pelling

Although probably one of the most challenging on record in terms of weather, Cowes Week 2019 turned out to be one of most successful in the history of the event with 100s of teams enjoying super-fast, exciting racing all week.

Thankfully for the inaugural charity King’s Cup event on the Thursday before the start of Cowes Week the weather was ideal allowing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to take part in the event while Prince George and Princess Charlotte watched on.

Will and David Heritage   powered up on Freddie Flintoff, Flying 15 – photo Paul Wyeth

Will and David Heritage
powered up on Freddie Flintoff, Flying 15 – photo Paul Wyeth

Winds of up to 50 knots on the opening Saturday – Sustainability Day –forced the cancellation of all racing but this was the only whole day lost due to the weather. Although the race committee also took the sensible decision to cancel the smaller White Group keelboats on the Sunday too (Family Day), with winds gusting up to 30 knots, the rest of the week was glorious, albeit a bit wet at times.

Families celebrating Family Day, and thousands of extra visitors to the Island on Sunday afternoon were treated to an amazing demonstration of ultra-fast racing with 50ft foiling SailGP catamarans contesting their inaugural European event.

Tom Slingsby and his Australian team were the heroes of the event winning all three races, and crossing the finish line at a mind-boggling 50kts in the first race.

Sir Peter Ogden and team on the Judel Vrolijk Mini Maxi Jethou stole the show from Johannes Schwarz on E1 the Volvo Open 70 (ex Green Dragon) in the Triple Crown, three-day series for IRC 0, winning the coveted Duke of Edinburgh Triple Crown Trophy, kindly loaned from the Royal Collection.

One of the highlights of the week was the competition for the Under 25 Trophy, which had one of the best prizes on offer – a chance for the skipper of the winning crew and guest to race in Antigua Sailing Week 2020, with flights and accommodation provided, as part of the ASW Youth to Keel Programme.

Not surprisingly this trophy was extremely closely contested but the overall winner was Ollie Hill and his H2 Sailing Team on an SB20 who walked away with the prestigious prize.

Chatting about his win, a delighted Hill commented: “The Antigua Sailing Week prize has got to be the best prize here and we certainly weren’t expecting to win. It is absolutely amazing and we are really happy. I have no idea who I’m taking yet. That’s a little bit of a difficult question, because it is still under negotiation.”

On his preparations for the event, Hill added: “We got the crew together about four months ago and we did three days training in Lymington and this is our first event so we are just really pleased to have come away with such a good result. Our win was just about focusing on the processes and trying not to look at the results too much to keep myself calm. I think we managed to do that reasonably well and come out with an amazing result, we’re really happy.”

Slingsby Ladies Day at Cowes Week, which celebrates women in sailing, is always popular and this year was no exception. In fact it turned out to be one of the best yet with Slingsby, the sponsor, once again embracing the day, which culminated with an exclusive Slingsby Ladies Day Reception at Northwood House.

The overall winner of the trophy that recognises the outstanding contribution, commitment, or achievement of women in sailing, was Lucy Macgregor, Olympian and four-time World Champion in Women’s Match Racing. She and here crew were also recognised for finishing fourth at the Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda – a Grade 1 (open) matching event earlier in the year.

Out on the water at Cowes Week, however, it was Dawn Bee racing on Haggis 2 who won the new Slingsby Best Female Helm Trophy for the best overall result female helm that day.

With racing for the overall wins in both Black Group (large yachts) and White Group (small open dayboat classes) going down to the wire on the final day, competition was as intense as it was on the first day.

With a consistent scoreline of first places in IRC Class 6, Giovanni Belgrano and his team aboard the 1939-built Laurent Giles designed classic – Whooper – took the overall Black Group title for the second time. Although he won Black Group two years ago, he was naturally delighted to take the coveted title again: “It was a tough one this time, but there is no doubt that our win was 100 per cent down to rock solid navigation, preparation, and importantly, fantastic crew work.”

Rounding up a truly successful week on the water, it was James Wilson and Ed Peel and team in their 1989-built Redwing – Quail – who not only won the Redwing class, and White Group overall with a clear scoreline of five first places but they took the overall win of Cowes Week.

The jam-packed Cowes Week prize giving at Shepards Marina followed by a spectacular Red Funnel Fireworks extravaganza over the Solent on the Friday night marked the end of Cowes Week points series. However, a good turnout enjoyed the last day of Cowes Week racing for the Cowes Town Regatta on the final Saturday.

Special thanks were expressed to the event sponsors including Slingsby, Musto, aql, Sunsail, Land Rover UK, Westerhall Rum, Chatham, Fever-Tree, and Isle of Wight Council.

One of the most popular family attractions in the Yacht Haven this year was the Land Rover Activation Area that saw constant crowds of visitors joining in the fun. The Land Rover Sailing Experience for youngsters was particularly well subscribed, with young sailors, many who have never sailed before, fortunate enough to experience a coaching session with Sarah Ayton – double Olympic sailing gold medallist.

Plans are already in place for Cowes Week 2020, which takes place between 8-15 August.

The 50ft foiling SailGP catamarans competed at Cowes in the class's inaugural European event

The 50ft foiling SailGP catamarans competed at Cowes in the class’s inaugural European event


Caribbean sizzler – St Thomas International Regatta 2019

The full beauty of the US Virgin Islands – photo Sue Pelling

The full beauty of the US Virgin Islands – photo Sue Pelling

Guaranteed spectacular sailing conditions and fine local hospitality continues to make St Thomas International Regatta an all-time Caribbean favourite writes Sue Pelling. 

Those fortunate enough to be based in the US Virgin Islands in the vicinity of St Thomas, St Croix or St John at the end of March, would doubtless have noticed the amount of island activity created by the St Thomas International Regatta (STIR).

Living up to its glowing reputation as the ‘crown jewel’ of Caribbean racing, this four-day event (Round the Rocks Race, and race series) hosted by St Thomas Yacht Club, attracted a healthy fleet of 50 international race teams. Representing a variety of classes from beach cats to out-and-out 70ft race boats, the competition was red hot throughout, and there was never any shortage of spectacular sailing conditions, and fine Caribbean hospitality. Organisers and those who took part were also grateful for the generous sponsorship that included the USVI Department of Tourism, Margaritaville Vacation Club, The Moorings, Marlow, K3 Bags, The West Indies Company Budget Marine, and Presidente Beers.

Now in its 46th year, and the second time it has taken place since Irma and Maria – two category 5 hurricanes – swept through Caribbean more than 18 months ago, it is remarkable how locals and organisers passionate about the event have pulled together to produce another hugely successful Caribbean regatta. While still officially in recovery mode, with huge amounts of work remaining in many parts of St Thomas, St Croix and St John, there is no doubt that these islands are beginning to return to some sort of normality.

For St Thomas YC, based in the south-east corner of the island in Cowpet Bay, the largest issue created by the hurricanes was the devastation of the dock area but according to Margo Lynch, Commodore and Regatta Director, things are about to change: “We are very excited to announce we have finally signed the contract to have our docks rebuilt. There has been so much re-building following the devastation in the area and, the reality is, because this is a smaller job it has been a struggle to get it accomplished.”

Another positive spin on the recent traumatic events is the re-birth of the IC24 fleet. Having lost six of the club’s nine boats, the future of the class racing at the club looked fairly bleak in 2017, but thanks to local sailor Dave Franzell and team, who masterminded a plan to have them restored, the club is now in the enviable position of being home to the largest one-design fleet in the Caribbean.

Photo – Sue Pelling

Photo – Sue Pelling

With 18 boats on the water this year, the IC24 was the most competitive fleet, so not surprisingly racing went down to the wire after the 12-race series.

Fraito Lugo, one of the many super-hot IC24 sailors from Puerto Rico had a mixed bag of results at the start of the series but he and his team on Orion, which included his 16-year-old son, Alejandro, and 11-year-old daughter, Alejandra, sailed well and were able to take the upper hand from fellow Puerto Rican Ramón Gonzalez Bennazar on Sembrador. Going into the final race, Gonzalez Bennazar, who led throughout the series was just two points ahead but had a poor start and was unable to recover leaving Lugo and team on Orion to scoop the top prize.

Commenting on his win, Lugo said: “We are very happy to win such a competitive class. I think I put it down to experience. We didn’t sail so well the first few days but we gradually got better.”

Commenting on the regatta and why he always makes an effort to attend, Lugo added: “Always top class competition, and there is no better place in the Caribbean to sail.”

One thing you can generally be sure of at this regatta is the consistency of the prevailing easterly trade winds that range between 15-18kts. It does however, have a tendency to blow a bit harder at times and for the grand finale on the closing day a big squall with winds up to 35kts made an appearance and caught out a few.

One victim of the squall was Australian Nathan Ellis on Peter Corr’s King 40, Blitz – the overall winner of CSA Spinnaker Racing 1 – who went overboard in a wipeout during a gybe. This 10-strong international team that clinched the overall series win after a tie-break (calculated using the greater number of first places) over Pamala Baldwin’s J/122, Liquid from Antigua, not only won the series but also its class in the Round the Rocks Race – an independent race that took place the day before the regatta.

Ellis commented: “We had to gybe to avoid an island during the squall and we had a bit of trouble pulling the spinnaker through. In all the confusion one of the lifelines broke and I took a bit of a dip. Thankfully the team circled round, and hauled me in smartly so all was fine, apart from losing a bit of time.”

Commenting on what he believes is the key to his team’s success a delighted Corr (owner and helmsman) said: “It is all down to having a well-trimmed boat at all times, practice and good teamwork. We also find it good to switch helmsman intermittently particularly during a rough race because it keeps concentration fresh so you can focus on the numbers.”

In CSA Spinnaker Racing 2 it was the young team from St Croix on the J/100 Bad Girl who stole the show. Most onboard were friends from high school so the vibe was good and having knowledge about the area, according to Bryan, was paramount. “It is very important to remember there is a lot of current in St Thomas so you need to do your homework, and talk to the locals to find out more.”

Touch2Play, a Reflex 38 owned Rob Butler, was the only team to take a clean sweep of first places. Although the majority of the team was from Canada it was Meagan Hislop from St Croix who steered the boat to success. Commenting on the regatta she said: “It is important to remember you can win or lose this regatta over a matter of seconds, so you have to stay on it every moment of the day

“Overall this is a phenomenal regatta both for the serious racing and for the fun you have at the club. It is a beautiful location, it is challenging racing, and it is a good friendly group of people to be racing against.”

Elsewhere in the bay the dinghy catamarans enjoyed some intense racing with

Tristan Ewald, aboard the Nacra 18 Infusion taking a class win in the Beach Cats, while Niall Bartlett cleaned up in the nine-strong Hobie Wave class.

With plans already in place for the 2020 event including the construction of a new mooring dock, now is the time to prepare to take on the 47th anniversary STIR challenge that includes the recently formulated 23-nautical mile (approx) Round the Rocks race (around the island of St John) that runs from 26-29 March 2020.