The youth (U25) team for this event from stern to bow: Jack Collis, Daniel Nickalls, Jack Wardell and David Nickalls (author).
Leading up to the weekend of the BKL qualifier we were fully aware of how under-prepared we were compared to the top teams competing. Making use of the club SB20 for a training day, we set ourselves two goals:
Firstly, enjoy the event and come away with a ‘positive’ feeling.
Secondly, come away in the top half with at least one race win. This would improve on our low finish and best result of second place from two years ago. We knew this goal would be hard, especially finishing in the top half.
The format of the weekend was 11 teams competing in a round-robin, each sailing 12 races with 6 teams racing at a time. The racing was held at Royal Southern Yacht Club in RS21s.
The weekend started with a glorious day, sun shining and a gentle force 3 blowing from the south. Champagne sailing conditions led to burnt shoulders and arms on both Jack Wardell and Jack Collis (known by the other teams as ‘vest-guy’; he was the only one in the entire fleer who dared to show his shoulders).
The first race showed that our training had paid off, rounding the windward mark in second place. This was promptly shut down by a more experienced team turning up into our kite – red flag for us, penalty turns. We finished in fifth, feeling positive, but knowing that we still needed to learn a lot about keelboat racing. The next race saw an improvement, finishing third. Our third race saw a brilliant start, winning the pin end and sailing on for our first race win of the event – part of goal two achieved! We swapped off to watch some of the other teams compete.
In the afternoon our first race started well, sailing clear ahead of all but one boat. The two lead boats were boat-on-boat the whole way round the course with the Royal Southern team (eventual champions) leaving us the wrong side of a port/starboard shut door on the final downwind. This tore a second race win from our grasp. We settled for second place and discussed how they managed to goose-wing faster downwind!? Clearly we are improving, but aren’t quite there yet. With a knot or two less wind the rest of the day our results didn’t improve. We managed to get one more second, losing out to the local team again! In this instance an unfortunate umpire absence at a port/starboard incident inside the 3-boat length at the windward mark led to an ‘all-clear’ call. We felt this was an uncharacteristic mistake from an otherwise excellent race and umpire team – tough break. Our worst result of the day (and weekend) was a sixth (last), where we tried the ‘pro strategy’ of goose-winging to try to recover a place or two… it didn’t work out. Again, lots to learn!
The second day was forecast for higher wind, but it did not appear! With only three races remaining we would have to push hard if we wanted to finish in the top half. The first race of the day did not go to plan. Shifty wind led to a biased committee boat start, one which we didn’t win. A heavy team in light air meant we struggled to regain places, only recovering one – thanks to a slick drop at the leeward mark. We finished that race with a fourth. Our tactics clearly had to change, we switched our focus to watching the wind, and choosing course tactics over boat-on-boat interactions.
The second to last race of the day was another committee boat bias. We won the start and by this point had worked out that we were likely to be the second fastest boat in that fleet, the faster boat was (yet again) the locals! We hit the windward layline on starboard on a right-shift, forcing a port/starboard incident inside the zone, turns for them this time! We then sailed on to win the race. We watched, very impressed to see the Royal Southern team recover after their turns to finish in second, they’re a very quick team! The last race again had a heavy starboard bias, now with less wind and a building tide pushing us back from the line. After a poor pre-start we decided to start behind the fleet and tack off into a patch of wind on the right hand side of the course. With the wind further dropping into shifty patterns we followed our own race, gaining on all legs – both upwind and downwind (our previous Achilles heel). We eventually crossed the line first, an amazing way to finish the weekend, sailing from sixth to first! This would not have been achievable at the beginning of the weekend, showing just how much we’d all improved.
5th place, 3 race wins. Definitely fulfilled both targets.
Individual race results:
5 3 1 2 6 3 2 4 5 4 1 1
I’d like to thank Marconi on behalf of the team for their support in this event, it was an honour to be selected to represent the club. I also want to thank Royal Southern Yacht Club and RS, who made the event run very smoothly and welcomed us warmly.
Thank you also Peter Ward, without your involvement and support MSC would have remained unrepresented at this event!
Ed: Thanks David. What a great report. The team did Marconi proud!
‘As a club we have a plan in place to develop the next generation of Keelboat racers and we’ll soon be releasing details of how our members can get involved over the summer.’