RTYC Academy at the Wilson Trophy

24/05/2016

Two Royal Thames teams travelled north to compete in the 2016 edition of the Wilson Trophy, over the weekend of 13th-15th May. Hosted every year by West Kirby Sailing Club on the Wirral, ‘The Wilson’ is the most prestigious event in the Team Racing calendar. Royal Thames Blue consisted of the Academy team who had placed second at the UKTRA National championships in March, whilst Royal Thames Red also boasted three Academicians in their ranks.


Combined Royal Thames teams before the Quarter Finals.

The Wilson runs on a Swiss League format, with a constantly updating schedule matching teams who are close in the rankings. Every team is ultimately trying to accumulate enough wins by Sunday lunchtime to secure a top 8 place and qualify for the knockout stages.
 
Racing began on Friday afternoon in beautiful sunshine and light, shifty winds, with both Royal Thames teams opening their accounts with a number of wins. As the results started to filter through and the rankings settle down throughout a champagne Saturday, it was clear that both Thames teams had the boatspeed and tactics to compete with the bunch of pre-event favourites. Both were on the edge of the top 8, although had so far managed to avoid racing each other.


Greg Hall & Thea Crawshaw of Royal Thames Red look back whilst heading upwind on Saturday afternoon.

After a customarily excellent Wilson Trophy dinner, held as always in the decked out WKSC boat shed, the two Royal Thames teams finally met for the derby match on Sunday morning. The result could be crucial for knockout qualification. Thames Blue were looking strong around the first mark, with a 1, 3, 5 combination, but sharp conversions from Thames Red and an umpire decision helped them into a 2, 3, 4 on the run from which they never looked back. However, although a few nervous moments ensued over the next few rounds, both teams had ultimately sailed well enough to reach the knockout stages, in 5th and 7th places for Red and Blue respectively.
 
Royal Thames Red were drawn against last years finalists and past winners, Wessex Exempt, in the Quarter Finals, whilst the Academy team were up against ‘Days of Thunder’ from the USA, the silver medalists from last years ISAF Team Racing World championships.
 
In perfect team racing conditions, Thames Blue got off to a cracking start in their quarter final, sealing up a 2, 3, 4 off the start line of Race 1 and holding it to the finish. A strong start in the second race put the semis within reach, but excellent boatspeed from the Americans gave them a close victory, and they carried the momentum through to take Race 3 and secure a spot in the semi finals.
 
It was a similar story for Thames Red in their quarter. Capitalising on a successful start in the first race, they sailed on to a comfortable 1, 2 win. Unfortunately with the wind building in the second race, Wessex Exempt successfully executed an aggressive start which effectively put Thames out of the race. In the third and final race Wessex once again won out in the heavier breeze in an aggressive but ultimately friendly race.
 
Despite the two narrow losses in the quarter finals, this was the strongest performance by RTYC teams for a number of years. Both teams have many more years ahead of them, and go away confident that they will be able to race for the trophy in years to come! Numerous other Royal Thames Academicians, sailing under various guises, also had a great weekend, with Ben Gratton sneaking into the quarter finals in 8th place.
 
The event was won in dramatic fashion by the home favourites, West Kirby Hawks, who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Days of Thunder after a black flag from the umpires overturned the Race 3 of the final and denied the Americans a 3 - 0 victory. The Hawks’ comeback was complete when they broke down a seemingly stable 2, 3, 4 on the final beat of the deciding race, giving them the title for the second year in a row.
 
Royal Thames Blue (Academy): Josh Flack & Francine Counsell, Fiona Hampshire & Honor Fell, Arthur Henderson & Lilly Carlisle                                     7th
 
Royal Thames Red: Phil Derry (A) & Lottie Rapson (A), Greg Hall & Thea Crawshaw (A), James Goss & Emma Mackley   5th