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RLymYC Team in the British Keelboat League Final

9/19/2020

A Royal Lymington Yacht Club team competed at the British Keelboat League finals, hosted by the Berthon’s Lymington Marina, on 25th – 27th September 2020. Robbie Urwin, Calum Cook, Olly McGill and Will Heathcote competed against 14 other teams from clubs across the country, with teams travelling from as far as the Clyde to race.
This event was the only regatta of the league that was able to be sailed this year, and the RYA did an excellent job ensuring a safe environment for all competitors. This included changes to the sailing instructions to mandate the wearing of face masks, and regular cleaning of the supplied RS21 regatta keelboats.
The format for the event was a series of short sprint races in a league format, with 6 teams lining up on each start line. Sailors alternated between the fleet of RS21’s for each race, and regular shuttles were put on up and down the Lymington River to ferry teams out for their starts. Each race lasted no longer than 15 minutes, with two laps of a Windward-Leeward course. The one-design fleet ensured tight racing throughout.
Racing was cancelled on Friday due to strong winds, but Saturday morning brought a fresh 16-18 knot breeze, and we were able to get underway. A course was set to the East of the Lymington River, with a North-Westerly wind direction meaning that the tide was cross-course and 20-30 degree wind shifts were not unusual.
The Royal Lymington team started with back to back fourth place finishes, having only jumped into the boats 1 minute before their first warning signal. In race 3 the team rounded the windward mark in third place, but some excellent spinnaker work from Will and Olly saw them jump into first place by the leeward mark. Royal Thames Yacht Club were hot on their heels though, and although they were held at bay on the second upwind they were able to get past on a closely fought final downwind to deny them the race win by less than half a boat length.
Saturday afternoon saw the wind build, with the breeze averaging well over 20 knots and one gust recorded of 29 knots on the starting platform. The ‘no spinnakers’ control flag was flown for the remainder of the day. A 5th in race 4 was countered by a 2nd in race 5, with the team getting the better of the tide and the shifts to sail through a chasing pack. The final race of the day was conducted with reefed mains, and although the team rounded the leeward mark in 3rd place, they got the wrong side of a big shift up the second beat and ended up 5th at the finish.
Sunday saw very similar conditions, with a fresh north westerly again making for some exciting and closely fought racing. The team started the day with another 4th, and then saw their hard work really pay off in the second race of the day. A good start ensured that they were in the front group at the windward mark, with Royal Thames Yacht Club and Royal Hospital School also in the mix. However, a handy left shift on the second upwind saw them open up a commanding lead, and they were able to sail at the front to the finish to take their first win of the regatta.
Sunday afternoon started with a race in which the team got a penalty at the start, and then had the mainsheet come undone on the first downwind. Some heroics from Calum meant that the main was secured before the bottom mark, but the team was unable to recover the deficit and finished in 6th place. The penultimate race of the regatta was incredibly tight, with four teams in close contention all the way round the course. London Corinthian took the win but Royal Lymington were able to secure second place, with all of the first four teams crossing the line abreast and within a couple of boat lengths.
Unfortunately the team finished with an OCS in the final race, which in a no discard regatta was particularly damaging to their scorecard, and meant they had to settle for an 11th overall finish. The team had great fun though and will hopefully be back for the 2021 league.
Congratulations to Spinnaker SC for taking the event win, and many thanks to Principal Race Officer Keith Sammons for running a superb compliment of tight racing in tricky tidal and shifty conditions. Also thanks to the umpires, RIB drivers and in particular Jack Fenwick for organising a great event under challenging 2020 circumstances!

Robbie Urwin