Eight teams gathered last weekend at Queen Mary Sailing Club for the final chance to secure a place at this year’s National Match Racing Championship Grand Final.
Day one was a very light wind day with significant shifts keeping the sailors on their toes as it was all too easy to see a comfortable lead fade away very quickly.
The teams fought their way through a single round robin and while Blowers was the clear leader having lost only one race all day to George Haynes, the rest of the fleet was tightly compressed with Miles Jones and Sophie Otter tied on four wins a piece. Four teams, Ali Morrish, George Haynes, Sophie Taylor and Josh Adams followed just behind all tied on three wins.
With the lack of wind making completing a second round robin impossible, the race team concluded racing early to work out the best plan for day two racing.
As the battle for the final semi-final spot was so tight, it was decided to amend the schedule so that the top two teams of Blowers and Jones would carry on to the Semi-finals but that that remaining six teams would compete again in a repechage with the top two taking the remaining spots in the semis.
After a poor showing in the first day’s light winds it was Niall Myant who was the star of the show in the big breeze winning all five of his races. George Haynes regained his usual form in the stronger winds and completed the line-up in the semis.
The first attempt to get the semi-finals under way was thwarted when a gust of over thirty knots streaked across the race course forcing Alexis Dogilewski, Principle Race Officer, to abandon racing to avoid any damage to the boats or sailors.
It wasn’t long before the breeze had settled and racing was under way. With time pressure becoming a factor the semis were shortened down to the first to win just one point so Blowers would race Haynes and Jones would face Myant in a sudden death shoot out.
Blowers lead Haynes around the race track to secure his place in the final. In the other match Myant and Jones had an even start but Myant had a slight advantage by the first mark. Jones thought he could sneak through inside at the top of the course but the umpires disagreed leaving Jones having to take a penalty straight away to reset the order.
Undeterred Jones hunted Myant down again on the run and before long was pushing him away from the leeward mark. An attempt to keep Myant from gybing left Jones with a penalty for overlapping too close. The race was nip and tuck all the way around the race track and on the final run Jones was again pushing Myant away from the finish line and indeed they sailed beyond the line. Jones tacked around to take his penalty and try and lead Myant back to the finish but did not sail low enough and so the penalty remained and Myant crossed the line ahead to take his place in the final.
While the knock out stages were under way a “King of the Hill” was being run for the lower place finishes. A “winner stays on” format where eighth races seventh with the winner racing sixth, and so on, saw Sophie Taylor climb from seventh to fifth but it was match racing newcomer, Josh Adams, who held off her charge to take fifth overall and with it a place in the Grand Final for highest placed, not already qualified, skipper.
The petit final saw George Haynes taking third place ahead of Miles Jones in a one race playoff and the finals saw Blowers secure the win with a fairly convincing 2-0 victory over Myant.
After racing Blowers said “National Match Racing Championship Qualifier 2 was great for us to get our first event win on the circuit, the event was full of tricky conditions and matches throughout the weekend in varying breeze. Automatic qualification to the semi-finals after a great round robin meant we were confident heading into the next round. Where we then were able to be consistent to take straight wins in both the semi-final and the final. We will be back at Queen Mary Sailing Club for the Grand Final in four weeks, where will hope to have a similar performance at the season finale against the country’s highest performers.”
Thanks as always go to our sponsors, Moody Decking & Services, Marlow Ropes and Harken.
Next up is the National Match Racing Championship Grand Final on the 15-17 November where the winners of each event this year will fight it out to be crowned UK National Match Racing Champion.
by Richard Aspland