Cowes Etchells youth sailors once again notched up superb results in a National Match Racing Championship last weekend. Although we don’t match race Etchells in Cowes, the skills learnt in the super competitive Etchells fleet transfer easily into match racing. For 4 years now, Etchells match racers have won World, European and National match racing titles.

Last weekend was no exception: Etchells sailors dominated the RYA British Match Racing Championships with Mark Lees, Toby Mumford, James Dodd ,Toby Yeabsley and Matt Hallam making-up the winning squad.

Ten other Etchells sailors were also well-placed in the event: Quintin Bes-Green, Kate Deveraux, Fiona Hampshire, Ali Hinds, Honor Fell,Tom Williams, Jack Preece, Jack Davies Hannah Peters, and Jonty Cook

Etchells youth sailors, we salute you! WELL DONE !!

and here’s the RYA press release:

Mark Lees takes 2016 National Match Racing Victory

After many years of trying, Mark Lees now has his name inscribed on the Eacott trophy alongside the greats of British match racing, winning the RYA National Match Racing Championships with his team this weekend.

Twelve teams gathered at Queen Mary Reservoir on Friday 18 November to begin their challenge to become the 2016 Champions. With the sun shining and south-westerly breeze blowing across the lake, the first eight teams headed afloat after the briefing on the days plan and began their training the J80s, kindly supplied by the Royal Thames Yacht Club.

As racing got underway the teams came out fighting and first blood went to Lees, Claire Lasko, Matt Whitfield and Nigel King’s crews. Lees continued to dominate his matches throughout the day with Ali Hall also proving very strong. Hall’s only loss came when their spinnaker decided to leave the boat while going upwind, allowing Tom Ballantine, who was also having a great day, to slip past and take the win. By the end of the first day, Lees was undefeated in first place with Hall, Ballantine and Nigel King all close behind with only one loss each.

Saturday was bright but colder than the previous day’s racing but this did not deter the spirits of the sailors. Principal Race Officer John Burgoine fired off the first start at 0930 with Hall and Lees continuing their winning ways in the first flight, and Claire Lasko and Nigel King also getting wins under their belts.

Racing continued through the day with teams fighting hard for each and every win. The top two skippers, Lees and Hall, met early in the day with Hall gaining the upper hand over Lees to take pole position. By the end of the day all seventeen flights of the round robin had been completed and the battle-weary crews headed ashore to find out who had made the cut for the quarter finals. Ties were the fashion at the end of the round robin with Ali Hall and Mark Lees tied at the top with ten wins each, Hall taking the tie break having bested Lees.

Matt Whitfield and Tom Ballantine were tied for third with Whitfield taking the advantage. Claire Lasko and Mary Rook were then tied for fifth with Rook having the advantage. There was a three way tie for the last two quarter final places with Ali Young taking seventh and Tom Williams taking the last spot just nudging Nigel King in to ninth.

With Storm Angus threatening to prevent any racing on the final day the Race Committee met early on Sunday morning to review the conditions. With gusts in to the mid to high twenties but forecast to drop, the decision was taken to send the teams out to have a look but that reefs would be the order of the day. A shroud breakage retired one of the boats from the fleet early, so with a reduced field the first three quarter-finals got underway. Ali Hall showed some commanding sailing to beat Tom Williams 2-0 to secure his place in the semi-finals, with Lees similarly showing his superior experience over two-time Olympian and Laser Radial World Champion Ali Young who, although fast, could not match Lees in the pre-start.

The matches between Claire Lasko and Matt Whitfield were much tighter with the boats seemingly tied to each other the whole way round the race course, indeed in the second match John Burgoine could be seen straining to line up the finish mark to ensure he could see which boat had inched in front of the other. In the end it was Whitfield who had done just enough to secure his spot in the semis.

With the damage to the boats it was decided that the fourth quarter final between Mark Rook and Tom Ballantine should drop to first to one point and so the teams entered in to what would be a sudden death match. After an intense pre-start battle the teams crossed the start line level but with Ballantine holding the right hand side and starboard advantage on the first beat, but Rook had gained the advantage by the bottom mark and controlled Ballantine to the finish to take the last semi-final spot.

In the semi-finals Lees continued to show his dominance beating Whitfield 2-0 but the semi-final between Ali Hall and Mary Rook was much, much tighter. At one race all neither team was prepared to give an inch, the umpires were kept busy with numerous penalties and in the end Hall managed to take the final win in what was some of the most closely fought match racing seen on Queen Mary Reservoir in years.

In the petit-final Rook, now back in to her match racing stride, took a convincing win over Whitfield and with it third place overall.

The final saw Hall and Lees were fighting for overall honours. Hall took the advantage at the first mark but with Lees close behind Hall was unable to gybe without infringing Lees and was unable to extend enough to take the penalty and so Lees took the first win.

The second match followed a similar pattern with Hall again penalised for gybing too close. But this time the umpires judged that he had gained control of the race and was made to take the penalty straight away, Lees and his team sailed past into a lead they would never relinquish, as much as Hall tried, and crossed the line to take the second race and with it the right to call themselves RYA UK National Match Racing Champions.

After a quick pack up the teams headed ashore for the prize giving which included keeper trophies for the teams and a special award, the Paul Banner trophy, for the chair of the RYA Match Racing, David Campbell-James. The award for services to the sport of Match Racing in the UK was awarded to Campbell-James after many years of tireless behind the scenes work to build match racing in to the successful, enjoyable sport that it is.