#WILSON TROPHY – West Cork's Schull Youth Team lifted the Under 21 trophy at the Wilson trophy at West Kirby in the UK this afternoon
Schull, one of three Irish team competing, finished the event half way down the leaderboard on eight wins. The team comprises four 18-year-olds and two 16-year-olds, all from Schull in southern Ireland, where team racing is part of their school curriculum. They competed at the ISAF Team Racing World Championship on home waters last year where they were narrowly beaten by West Kirby One (it came down to a penalty turn at the end of the deciding race). At the Wilson Trophy it was Schull Youth's turn.
"There is serious rivalry, but we beat them here - we got our revenge on their home turf," declared a satisfied Oisin O'Driscoll, a Schull Youth helm.
At one point on Saturday Schull Youth had pulled up to eighth overall, but O'Driscoll said they had made some silly mistakes due to their inexperience. "This was my first time at the Wilson Trophy – it is the most amazing team racing event ever. It is the best set-up I have ever seen. Every race is bang-bang-bang. We had over 200 races – it's incredible."
The 63rd Wilson Trophy will be remembered as the sunniest and windiest on record, but also for being the first time, in as long as anyone can remember, that competition at West Kirby Sailing Club's British Open Team Racing Championship had to be cut short mid-way through the quarter finals.
Ireland's two other teams Royal St. George YC and Howth YC finished tenth and 11th respectively. Dun Laoghaire's John Sheehy was the guest speaker at the event and Rachel McManus received the Joyce Evans Trophy. Full results table here. Below youtube footage of the race between Schull Youth and Royal Lymington YC 2012.
Because of this the final results reverted to the last complete round, or round 16 of the Wilson Trophy's Swiss league, where local favourites West Kirby Hawks had come out on top, followed by New Forest Pirates.
Racing today started at 0800 in 12 knots, the wind having backed into the west overnight. This enabled the race management team to bring the number of rounds completed up to 16, or an amazing 240 races sailed for the thirty teams taking part. Unfortunately, just as the final rounds were starting, the wind built significantly. The teams were sent back to fit smaller mainsails and the quarterfinals eventually got underway with the gathered crowd on the stadium seating adding their own unique commentary to the proceedings. Sadly the wind continued to build and with this came damage - jib tensioners and main halyards parting company and a broken rudder.
The big conditions were forecast, only for later in the afternoon, as Principle Race Officer Adam Whittle explained: "The wind came in a lot earlier than it was meant to. It was gusting 36 knots at Hilbre [the weather station nearby] and it just wasn't feasible to continue. We were having break downs and people were getting injured. It wasn't team racing – it was survival. Having sailed 16 rounds in perfect team racing conditions, I thought it would have been wrong of us to carry on."
Having suffered defeats to a US team in the last two Wilson Trophy finals, West Kirby Hawks finally came out on top for the first time since 2009.
Hawks helmsman Andy Cornah said they were right to stop racing. "The problem with these conditions is you are not team racing, you are just trying to get the boats around the course and it changes it a lot and it's not what you want."
West Kirby Hawks started the day on the back foot, a win behind Wessex Exempt and Royal Thames Red, but an excellent morning saw them complete the league in the lead, the sole team on 12 wins, ahead of New Forest Pirates, Tabby Cats, West Kirby SC and Wessex Exempt on 11.
Winners West Kirby Hawks. Photo: James Boyd
"Yesterday was a little bit frustrating and we dropped a few races, which we were disappointed about," admitted Cornah. "We knew this forecast was here today and winning the league would be important, so we just forgot about yesterday and moved on and put a good series together."
West Kirby Hawks has a 'new' boat this season sailed by Matt Findlay and Toby Lewis, after Dom Johnson and Debs Steele retired following their ISAF Team Racing World Championship victory last year. However in a one-off appearance Johnson and Steele returned to this Wilson Trophy with New Forest Pirates and, clearly having lost none of their skill, came home second with Stuart and Jane Hudson and Owen Modral and Claire Wood.
Dom Johnson explained: "We are taking some time out and are not campaigning at the moment, so we took the opportunity to reform an old team we used to sail together as. My team mates haven't really done any team racing for the last four years, so it was nice to come back and do the best team racing event of the calendar and have some fun. We were really chuffed to end up with second place."
A highlight was beating the West Kirby Hawks early on yesterday, although they were subsequently beaten by the eventual victors when the two teams came head to head earlier today.
As to terminating racing, Johnson added: "It is a shame we haven't been able to finish off the event, but I think they made the right call – I snapped a rudder in the last race and it was a bit of a melee. We were at that stage of breeze where things were starting to give up. It must have been blowing over 30 knots in some of those gusts and masts and ripped sails would have been next."
Despite the weather not co-operating, West Kirby Sailing Club Commodore Chris Riley was satisfied with this year's event. "I think it has gone very well. It is a shame about the weather at the beginning and at the end, but that's sailing. This morning and Saturday the weather was perfect and we got over 200 races in and that was fantastic. We can't complain and all the competitors are very very happy. It is just a shame we didn't get the finals in."