British Keelboat Academy sailors battle it out on the Solent

BKA sailors competing - Warsash Spring Championships 2012
British Keelboat Academy sailors competed on board the J109 Yeoman of Wight, Farr 45 Kólga and the BKA’s fleet of J80s at the RORC Easter Challenge held from 6th to 8th April, followed by the Warsash Spring Championships held from 21st to 22nd April and 28th to 29th April.

Testing weather conditions varying from no wind with strong tides, to squally gales with horizontal hail was a challenge worthy of the British Keelboat Academy as some of the country’s top young sailors battled it out across the three weekends of competitive action out on the Solent.

The British Keelboat Academy’s J109 Yeoman of Wight, which competed in IRC Class 3, was the most successful at the RORC Easter Challenge as skipper Luke McCarthy and his crew finished the three-day regatta in second out of a fleet of 13, just one point off the highly competitive and well-sailed MATilda.

Lizzy Foreman, BKA sailor from Reading/ Queen Mary Reservoir Sailing Club and crew member of the J109 Yeoman of Wight, commented: 'A key reason for our success was that our manoeuvres were really slick after having spent a good amount of time practising them out in the cold, wet weather. This allowed us to be very heads up and aware of what was going on out of the boat, resulting in better tactical calls and improved results.

'If there was one major lesson to be learnt from the regatta, it is that every second really does count; one poor hoist, slow tack or over-trimmed sail really can mean the difference between first and second. We are very much looking forward to the rest of the season; buoyed on to do the best we can in order to qualify for one of the British Commodore’s Cup teams.'

The Farr 45 Kolga finished fourth in a tough fleet of IRC optimised boats, while the three J80 crews finished mid-fleet in what was a light, shifty and testing regatta.

BKA sailors competing - Warsash Spring Championships 2012

A fortnight after the RORC Easter Challenge, all five British Keelboat Academy boats were once again all competing in the Warsash Spring Championship 2012. The first weekend (21-22 April) witnessed a building breeze across both days, reaching 20 knots on the Sunday which provided the BKA crews with some testing, yet exciting racing. The second and final weekend (28-29 April) of the Championships welcomed a moderate breeze on the Saturday along with cold, wet and miserable conditions, while the Sunday was blown out with no racing due to 40 knot gusts and huge swells in the Solent.

Throughout the four races on the final weekend, all three J80 boats showed signs of excellence, and learned a lot more about bigger fleet racing. The BKA’s J80-3 had pulled up to first BKA boat (12th overall), while J80-2 finished 13th, followed closely behind by J80-1 in 15th out of a fleet of 25.

'I’m sure all of the J80 crews learnt a lot about sailing in the heavy winds – not having had a training session together in that kind of breeze, certain manoeuvres became much better and our overall communication in a competitive environment also improved,' explained 19-year-old Serena de Nahlik, J80-2 Bowman from Warwickshire/Draycote Water Sailing Club.

Plymouth University student Jack Whiting, Main Trimmer on J80-3, added: 'Looking back over the weekend we have a great platform to build on for the world championships this June in Dartmouth and the training we have done as British Keelboat Academy members has really paid off and enabled us to achieve good results in a highly competitive fleet.'

The sailors on board Kolga battled against miserable conditions on Saturday (28 April) with a moderate breeze that allowed four races to be run, all of which were incredibly tight with places changing constantly.

'We finished with a shoreline of 2-4-1-4, a bit inconsistent and that is what hurt us overall. We finished second over the weekend just a little further from Rán on points than we would have liked but a successful weekend racing none the less,' explained BKA Squad member James French from Newbridge, Isle of Wight.

Luke McCarthy, British Keelboat Academy Head Coach, explained: 'These events are very much the start of the sailors’ campaigns for this season, and are a great opportunity for all the British Keelboat Academy crews to test themselves on the racecourse. The training over the winter has meant we are at a reasonable place, but all crews still have areas for development, all the sailors are very much in this mind-set and the last few weekends were in many cases as much an opportunity to highlight areas that still need work as they were about the results.

'In addition to working on specific areas which have been identified from the April regattas, most of the teams are still concentrating on finalising their funding in order to complete their campaigns to the level they are capable of, so hopefully with a bit of luck all the crews will be fortunate in their quest for financial backing which will then enable them to focus all of their attention on the World Championships and 2012 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup,' concluded McCarthy.

For full results from the RORC Easter Challenge 2012 please click here.

For full results from the Warsash Spring Championships 2012 please click here.

BKA sailors competing - Warsash Spring Championships 2012

BKA sailors competing - Warsash Spring Championships 2012

BKA sailors competing - Warsash Spring Championships 2012

For more information about the British Keelboat Academy and how you can help with fundraising, please visit the British Keelboat Academy website