Great Britain Blind Sailing Team are 2019 World Champions.
The final days of racing were mixed for all teams at the 2019 Blind Sailing Fleet Racing World Championships. After no racing on Day 5 due to lack of wind, day 6 looked promising with a more optimistic North Westerly building, but little did the team know it was to be a test of all skills and calmness. This direction was one that the team had not come across so far during the regatta and brought with it a new set of challenges. Racing kicked off for the B2/3’s after a slight delay at just gone 1130; despite a consistent 6-8knts there were still some sizable shifts, ranging from 30-50 degrees. Racing was tricky as the fleet continually battled with the unstable air coming directly of the Kingston shore line, in addition to this as the middle stages of the afternoon approached the wind was being drawn more southerly and with it large holes in the pressure appeared across the course. For their final race of the day the B2/3’s raced in the more tradition South Westerly which was yet to settle with large changes in pressure and constant unpredictable left shifts.
GBR B2/3’s where ready to go, as they headed out to race area and started to do our pre-race checks we knew it was going to be a tricky day. The North Westerly was producing some very shifty and unpredictable conditions making tuning runs nie-on impossible even with the boats only a few lengths apart, but both teams felt strong and hungry for three wins. As race 1 started for the B2’s there was a 30-degree shift left forcing a heavy pin advantage and a straight tack off the start line in order to get on the now long port tack. Being the first boat to tack Lucy Hodges and her team headed out right bow forwards on the long tack in what we believed was a comfortable position… or so we thought, which became the story of the day. With the B3’s Liam Cattermole and team starting five minutes behind they were now heading out the to the left of the course after a strong pre-start battle with Canada. As the B2’s continued up the first beat a large hole developed in the middle of the course with a band of pressure out left with the Canadians and French meaning we had to cross no man’s land on starboard, rounding the windward in last. We managed to fight hard and play the favoured left hand side up the second beat to claim a hard fought 2nd. With Liam being pushed to split from Canada out to the right on the second beat, to try and use the shifts, Canada and USA made gains out to the left and saw GBR claim a well fought 3rd. Race 2 for both teams, now played host to a more westerly track and even more variations in pressure making mode changes of up most importance, again both teams fought hard but got caught out by more unstable pressure and may be a little bit of local knowledge from the Canada, both teams took 2nd. As it happens with no racing on day 7, the final race was the most challenging yet for both teams. With a collision between GBR B2 Lucy Hodges and the French on the line forcing a dial down post start to clear our number from the individual recall they had a lot of catching up to do. The Canadians by this point had built a lead of around 5 boat lengths which they held until the first gate where we split (Canada left/Great Britain right). Gaining an advantage in more pressure by the middle of the beat GBR had closed the gap down to a couple of boat lengths and continued to head towards the top left which had been seeing success for the last 2 races. With a drop-in pressure and many nail biting tacks playing the shifts, Ben Hazeldine, managed to sneak his team around the 2ndwindward a boat length ahead and continue to increase their lead finishing in 1stand claiming the 2019 B2 Blind Fleet Racing World title.
Jonny Cormack, and team used Liam Cattermole’s match racing skills to try and push Candra over the line, with another great battle between both teams, saw the teams again on split tacks, it was all about playing the shifts with strong breeze looking to be on the right GBR were happy to be out to the right in what would appear to be the stronger breeze, but the mystery of the left hand side of the course saw Candra and USA take a 1stand 2ndand GBR in 3rd. This put Great Britain B3 into 2ndplace four points behind Canada. With no racing on the final day this saw Liam Cattermole, Chris Albert, Jonny Cormack and Jonny Stevenson take Silver. GBR B3 put on in a great performance throwing everything they had at the Canadian team and had some great close racing.
The B1’s saw a similar set of conditions for their afternoon of racing with the thermal driven South Westerly never quite able to settle down, most likely due to inconsistent cloud cover producing a lack heating. But with luck on their side they did see this gradually settle and steady breeze appear.
Both B1 teams had been having a mix of results due to many reasons outside of their control. They were looking to head into day
GBR skipper Vicki Sheen got a perfect start, first across the line in a good position to control the fleet, With GBR skipper Sally Rodrigues, getting a good clean start in the middle of line. Seeing traction Martin Moody hold his lane forcing the other boats to tack off rounding the windward mark in first with Sally closely following, then onto a good downwind leg. Vicki Sheen and team were still leading the fleet at the lewd mark rounding and up the second beat. Disaster struck two third up the beat. With a six boat length lead when the jib sheet attachment to the clue of the sail parted leaving the jib sheets running free through the clue. A temporary running repair resulted GB Vicki Sheen limping across the line in 5th place, with GBR Sally Rodrigues in 3rd.
Martin Moody encouraged his team and although hugely disappointed the team refocused determined to retain and improve their position in the championships. Another perfect start. A beat which saw GB Vicki Sheen in close gunnel to gunnel sailing with their main competitors. Boat speed one the day and again GB Vicki Sheen was rounding the marks ahead of the fleet, to finally cross the line in First place, for Sally and team this was not a strong race with the wind increasing adjustment was slow on sails and changing gear which saw them cross the line in 6thbut not far behind the leaders.
The last race of the day again began with a good start from both teams, which set the boats up for more close racing, boat on boat manoeuvring resulting in a second for Vicki and very followed in by Sally who had worked hard as a team and got the boat moving at speed in the new wind strength.
The next battle was back on shore. Asking for redress for the equipment failure. A hard fought protest by Martin Moody saw them awarded average, points so we concluded Vicki Sheen and teams day with a 1st, a 2nd and a 2.8 average points.
The final day was set to be a big day for the B1’s all could change at the top only 1.8 points separating the first three boats; USA 27, Australia 28 and GB 28.8. the final race was set to be a medalling race. Whatever order teams finished the last race in, would be the positions for the medal.
Alas, there was to be no final race. Winds fluctuating between 0 and 4 knots of wind and oscillating wind shifts of 90 degrees, thwarted all attempts of the race committee to start a race. After five hours out on the water the gun was sounded and the boats returned. USA gold, Australia Silver and GBR Vicki Sheen, bronze.
We are so proud of all teams, a week of amazing close racing. Boats constantly shifting position. finishes with two or more boats overlapped. This also saw the team awarded 2019 World Blind Fleet racing World Champions receiving the Squadron Cup, with Canada just behind. Words do not describe the feeling being crowned World Champions.
Race results can be found www.kingstonyachtclub.com/blindsailingworlds2019
Thank you all who have supported the charity, silent donors, G Shuckford, Director of Healthcare IT Company, Optimum Time. Big Thank you to Rooster for making our team look like a team and keep warm and dry on the water. RYA Sailability who funded and provided a great racing platform. All the clubs that support Blind Sailing, Hollingworth Lake Sailing Club, CCYC, Island Sailing Club, UKSA, Windermere School all our volunteers. THANK YOU.
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Thank you Kingston for a great weeks racing.