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Sailing provides a glimmer of light

by Mark Jardine 29 Sep 2020 09:00 NZDT
2020 South & Southwest British Youth Sailing Regional Junior Championships © Mark Jardine / YachtsandYachting.com

September has been a busy month for sailing in the UK. A few of the major venues, such as the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) and Datchet Water Sailing Club, managed to host major events in a Covid-secure fashion, finally providing substantially sized National Championships for a handful of classes as well as a number of regional events.

The highlight of the month was the Wetsuit Outlet UK Moth Nationals, with 70 foilers blasting around Portland Harbour. The class is peppered with sailing legends, and the technology continues to improve apace. A foiling Moth from five years ago looks very different to what we see now; higher wings, deck-sweeping sails and ever-shrinking foils make these extraordinary craft go faster and faster.

In the UK, the leading Moth sailor is Dylan Fletcher, and he dominated the fleet at the Nationals. When he's not sailing his 49er with teammate Stu Bithell (who finished seventh at the Nationals) he's out in his Moth, or bimbling in the boat park. Dylan pays attention to the smallest of details, and his ropework, rig and foils are always in top condition. He's currently lighter than usual as he was preparing for Tokyo 2020 in the 49er, but he's made a few adjustments which compensated for that and during the lighter wind races he simply commanded the fleet, winning one two-lap race by the best part of a leg.

The event was supposed to be the Moth World Championships and it would have been great to see Dylan take on the likes of Australia's SailGP star and defending champion Tom Slingsby, America's Cup and 49er supremo Peter Burling and three-time Moth World Champion Paul Goodison. I'm already looking forward to the 2021 Worlds on Lake Garda and hoping that sailors from around the world are able to attend.

The ILCA UK Nationals also took place at the WPNSA, with the new Ovington-built ILCAs having their competitive debut. There is much discussion in the class formerly known as the Laser as to where it is going, and indeed where it has been, but there is no doubting the quality of an Ovington build. The new boats are built to the strictest of tolerances, so while the class now has a different cut of sail, composite mast sections and improved control systems, the one-design ethos will be adhered to.

The weekend just gone saw the British Youth Sailing Regional Junior Championships at venues around the country. I again took a trip to Weymouth on Saturday, this time with my eldest son in the passenger seat and an RS Feva in tow. It was blowing dogs off chains, and cold with it coming from the north, but the kids took to it with relish. The standard of racing, but most of all the resilience of the sailors, was exceptional to watch and it was clear they were having fun. There has been a healthy shift in the ethos behind youth racing, focusing on more local events combined with a more relaxed approach, and from what I've seen the philosophy is working. It would be great to see a high percentage of the sailors at these events become sailors for life.

Having attended a couple of events at the WPNSA, I was highly impressed with the measures put in place to make the event Covid-secure. It's no small task putting everything in place and the team, led by Peter Allam, have done everything they possibly can to make things as safe as possible. One-way systems, track and trace QR codes, online briefings and the ubiquitous hand sanitisers were coupled with Peter reinforcing the rules during the socially distanced safety crew briefing this weekend gone. It is thanks to the tireless work of event organisers, club staff and volunteers that these events take place, and also to the Royal Yachting Association for their guidelines and liaison with the relevant government bodies.

We're at that time of year when the northern hemisphere season starts to wind down while events in the southern hemisphere ramp up.

In Australia, National Boating Week and a scientific study from award-winning marine biologist has confirmed that boating is good for you, with feel-good hormones (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin) going up and stress (cortisol) goes down. It's something we all knew already, but it's great to see the Boating Industry Association of Australia promoting the boating lifestyle, hopefully continuing the surge seen worldwide of people actively getting out on the water.

When it comes to competition, Australia's national sailing events are being severely curtailed by state and territory border restrictions, and Boxing Day's Rolex Sydney Hobart is a major doubt. Sail-World.com's Australian Editor John Curnow looked at alternatives at the beginning of August. As we've found in the UK, just because big national events may not be happening doesn't mean you can't get out and enjoy our great pastime. Local club sailing is the beneficiary of the situation, so let's go and enjoy the water responsibly on our doorstep.

One regular contributor to both Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com is Frank Quealey, whose name will be familiar to anyone who has followed the 18ft Skiffs throughout the years. Frank has been building up the excitement to the season, which starts on October 11th, with a series of articles about the various teams and the history of the class. If you haven't already, then I highly recommend taking time to read his articles on our 18ft Skiff page.

In the rarefied air of America's Cup land, the final two teams are making their way to Auckland, via 14 days quarantine in an airport hotel, to join Emirates Team New Zealand and New York Yacht Club American Magic on Waitemata Harbour. The AC75s are being pushed further and further and there was the first unofficial hook-up between the Kiwi and US teams, which Sail-World.com's New Zealand Editor Richard Gladwell was on the water to catch. These boats are extraordinary, and seeing two of them racing close to each other takes it to another level. In the absence of many other sporting events, the 36th America's Cup, and the preceding Prada Cup Challenger Selection Series, have the potential to be the spectacle of early 2021.

Times continue to be tumultuous, but sailing continues to be a great way to relieve stress, relax and reset. Wherever you are in the world, take time to enjoy the water in a safe manner.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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