There are many joys experienced through windsurfing, that perfect gybe, breaking your own speed record, winning a race but every 12 months the UKWA hosts a really special course racing event at Rutland water when the real pleasure is just being there. To be part of the National junior championships with the next generation of sailors on view is both exciting and humbling. Having been through ‘the system’ with my own son there is still a feeling of real excitement as the young competitors with their 3.5, 4.5 and 5.8 sails, tuned to racing perfection take to the water. There is serious parental involvement, dads on rigging, mums the perfect pit crew and both ready to celebrate the highs and console the lows, but the real pleasure looking in from the outside is to see that in actual fact this is just a group of friendly fun loving kids having a great time.
Race officer Tessa Ingram held a briefing explaining the finer detail of the course to the junior fleets, with RYA coaches there to support the juniors a great days racing began in warm and sunny conditions with a perfect 8 knots. Despite their youth competition was fierce, rules challenged and muscles tested to the limit, parents shouting their support and coaches advising and improving skills as the day progressed. Day two saw much stronger winds with only the best sailors surviving many struggling to finish the races, those that did exhibited such extraordinary determination they gained the admiration of all those present. 3.5 winner Ben Tweedle, 4.5 winner Josh Croft, 5.8 winner James Hatcher.
For 25 years windsurfing has been supporting, formally The National Childrens Homes now known as Action For Children, by running the Rutland Marathon. The race involves sailing around the perimeter of Rutland water, with Buoys being replaced by water towers and this one off race being run regardless of conditions. Winning times vary by hours, the record holder is the great Ross Williams at around 38 minutes, but some light wind years the race can extend to three hours of furious pumping, other famous winners include the one and only Nick Dempsey. Despite National and International titles, this is one trophy all racers want to win. A select few coffee tables have that permanent sag where there Bronze cast Laura Ashley Trophy proudly sat for that 12 month period. Many thousands of pounds have been raised over the years with this years total being around £1700. Boards are amongst the 20 marathon sponsors who kindly donate to the event and place their logo on the free event T shirt.
The race itself saw some additional entries with Kate Strange and Chloe Bennett on a tandem and two complete fools turning up with a Serenity each, ideal for the light wind event but not for today!! The wind gods joined in with the charity spirit and turned up the wind an extra 10 knots at absolutely no extra charge challenging many sailors beyond breaking point. Ben Tweedle again won the 3.5 fleet, Josh Croft the 4.5 and Isaac Bradley-Baker the 5.8 Amongst the big boys and girls the raceboards took the early lead and perhaps had Joe Bennett known the course (that will serve you right for not listening at the briefing!!) the result may well have been different. It came down to the wire with less than one metre between formula sailors Dave Coles and the eventual winner Tim Gibson. Tim is the first winner to take the title in different fleets previously winning on raceboard. His smile and hug of the trophy said it all at the prize giving. But most moving of all was a speech from Action for Children representative Debbie Smith accepting a cheque from UKWA sailors.
Tim did not have everything his own way, during the Saturday evening entertainment of Human Table Football and Bungee Eliminator the Formula team were defending their 2010 title, Tim managed to get himself sent off and banned for the rest of the evening quite a feat!! There were assorted teams of juniors and adults and the North Lincs Team of ‘Ladies That Lunch’ were eliminated by the eventual winners retaining their title ‘Team Formula’ not a gentleman amongst them.
On the main course it was the shifty winds that caused race officer Mike Dempsey the biggest problem however nothing was going to wipe the smile from his face as news came through that son Nick had just won sail for gold at Weymouth the perfect build up to his 2012 Olympic campaign. As with the juniors Saturday began with the light wind specialists taking the honours but by Sunday afternoon the change down sails were strongly in evidence as the wind blew in big time. Many different classes and age groups participated with a strong entry in the Techno fleets, RS:X, Raceboard and Formula. It’s a well known fact that racers just don’t like getting wet, something none windsurfers find quite difficult to understand. The forecast was for extremely heavy rain all day Sunday but fortunately it held off at least until the end of racing which made packing up and clearing up the event site an absolute joy!! On site with his demo van was Ian Gregorelli owner of Boardwise sponsor of the 2011 course racing event. Ian had no doubt sold a large percentage of the kit being used on the race course and was genuinely excited to see it being put to such competitive use, although there was probably not quite enough trashed kit for his personal liking. 1st Techno Oliver Bradley-Baker, 1st RS:X Kieran Martin, 1st Raceboard John White, 1st Formula Jason Clark.
Thanks to all the volunteers who made this such a great weekend, to all the sponsors and to all the competitors who raised sponsorship for Action for Children 2011.
Photos: Andy Watkinson. See Dave White’s full Rutland Marathon picture gallery by clicking here.