CONVINCING RUTLAND MARATHON WIN FOR KIETH ATKINSON
In aid of NCH – “helping children who need it most”
The annual Rutland Windsurfing Marathon in aid of the NCH took place on 25th July, the venue Rutland Water, at 3100 acres Western Europe’s largest man made lake, the event is now the UK’s only long distance windsurfing event and a win is much prized amongst British windsurfers, it has also attracted many overseas competitors over the years.
Entries ranged from ‘Intermediate’ level windsurfers through to ‘Professionals’. The course is some 15 miles in length with a shortened course for the less experienced to try their hand.
The 2004 Marathon was the Grand Finale to the UKWA’s weekend of National Course Racing which took place at Whitwell.
Winds through the training day on the Friday proceeding the event and the first day of racing were marginal resulting in only a limited number of races being completed by the ‘Elite’ Formula fleet sailors.
Sunday, Marathon Day, dawned with rain and a developing wind, by the 2pm race start time the rain had eased and the wind was around 20 knots and building. A number of the intermediate sailors were hurriedly reducing sail sizes. Favourites to win the event were the Anglo French ex training partnership of 21 year old Keith Atkinson, sailing with NeilPryde and Starboard equipment, currently ranked as the UK no1 Formula Windsurfer, and Xavier Ferlet, known as the ‘Flying Frenchman’ at 38 he is the most experienced of the two and is an ex World Raceboard Masters Champion.
At the start both Keith and Xavier got away cleanly on a port tack and with their speed were well clear of the starboard tack competitors. Their trajectory brought them straight towards the spectator beach where we were entertained by two of the worlds top sailors battling it out to gain advantage. Keith was pointing higher so when they tacked close to the beach he had a good few yards advantage over his main rival. From there it was the somewhat laborious task of beating backwards and forwards across the northern arm of Rutland Water until they reached and rounded the water tower which was way off in the distance. Xavier rounded first followed by Keith both sailors were now well ahead of the rest of the fleet. For the return run Keith opted for a more central and broader reach whereas Xavier favoured the less windy far shore. Once Keith had gybed he was then heading towards a point ahead of Xavier and soon covered the quarter of a mile or so to meet up again with him but was ahead of him. At this point they both started their long trek up the southern arm past the Rutland Sailing Club and on to round the buoy near Egleton and again back past the sailing club where we only had commentary from the committee boats indicating Keith was in the lead. In fact the lead changed several times as the wiry Frenchman tried every trick to throw his young English adversary off the scent. It was then on past the half submerged Normanton Church before starting to beat back to the finish line in front of the beach at Whitwell. However, Keith was fully focussed and was able to point up wind ahead of Xavier to position his final tack off the Whitwell headland peninsular giving him a clear run over the finish line some 200 meters ahead of Xavier and to the great applause of those spectators who were witnessing the end of a great battle so hotly contested that it was only just outside the course record. Keith’s official time was 42.34 mins.
Keith would like to thank all his sponsors including, UltraSport UK, Bilbos Motorhomes, Team SurfKraft, RYA Team GBR, Physioactive of Mottingham, Water Rower, Bewl Valley Sailing Club, PSP Sports Drinks, Wet ‘n’ Dry Boardsports, Boards Magazine, Deboichet Fins, Sanspeed Superchips and all the individuals who kindly donated money towards such a worthy cause as the leading children’s charity NCH.