The 2004 UK national windsurfing calendar drew to a close with the final event in the ‘King of the Lakes’ series being held at Keith Atkinson’s home club, Bewl Water in Kent. This was the first time in Bewl’s 30 year history that the sailing club had hosted a national two day windsurfing event.
The 21 year olds ‘Formula’ performance this year has been exceptionally good, having already become the 2004 seasons UK National Vice Champion in the UK National Formula class, however he needed a win on his home water to secure badly needed points for his overall UK National Ranking and the title ‘Formula King of the Lakes’. Keith’s main adversary at Bewl was to be his old training partner, the very experienced 38 year old ‘Flying Frenchman’, Xavier Ferlet. During this season Keith has beaten the Frenchman on numerous occasions, including a spectacular win over him in the Rutland Marathon during July. The two opponents are friends off the water but on water it is reminiscent of the battle of Trafalgar with experience and tactics playing a crucial part in the racing.
Both days were forecast to be light winds and not suiting the ‘Formula’ sailors at all, however Keith had the advantage of being at his home club where he has sailed from the age of six, he understands the difficult wind shifts that are experienced on one of the UK’s most testing inland waters. Saturday dawned with a light but increasing breeze, this had filled in sufficiently by the 10.30am briefing for the UKWA race officer, to decide that racing was possible for all fleets, albeit border line for the ‘Formula’ class. Two races were held, back to back, before breaking for lunch. With a further two scheduled for the afternoon. The ‘Formula racing was very close with Keith taking two first places and two seconds, the Frenchman had similar results two seconds followed by two firsts but was subject to two protests for his morning races, one for a sailing infringement and the other for not having signed on for racing until after the two morning races were completed. The latter protest was upheld and Xavier was disqualified from both races. The afternoon races again saw two more protests this time from the Frenchman against Keith, one was upheld so that at the close of the first day of racing Keith was in overnight first place with Xavier back in sixth.
Day two of racing produced slightly more wind but still marginal for the ‘Formula’ guys, four races were held with Anglo French pair battling it out for supremacy, the two morning races gave them a first and second place a piece. For the afternoon session there was a little more wind and the race officer decided to make the last race a longer distance race to finish the event. In the first of these races Keith had a bad start allowing the Frenchman to gain a lead that Keith was unable to close. For Keith to win the events ‘Formula’ class he had to win the last race, he was determined to keep the ‘Flying Frenchman’ at bay. Both windsurfers went off the line neck and neck, Xavier managed to beat slightly higher up wind but Keith knowing the wind shifts tacked early, giving Keith’s supporters some very anxious moments, Keith managed to get a lift and by the next tack was measurably extending his lead which Xavier was unable to claw back, Keith finished in style well ahead of the ‘Flying Frenchman’ bringing back memories of Keith’s earlier conquest in the 2004 Marathon back in July.
Having won the ‘Formula’ class at Bewl and the ‘King of the Lakes’ series for ‘Formula’ Keith now has to wait for the UKWA to ratify his overall UK 2004 national ranking.
With his friend Nick Dempsey having won a Bronze medal in Athens in the windsurfing Mistral class and the proposed switch for the 2008 games to a ‘Formula’ style board Keith has already been approached as a potential member of the GBR Olympic team for Beijing. As we go to press it has been announced that Neilpryde, Keith’s major equipment sponsor, has been chosen to supply the next Olympic ‘one design’ board, which is a hybrid formula board. The ISAF & IOC now have to ratify this choice.