KEITH ATKINSON WINS 2007
RUTLAND WINDSURFING MARATHON
In aid of NCH – The Children’s Charity
The annual Rutland Windsurfing Marathon in aid of the NCH took place on Saturday 19th May, the venue Rutland Water, at 3100 acres one of Western Europe’s largest man made lakes, a win at this the event is much prized amongst British windsurfers, it has also attracted many overseas competitors over the years.
Entries this year ranged from junior level windsurfers through to professionals. The course is some 15 miles in length with a shortened course for the less experienced sailors to try their hand.
The 2007 Marathon was the highlight of the UKWA weekend of National Course Racing which took place at Whitwell.
Winds on the first day of racing and Marathon day were strong with around 20 knots being recorded on the beach at breakfast time, the forecast was for this to increase. Three national races were run during the morning and early afternoon with many of the sailors reducing sail sizes as the wind strengthened. The Marathon was scheduled for a 4pm start and following the briefing the competitors were down to the beach to check and make final adjustments for this gruelling event. With only minutes to go before the fleet were to be out on the water and under the starters orders a squall came through immediately followed by sun and a sudden drop in the wind, this sent most competitors scurrying around to install larger sails on their boards, however one or two of the more experienced sailors including Keith Atkinson decided to gamble on the wind returning and use a smaller sail, this would favour them and leave competitors with larger sails struggling to control their rigs in overpowered conditions. Favourites to win the event were Keith Atkinson aged 23, he is the 2006 Triple UK Formula Champion and current leader in the 2007 championship series, he was also using his new Point-7 sails for the first time at this event after recently joining the Point-7 team as an international team rider. The Anglo French windsurfer, Xavier Ferlet, known as the ‘Flying Frenchman’ at 41 he is a very experienced sailor using Neilpryde sails. Scotland’s Alan Jackson, 2005 UK Formula Champion, had decided to travel down for the event after seeing the forecast for good wind and was on Tushingham sails.
The fleet got away to a clean start in light winds, however Keith Atkinson immediately gained a decisive lead ahead of the entire fleet with Xavier Ferlet and Alan Jackson some distance behind him. Their course was to take them up the northern arm around the water tower back past the start and then westerly up the main southern arm before returning down the southern shore past the half submerged Normanton church then on to the dam at the eastern extreme, before turning north parallel to the dam and back across the end of Whitwell Creek to the start / finish line in front of the spectator beach near the Harbour Bar
Keith Atkinson was first to round the northern tower ahead of Xavier Ferlet both sailors were now some distance ahead of the rest of the fleet. By the time they returned to pass once more in front of the spectators the wind was increasing. From there they passed out of sight to start their long trek up the southern arm passing the Rutland Sailing Club and on to round the buoy near Egleton by which time the wind had reached 20 knots. It was then back past the sailing club, at this point we only had commentary from the committee boats indicating Keith Atkinson was in the lead. Unlike in 2004 when the same two rivals were also battling it out and the lead changed several times, however this time Keith Atkinson never looked threatened. It was then on past Normanton Church before starting to beat back to the finish line in front of the beach at Whitwell. Keith was fully focussed having increased his lead to finish over 2 minutes ahead of Xavier Ferlet. There was great applause from the spectators having witnessed the end of a gruelling marathon race. In third place was up and coming youth Richard Jones.
Keith Atkinson also went on to win the overall UKWA weekend national event. He would like to thank all his sponsors including, Point-7, Starboard, Eurovans, Physioactive, Dakine, and all the individuals who kindly donated money towards such a worthy cause as NCH.