The English writer, poet and fabled art critic John Ruskin described quality as “always the result of intelligent effort” and this weekend champions were crowned in the UK amidst the trickiest of conditions that married extremes of wind, rain and flat calms – a traditional glorious English summer if truth be told – meaning that those that won, thoroughly deserved to. ‘Intelligent effort’ is the default that marks out the very best and I’ll highlight a few of the brightest.
In Cowes there are several local rockstars that perennially dominate the IRC scene and none more-so than Adam Gosling who brought his unbelievable Yes! sailing team back together for the first time in a while due to Covid and thoroughly thumped the IRC 3 fleet to win a record-setting fifth IRC National Championship crown.
It’s a remarkable programme that Adam puts together year after year and absolute testament to the fact that nice guys do win and they do it with a steely determination, an awesome shoreside programme that leaves literally no stone unturned and brilliance on the water. His JPK1080 is ‘THE’ boat to beat in the Solent and the engraver is sharpening his tools for the Gold Roman Bowl in the annual Round the Island Race in two weeks time…unless of course some pesky bandit-rated H-Boat ruins the party – but I digress.
The IRC 1 fleet naturally draws the eyeballs and again it’s rockstar central with Niklas Zennstrom’s gun at a knife party, Ran, duking it out with local legend and outstanding commercial boatbuilder Peter Morton in the Fast 40 fleet. The fact that Ran only won by a point shows that this fleet is squeezing at the very top and the battle between the two looks like going season long. Too close to call.
It’s a great programme that RORC has created this year with the culmination being the Rolex Fastnet Race in August and everywhere you look in the fleet there’s Olympians (medallists too) and Cup heroes mixed with unbelievably talented teams of Corinthian sailors that are all trying their hardest. There’s also diversity on the boats up and down the fleet with female athletes in key positions everywhere.
Take note America’s Cup. Take note.
And then we had the dinghies. Wow what a weekend of racing. In Weymouth it was all Steve Cockerill in the Europes when the wind blew as he aced three straight bullets on the opening Friday but on Saturday when the wind shut out, it was former Olympian Laura Baldwin that replied magnificently and also took three in a row. With no racing on Sunday, the National Championship was awarded to Cockerill on countback but what a tussle.
Equally up at Rutland Water, the Waszps were blasting around and there’s some super video doing the rounds. Sam Whaley won the national title after a monumental tussle with runner-up Matt Beck who had led going into the final day but through the fleet it was just great racing with smiles all round. If you’re a teenager, you want a Waszp…
And let’s not forget that Hattie Rogers, the Waszp star of YouTube who makes the sport so accessible and welcoming (you try doing a gybe like Hattie), was named as ‘Waszp Queen’ having won the ladies title. Well deserved by an athlete who has given so much to the class and continues to do so.
Great scene. Great sailing. Could have done with more wind in the UK on Sunday but mother nature is a cruel mistress sometimes.
Meanwhile in Cup land, Tom Whidden (or ‘Saint’ Tom Whidden as I shall call him seeing as I have some North Sails on order) gave a thorough Zoom precis of the America’s Cup and where it was won. Carbon adjustable battens, double skins and bustles abounded and I like the way he diplomatically spoke about Ineos Team UK:
“If they had the chance to do it again, I think they would have had a bustle more like Prada’s, which turned out to be better…but I think their thinking was that the boat would get up on that in marginal foiling conditions and lift off to the point where the foils started working more quickly. They never really made that work, so not only was it drag when they were down in the water, but it was also aerodynamic drag when they were up out of the water.”
That’s the gentle way of saying it was an utter dog all round. To be honest there hasn’t been a great deal of analysis made public over Ineos’s pretty disastrous campaign and it’s all been swept under the carpet. The pros back on the circuit are almost treating it like the way actors refer to ‘Macbeth’ as ‘the Scottish Play’ as if they dare not mention the words.
More brutal inspection, it would seem is deemed not required as the whirlwind of the Challenger of Record status and the Cup venue has taken centre stage but serious questions must have been asked and a plan made for the future? Surely? We can expect team announcements in the coming months and it will be fascinating to see whose services they secure going forward. The sailing transfer season is about to begin and there’s a feeling about ‘now or never’ about Ineos.
Time will tell but for now we can enjoy the summer in the UK and the myriad of sailing events on the schedule. It’s all happening and the real cream is rising to the top as the season unfolds. There are so many bright spots of sailing at every level and it’s great to see how sailing continues to respond to the Covid-era and bounces back.
And hats off to the myriad volunteers up and down the country who are making this all happen both shoreside and on the water in such difficult circumstances. Heroes the lot of you.