Hosts Royal Corinthian Yacht Club took a thrilling victory by the narrowest of margins as seven teams, representing five clubs, battled it out in Qualifier Two of the British Keelboat League in the Crouch estuary to earn a place in this years' BKL Final.
In its third year, the British Keelboat League is an opportunity for clubs to compete against each other on a level playing field to fight for bragging rights as the most competitive club in the UK and the racing, which provides a platform sailors of all experience levels, from teenagers to racers in their 60s, is designed to make exciting, high speed sailing and minimise the spread in the fleet.
Following a light start on Saturday, by midday the sea breeze was building and the racing was getting closer such that by the end of the day inches were making the difference in places. At the end of Day One, the top three teams were West Mersea YC, Royal Corinthian YC and the RCYC Squib Team, with just a five point spread following 10-12 races each.
The battle for 4th to 6th was just as tight with less than five points separating them, no one was taking things easy.
At the start of Day Two, Chief Umpire Ewan McEwan lead a quick debrief to help the sailors understand how the rules were being applied on the intense short course. Given the closeness of the racing, all the teams had found their rules knowledge pushed to the test and having the help of the umpire team to clarify certain situations proved invaluable.
Despite the light breeze the intensity was just as high as it had been the day before. The top three teams were putting each other under pressure and they were all having to work extremely hard to gain tiny advantages. The young team from Royal Hospital School who had only sailed a 707 once before had obviously put their homework in the night before and their efforts were rewarded with two bullets on the final day.
With another 12 races held on the Sunday, it would come down to the very last race to decide who would earn top spot and a place at the British Keelboat League final in Cowes in September. Ultimately RCYC took the win, tied on points with West Mersea YC, the tie break going in their favour due to more race wins, just one point ahead of the RCYC Squib Team.
"We are delighted to have won," said Jamie Mears, who along with Nick Tolhurst, Alex Porteous and James Hutton-Penman made up the winning RCYC crew. "The format of the event is brilliant. That the result was only decided at the end of the last races makes it even more exciting. We're looking forward to future event and competing against more teams from throughout the UK."
Royal Corinthian YC proved their reputation as brilliant hosts was well deserved with a great evening's social activity giving the teams an opportunity to mingle and interact with those they had been fierce rivals with during the day.
Thanks go to sponsors who made the event possible. Selden Mast provided new running rigging while new sails were built by Banks Sails using cloth supplied by Bainbridge International.
Further qualifying rounds of the BKL are scheduled to take place at Royal Torbay YC on June 23/24 and the Royal Yacht Squadron the August 18/19.
Will Carson, RYA