Ben claims the Topper crown in Torbay


Torbay hosted the Royal Yachting Association’s South West Zone Championships, with the Royal Torbay Yacht Club and Paignton Sail- ing Club combining for a programme of five dinghy events as well as windsurfing races.

The regatta was mirrored across the UK by eight other zone meetings which attracted hundreds of the country’s most promising youngsters.

The South West regatta was the second largest of this year’s events and 156 sailors were greeted with champagne conditions at the sailing venue of the 1948 Olympic Games. Sunshine; ten to 15 knots of wind and a slight swell were the features of the opening day, while the English Riviera was masked by light winds on the Sunday, which caused a short delay before two more races were completed.

Five race courses were laid across Torbay, with the Toppers, Optimists, RS Fevas and RS Teras sailing out of the Royal Torbay club, while the 55 Laser 4.7s and wind- surfers launched from Paignton.

In the 35-strong Topper fleet, race wins were shared among five youngsters but consistency meant that Ben Purrier (Parkstone YC) led from the outset to take the honours with Matilda Gregson (Starcross YC) finishing as first girl in second overall. Frampton-on-Severn’s Oliver Wilcox was third.

Optimist sailor Finley Hartshorn (Bowmoor SC) took class honours with an impressive string of five bullets and a second, while Emily Elms (Thornbury SC), the only other race winner, finished first girl and second overall. Third in the fleet of 13 was Bowmoor’s Katy Jenkins.

Another dominant display came from Quinn Edmonds and Fin Oliver, of Chew Valley Lake, who scored five race wins to take the RS Feva title, discarding their worst result, a second.

Exe Sailing Club’s Sandy Bailey and Jack Francis were second with Amy Boyle and Matthew Hill (St Mawes), third.

There may have been only six boats in the RS Tera fleet but it proved to be the closest event of the weekend with Albert Gillmore (Royal Dart YC) winning on count-back with four race wins to William James’ (Paignton SC) three. In third place was Salcombe’s Ben Meek.

The national Laser 4.7 fleet reveled in the opening day’s chop, but it was Drew Barnes (Christchurch SC) who mastered the determining light breeze conditions 24 hours later to win the 54-boat fleet.

Welsh raider Kai Wolgrame (Llyn Brenig) was second and Hayling Island’s Fin Dickinson, third. Flo Nicholls (Royal Lymington SC) edged ahead of her rivals to fin- ish first girl and eighth overall.

Sailing close inshore, the windsurfers provided a great spectacle for those on the harbour breakwater. Ellie Wilcox, representing the Official Training Centre (OTC) at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy, won the 6.8m fleet, with Archie York (Croft Farm, Tewkesbury) first in the 7.8m division. In the smaller rig fleet, Luke Pailing (OTC) finished top 5.8m, and Alexander Meadway (Swanage SC) led the 4.5m windsurfers.

South West regional volunteer committee chairman Roger Jobson presented a new perpetual ‘pot’, the RYA Zone Championships Club Trophy, for the club which had the most sailors attending the event. With 26 different South West clubs represented, Paignton SC were the winners with 11 sailors; Weymouth’s Castle Cove were second and the Team15 windsurfers from the OTC were third.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.