The Wilson Trophy at West Kirby Yacht Club
Author: Simon Rattigan Posted on: 18/5/12 Print Version

Three Irish teams travelled to West Kirby Yacht Club on 11 May to compete for the famous Wilson Trophy. These were Howth Yacht Club, Royal St. George and Schull Youth team. Team HYC was represented by Lynn Reilly, Simon Rattigan, Daragh O'Connor, George Kingston, Hannah Herlihy and Sonia Minihane. The Wilson Trophy is the most prestigious team racing event in the world attracting 32 of the most competitive International teams. For the first time ever, Howth Yacht Club secured an entry by getting through the tough selection process.

(front L-R) Lynn Reilly, Sonia Minihane, Hannah Herlihy
(back L-R) Simon Rattigan, George Kingston, Darragh O'Connor
The team arrived at West Kirby early on Friday morning with the first race due to start at 1pm. However, as all the 192 competitors began to assemble in the club house the 30 knot winds lead us to expect some delays. At 12.00 it was decided to postpone racing until the wind eased as forecasted and a further update to be made at 2pm. At 2pm the strong winds held out and postponement continued. At 4pm the race committee, seeing a drop on the breeze to 15+ knots as hoped for, ordered the teams to quickly rig boats and that the first gun would be at 5pm. After 15 mins it became apparent that this lull was temporary as the breeze kicked back up and racing was cancelled for the day. However disappointed to not get any racing in, the teams felt that this was the right call given the conditions, and were forced to retire to the balcony for a San Miguel in the sun, in anticipation of the night entertainment to come.
The first gun on Saturday was 8am which meant a very early start for the team. We arrived at the slipway shortly after 7am to rig boats and discuss tactics for our first race against Wilson veterans Wise Old Men. Soon the early start was a distant memory as 6 flights of boats battled it out in the unique West Kirby setting.

Unfortunately HYC lost the opening race which was far from an ideal start. However, given the Swiss League system that is used it may have been advantageous. This systems ensures that teams on the same number of race wins will race each other in the next race, which is calculated by a computer after every round of racing. As such HYC were able to capitalise on the first loss to win 6 of the next 8 races. We were now back in the mix in the upper half of the fleet against the top teams. The team finished up the day with 6 wins which saw us tied with the Royal St. George overnight. However, a bitter taste was left with us after losing to the USA team Woonsocket Rockets. This team had previous Wilson Trophy winners on board so this experience saw them fight back from a strong losing combination. This loss would prove to be critical.

The teams were off the water by 5pm and after a thorough debrief and reflection of 9 hours of intense racing we had little time to recover before being due in the Yacht Club for the formal dinner at 7pm. A night of dancing and a few drinks was enjoyed by all, with the Irish featuring prominently in the entertainment. Royal St. George sailor John Sheehy was the special guest speaker of the night and Rachel MacManus won the Crew of the Year award.

Sunday morning kicked off in similar fashion with racing starting sharply at 8am in anticipation of the heavy forecast for later in the day. This first race of the day was an eagerly anticipated grudge match between both Irish teams HYC and Royal St. George and this race did not lack any fire or aggression that has come to be expected from this match up. It proved to be a classic encounter with the lead changing many times during the race, but HYC showed great boat speed and teamwork which allowed them to steal the victory in the final leg, allowing them bragging rights among the Irish camp. HYC followed up this win with another strong performance beating the recently crowned UKTRA champions convincingly. The round robin stage of the competition was called to a halt after race 240 at around 11.30am in order to try and fit in all the finals before the inevitable gales forecast.

HYC finished the event with 9 wins narrowly missing out on a quarter finals spot which required 10 wins. Slightly disappointed with not achieving our target of placing in the quarters, the team was pleased with the overall performance in the toughest arena in team racing. The Wilson is a type of event where something new is learned after every race and we aim to target areas for improvement before next years competition.

As the wind increased the race committee were eager to get the quarters underway, as the top 8 teams entered the knockout stage of the competition. From the promenade which was only meters away from the course, hundreds of spectators watched the action and listened to the race commentary from nearby speakers. With winds gusting up to 30 knots onlookers were treated to dramatic capsizes and exhilirating manouevers.

However the call was eventually made to cancel racing for the day due the heavy breeze and therefore the West Kirby Hawks, previous winners of The Wilson, were crowned champions once again, having been the top seeded boat into the knockout stages.

West Kirby Yacht Club ran a flawless event of the standard which everyone has come to expect, and HYC look forward to competing in The Wilson once again next year. We would like to thank Howth Yach Club for all their support.