The 2004 RYA Eric Twiname Championships reached a dramatic climax over the weekend of 8 and 9 May. Competitors, coaches and officials held their breath as the winners of the coveted trophy were announced as the South Zone.
Over two hundred and fifty budding sailors, all under the age of fifteen, were representing one of six English zones or their home country on Rutland Water. Racing took place in Cadets, Mirrors, Toppers, Optimists or one of three windsurfing classes.
Since December the children had been training hard as members of their RYA Zone Squad and with their class associations in preparation for the biggest RYA national junior regatta in the sailing calendar for 2004. The event has been entirely funded for the last sixteen years by the Eric Twiname Memorial Trust, who were established in 1980 and have since awarded £500,000 to worthy causes in sailing.
In line with the charities ethos of helping youngsters get afloat, the event provided many sailors with their first taste of racing in a major national championship.
For David GRANT, his first national regatta could not have been any better and his win in the Optimist class was made even more impressive because, of the forty eight boats racing in the class, he was the youngest helm at only ten years old.
From the six races that were sailed David won four and discarded a third as his worst result. David, who hails from Restronguet in Cornwall, was sailing as a member of the RYA South West zone and will now begin preparing for the Optimist Inland Championship with added confidence.
Along with Joshua IRONS from the South zone who finished second and Ben ROBINSON from the West in third place, David received some fantastic sailing kit from Extremity and Optimistonline.co.uk.
In the Mirror class the girls ruled the waves and occupied the top three positions. Winning the event were the Barry sisters, Emma and Martina from the East zone. The pair won the last two races of the series to push Abi STODEL and Amie RIX, also from the East, back into second place. Despite the East zone scoring first and second it was the South zone that won the team prize in the Mirror class.
Nevertheless the East zone had their revenge on the South in the Cadet fleet, as the only two zones racing in the class some friendly rivalry heated up as the weekend drew to a close. Scoring a string of four firsts Chris VIDELO and Thomas POWER were thrilled to have won the event and along with their team mates help win the team prize for the East zone.
"This is my first big event helming and I am so happy to have won. I now really want to move into the intermediate squad or even the national squad and also hope to make the British team for the World Championships in Australia."
Said Chris at the prize-giving on Sunday evening.
In the Topper class, Bleddyn MON flew the flag for Wales by showing that in the shifty conditions prevailing throughout the weekend, consistency was the key to winning. Despite not taking line honours in any of the five races, he sailed a solid series and was shocked himself when he realised he had won.
RYA high performance manager of Wales, Tim HALL, was confident of the youngster's potential. "I knew that Bleddyn could finish in the top three, but to actually win the event is fantastic. He works very hard at his sailing and I am thrilled for him."
In the windsurfing class, the South West zone convincingly won the team prize helped on the way by Duncan BRYAN in the 4.5m class. Duncan was unstoppable, winning all six races sailed. In the 5.5m class, Alex SMITH from the East zone began Sunday on equal points for first position with Ali MASTERS from the South West zone, however, he held his cool under pressure and won the two remaining races and with it the championship.
In the National Junior class, Richard CLEWORTH did all his work on Saturday by winning three of the four races, allowing him to discard a fifth on Sunday and win the championship.
As well as team prizes for each individual class there were three overall team prizes up for grabs. In the windsurfing class the South West zone convincingly won the team prize, leaving the North zone in second place and the East zone in third. The overall dinghy prize was won by the South zone and RYA high performance manager of the zone, Chris ATHERTON, was delighted to accept the prize on behalf of his team. In second place was the East zone and third was the West zone. The solid performance by the South zone was subsequently enough to win the overall Eric Twiname Shield.
The young sailors will now use their experience that they have gained over the course of the weekend to proceed over the summer months into major championships organised by National Junior class associations.
Full reults are available on the RYA website at the address below.