The first of six weekends was hosted from the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, a fitting venue for the countries future sailing medallists, who could be seeing themselves representing their country in Weymouth, should London 2012 win the battle to host the Olympic Games.
Racing took place in five Olympic sailing disciplines and one Paralympic discipline and amongst the 100 competitors were Olympians Hugh STYLES, Laura BALDWIN and Mark BULKELEY who, between them, have competed at the last two Olympic Games. Challenging for the podium places were a number of up and coming sailing talents including three bronze medallists from the 2004 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championships. Bronze medallist in the 420, Stuart BITHELL has teamed up with Callum MCDONALD in the 470 class, Laser Radial bronze medallist Charlotte DOBSON is staying with the Laser Radial and Pippa WILSON who won the bronze in the 420 is now sailing with crew Sheena CRAIG in the 470.All of the classes got off to a good start on Saturday in 10-12 knots of wind and both the 2.4mR and 49ers completed four races, with all the other classes finishing three. This came as a relief to the race committee as the forecast for the following day was looking both windy and snowy and at least a series had been completed, allowing them to identify a winner should no further races be sailed.
On this occasion the forecast rang true and with gusts of 25 knots of wind and extremely cold temperatures racing was forced to be abandoned on the Sunday which left the overnight leaders heading up the ranking tables.
Racing was close in the twelve boat 49er class but after four races Ben MCGRANE and Jonathan CLEGG emerged the leaders by two points over Alister RICHARDSON and Alex TOBUTT.
The Laser Radial class attracted the biggest entry of 23 boats proving that the decision to include this as the female single-hander for the 2008 Olympics, replacing the Europe, was a popular one. After three races Penny MOUNTFORD topped the scoreboard, winning two out of the three races, to finish on even points with second placed 2004 Europe class Olympic representative Laura BALDWIN. Lizzie VICKERS put in a consistent performance to finish third in front of Alison YOUNG who was the only other person to win a race.
The Finn class attracted ten entries to the event and there was plenty of jostling at the front of the fleet. At the end of the day Chris BRITTLE had succeeded in winning two out of the three races to win the class from Matt HOWARD on count-back. Ed GREIG finished the weekend in third place with eleven points.
With fifteen boats competing in the 470 class and both the men and women racing in the same fleet, there was bound to be a challenge at the top of the fleet. With a different race winner for each of the three races, it was down to consistency to see who would win the class. Nic ASHER and Elliot WILLIS added two second places to their race win, which left them with a one point lead over Neil MARSDEN and Graham NELSON, and gave them the weekends lead. In third place was up and coming youth sailors Callum MCDONALD and Stuart BITHELL who were the only other pairing to win a race. Pippa WILSON and crew Sheena CRAIG, were the highest placed female pairing and finished the weekend in fifth place overall.
In the Tornado catamaran class, the battle was between the 2000 Olympic representative Hugh STYLES and crew Graham VIALS, and the 2004 Olympic representative Mark BULKELEY and his new helm Rob WILSON. Winning the final two races of the day put Team Styles/Vials in the lead, and with a second place as their other score, they topped the table by one point from Wilson/Bulkeley.
Hugh STYLES commented, 'We have been training hard here in Weymouth with the rest of the Team GBR Tornado Squad and all the hard work is paying dividends. The racing was really good and close and we are very pleased to have clinched the regatta win. This sets us up nicely for the season and we are looking forward to the International Olympic regattas and relishing the chance to test ourselves against the worlds best at the Tornado World Championships in La Rochelle in the summer.'
Racing was equally close in the 2.4mR single-handed Paralympic class and after four races it was Michael COGSWELL who led the fleet, winning two out of the four races. 2.4mR coach George BARKER finished second and Andrew MILLBAND third.
The next RYA Olympic Classes National Ranking Series Event takes place over the weekend of the 9/10 April at Queen Mary Sailing Club. The dates for the other four events are as follows; 14/15 May Hayling Island Sailing Club, 15/16 October Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, 29/30 October Rutland Water Sailing Club, 12/13 November Warsash Sailing Club.
Further information on the Series can be found in the 2005 Olympic Classes Fixtures booklet on the RYA website www.rya.org.uk/Racing/Olympic/. After each event a ranking table is compiled which is used to award grants to the sailors to enable them to compete on the international Olympic class circuit.