69th Wilson Trophy

The 69th Wilson Trophy at West Kirby Sailing Club

The West Kirby Hawks have won their fifth Wilson Trophy after a weekend of the closest racing in recent years. 32 teams took part from all over the UK, with overseas visitors from Ireland, USA and New Zealand. The forecast for all three days was for very light winds but somehow the weather gods really smiled on us, with wall to wall sunshine and perfect breeze for team racing – with some occasional dense fog for novelty value.

By Saturday evening, West Kirby hawks were top of the Swiss league, closely followed by two extremely strong US teams, Yale Corinthian YC and 2016 finalists ‘Days of Thunder.’ At the Dinner, Amanda Callahan from Days of Thunder was awarded the Joyce Evans memorial trophy for the crew who most embodies the spirit of team racing and crewing. She duly celebrated by getting everyone on their feet to learn four dance moves that she had picked up from previous Wilson visits.

Sunday saw a slight delay to wait for the wind to fill in, which given the scheduled 8am start time was probably a bit of a relief to most competitors who were nursing their way through the morning after the night before. The wind did fill in to allow for each team to complete 18 races before the top eight teams advanced to the knockout stages. The quarter finals saw five UK teams, two US and one Irish making the cut, with the ‘Paddington Bears’ collecting the Wilson Plate as the 9th placed team.

The first three Quarter Finals followed the form book from the league ranking, with West Kirby Hawks defeating Royal St George Knights, Yale Corinthian beating 2018 finalist Society. Days of Thunder beat SMVC in their deciding race and the fourth quarter-final  saw Society Exodus defeat 2017 Wilson Trophy winners the Birdham Bandits. The semi- finals then matched the two US teams, with the two GBR teams facing each other, thus ensuring a US vs GBR final , which is always great for the crowds. The first semi final saw the Hawks defeat Society Exodus in two extremely hard-fought races and the all US semi went the way of Days of Thunder.

And so the scene was set for a repeat of the 2016 final between the West Kirby Hawks and Days of Thunder. The crowds lined the shore, packing out the grandstand or taking advantage of the glorious sunshine, sitting out on the rocks to get a real ring side view, all accompanied by expert commentary. Following on from the new Wilson website and social media resources, there was another WKSC first with live streaming via Facebook of video coverage and commentary delivered from an on the water team following the racing. There was immediate feedback from around the world that showed the future potential for this kind of innovation. Professional sports filming company VR sports were also on hand and produced some fantastic footage which can be seen on their website at www.vrsport.tv.

The first race was exceptionally tight with the three last boats challenging the finishers by crossing the line within three seconds of each other, the US team taking the victory with a 2,3,5 combination. Race 2 saw the Hawks bounce back with a 1,2 breakaway to level the score, with race 3 also going the way of the Hawks with a 1,3,6 after another very tight finish. With the Hawks just one win away it was all to do for the US team and they looked to have the advantage going onto the final beat in a winning 2,3,4 combination, but the Hawks dug deep to put themselves back in contention. When one of the US boats was given a penalty for an infringement just 20 metres from the finish, the Hawks were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a 1,3,5 combination, to be crowned Wilson Trophy winners for the fifth time.

69th Wilson Trophy Winners – West Kirby Hawks

69th Wislon Trophy runners up – US team “Days of Thunder”

In a particularly competitive year, the three younger WKSC teams showed their potential for the future with WKSC finishing 15th, just ahead of the Kiwis and USA team The Big Woop, and Hilbre Highlanders and West Kirby Athena finishing 21st and 27th respectively.

Other award winners during the weekend included Magdalen College School who received the under 21 trophy, and Jamie Marston who was awarded the GJW Direct Outstanding Achievement Award for his tireless efforts in promoting team racing and the Wilson Trophy.

At the prize-giving the Commodore thanked Blueoak Estates and the many other local sponsors who support the event, and praised the 200 plus volunteers who work tirelessly for weeks to make the event run so smoothly , while being kept refreshed by the bar staff who performed miracles until the early hours. 307 races were run over the course of the two and a half day event which is an incredible feat, and speaks volumes about the boat preparation by Paul Colquit and his helpers, and the work done by the Captain’s team with the RIBs and other on water resources.

Next year will see the 70th Wilson Trophy and plans are afoot to make it even more special for the ‘Platinum’ anniversary event.

Richard Cornah

Photographs courtesy from Alan Jenkins